Spreading Statistics, cont.

by Ted on August 4, 2005

I noted a few days ago that Senator Rick Santorum made a claim in an online interview about federal taxation. Senator Santorum said that the federal tax rate for the average family has gone up from 2% (in 1950) to 27% today. Furthermore, he claimed that income from a second worker simply replaces the money that the family pays in increased federal taxes. They would enjoy the same net income if taxes went back to 1950 levels and the second worker stayed at home.

I’m really rather sure that this isn’t true. I’m relying on the Tax Policy Center: They say that federal taxes on a family of four at the median income have gone up from about 7.4% to about 14.4%, and that the family would have saved $4436 if we could roll back tax rates. That doesn’t correspond to the Senator’s story.

I checked last night, and Santorum repeats this point in his book, It Takes a Family. It’s on page 123 and 124, and there’s no source. (There’s a bibliography of sorts, but it just lists a series of sources used in each section. There’s no way to connect any specific point to any source.) When I called his press office again to ask for a source, they referred me to the publisher, who couldn’t help me. Nonetheless, he’s repeated this claim at least two more times, on Hardball with Chris Matthews and on Fox News.

Shouldn’t the Senator care whether what he’s saying is right or wrong? Wouldn’t it be nice if a journalist asked him about it?

(Incidentally, is there anything more depressing than the “Current Events” section of a modern-day bookstore? There are so many rows of hastily-written, 200-250 page books with giant print, huge margins, and a cover featuring a smug bastard under a title like “THEY’RE ALL AGAINST YOU: How Hollywood, the French, and the CIA Have Conspired to Pollute Your Precious Bodily Fluids and What You Can Do To Stop Them.” Robert Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah looks like Winston Churchill in all that dreck.)

My son, going into Year 12 next year, is really happy about this. I agree with him that teaching “Theory” derived from the kind of third-hand postmodernism that was, until recently, dominant in Australian humanities departments is a waste of time, and an unreasonable imposition on students who are conscripted into this course on the assumption that they are going to learn about English (the language, not the academic specialisation of the same name).

On the other hand, I don’t look back to the Golden Age of courses on (how to write essays about) Shakespeare and the Canon with any great enthusiasm either. What I’d like for my kids to get out of high school English is an ability to write well in a variety of modes and (if possible) a love of literature. I don’t think courses in literary criticism (traditional, modern or postmodern) do much for either goal. As far as love of literature goes, they’re usually counterproductive.

More on this from Mark Bahnisch