Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Imaginary Numbers

The latest line from the administration is that people just don't realize the true greatness and effect of last year's stimulus package. This theme has been picked up by some media outlets. Here's CBS,
President Obama's economic stimulus, which will likely ultimately cost around $862 billion, has in its first year saved or created at least 1.6 million jobs. 

Yet just about the only people who seem to realize that fact seem to be the number-crunchers who put together the data

Polls show that only 6% think the stimulus created jobs. Why? Unlike what CBS reports, the 1.6 million jobs number is not a fact. Not only is it not a fact, it is completely imaginary. It doesn't matter what economic training you have, or how many "non-partisan economic research firms" come up with numbers, no one knows exactly what would have happened had there been no stimulus. It is arguably possible to identify some jobs that may have been created as a direct result of the stimulus, but it is impossible to determine what jobs would have been lost that were not lost. It is even possible that the job situation would be better had there been no stimulus. We simply don't know, because there is no way to look at what would have been. And unlike imaginary numbers, that's an actual fact.

If you want another reason why the vast majority of Americans refuse to believe imaginary numbers, look no further than the words of the administration itself.

On the one-year anniversary of the bill's signing, President Obama said the $787 billion package saved 2 million jobs and helped prevent a "second depression."
According to the CBS article I linked above, multiple economic research firms say that the stimulus saved or created 1.6 million jobs. But for some reason Obama adds 400,000 to just the "saved" total, and then makes a wild, unsupported assertion that it prevented a depression. If the 1.6 million number were actually some sort of fact, wouldn't he stick with that number? He doesn't have to, because it's imaginary. Why not just round it up to 2 million? Next he'll be claiming it prevented half of America from starving to death. When you are making assertions about things that are unknowable, you can use whatever imaginary numbers you want. But don't be surprised when people refuse to believe you. 

1 comment:

  1. Very true. I think the Obama administratin is really shooting themselves in the foot on this one. If the general population finds that it can't trust you on the number issue (economy, jobs) and that is why most people voted for you, you're in some hot water.