The Importance of Statistical Context – OR Why Gun Prohibition Will Not Stop Violent Crime – OR Why Tax Breaks for the Wealthy Will Help the Economy While Screwing the Middle Class and Poor.

Last week, after the 11th hour on Friday night (and technically well into the early hours of Saturday morning), the U.S. Senate passed a disaster of a tax bill with only minor differences comparative to the disaster of a tax bill the House of Representatives passed earlier this year. The timing is telling. There is an “info dump” that generally occurs late on Friday, well after most of the members of the press who would cover such an event have gone home to their families, as a way to prevent early public backlash from a flood of news stories and formulate a response when one inevitably comes. This bill was passed after the “info dump” time – implying the Senate knew that their bill would be unpopular so they delayed the vote long enough to be able to provide an adequate defense to their loyalists on Monday. It is a bullshit tactic of misleading the public, and it was used in this case on a bill that will harm most of the public whether they identify as republican or democrat.

The Senate has claimed that there will be tax cuts for everyone, and there will be because that is not a lie. If you are not a wealthy American the amount you pay in taxes will go down in the next two or three years – but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. The cuts that apply to individuals are set to expire within ten years – meaning that while you will pay less immediately you will pay more by 2026, just in time for that additional $1 trillion to be added to the deficit. That is the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, proving that the and women who passed this bill know what the effect will be, and they don’t care. They don’t care that the deficit will fall on the shoulders of the middle and lower economic classes – they are actually counting on it.

The main provisions of the bill provide a permanent tax cut for corporations and the wealthy (who at a certain economic point can file the correct paperwork to earn a corporate standing individually thanks to the loopholes that have been exploited in the wake of the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision that was handed down in 2010). In essence, this bill is a major gift to the so called “donor class” – the people who have enough money to throw millions behind election campaigns – most of which is made up of the “idle rich” (the people who inherited their wealth instead of working for it – for examples of each, Paris Hilton is an example of the idle rich while Jay-Z is an example of someone who worked for their wealth). But all of that is just context for the statistic I want to discuss.

The men who are pushing this bill speak in general terms of the “growth” that the bill will bring, and they are not lying. But they are telling half truths. There will be the possibility of economic growth at the upper levels of our economy based on the GDP, but that growth will not show benefit for the common people of the United States. The GDP is an average. Giving tons of money to the upper class is a very simple way to increase a country’s GPD – because the poor will stay poor while the upper numbers skyrocket. In mathematical terms; the average of adding one and nine together is five, the average of adding one and ten together is 5.5, the average of adding one and eleven together is six, etc. By raising the top limit, Congress is aiming to report record economic growth while at the same time not doing anything of substance for the majority of voters that actually put them in office.

The context of the statistic is important, because it is not false. However, the way that the members of Congress present the effects of the bill is very misleading. I have stated before that the last time America was “great” for a man like Donald Trump was the Gilded Age – a time of unprecedented income for the wealthy in our country, and a time of unprecedented suffering for those not lucky enough to be rich. The Gilded Age was so named because of that effect; it looked like gold from the outside, but to live in the system was something much less for most of the population (the Gilded Age was followed by the Progressive Era where monopolies were broken up with laws established to ensure competition in the market, workers were by law given living wages that allowed them to work and have families, safety standards were established to prevent needless workplace injuries, and child labor laws ended the abuse of children by businesses who would have them work dangerous jobs for less pay than their equally hardworking parents). This tax bill, which is now heading to committees that will reconcile the different versions that traveled through the House and the Senate, will have the effect of bringing on a neo-gilded age in our country (fulfilling the president’s campaign slogan for the people he actually intends to benefit – his economic peers). It will put the burden of the deficit, which was driven up by the same politicians pushing this bill and by proxy the wealthy who have been legally allowed to buy their allegiance, on the middle and lower classes making it harder for anyone in those economic classes to move up relative to the class from which they come. That ability to move up in economic class via hard work is the basis of the “American Dream” that we were sold as kids. By passing this bill and making it law, the lines dividing the economic classes will become more stark and the middle and lower classes will become more entrenched. This bill will cause economic growth, but it will not help most of the people in the United States.

This kind of misleading “truth telling” using statistics out of context to mislead the public and create a supportive base is a common political practice. To prove it – just look at when the people on the other side of the ideological aisle use it to their advantage when they discuss “gun control” (obviously my metric of it being a “common tactic” is whether or not both political sides use it to their advantage – which they both do). The often cited statistic is the drop in gun related violence/death in countries that have outlawed guns – which is a simple statistical likelihood based on the fact that less guns in a given area means less violence related to guns. It like saying that if there are less bears in the woods there will be less bear attacks – the logic is simple but presented in such a way that does not take into account the actual cause of the violence. In those same countries the change in violent crime is generally negligible and the change in violent crime with other weapons often sees a slight statistical rise. The reason being that banning guns does not end violence because guns require a person to point and shoot them, just like knives require a person to stab with them, and blunt objects need a person to hit with them. Politicians on the left use the statistics to imply that banning guns will somehow have a damaging effect on violent crime – yet the cause of violent crime is not guns. That is a logical fallacy.

In both cases there are logical steps to be taken, and I find it hard to believe that none of the 535 members of Congress have thought of them. In the case of gun control – our national history has proven that prohibition of anything is a non-working solution. The prohibition of alcohol led to the rise of criminal organizations like the one headed by Al “Scarface” Capone. The prohibition of drugs has given rise to dangerous gangs and cartels on an international scale. The prohibition of specific guns has resulted in the working forms of those guns only being available in criminal hands while good people with an interest in firearms are banned from ownership. If we really wanted to handle firearms in a responsible way, then there would be regulation that would provide permissible levels of ownership. Registered novices would only have certain guns available for purchase such as hunting rifles, shotguns, and certain handguns. From there, people with further interest could practice and train for eligibility to use different classes of guns to which the general public would not have access. While this would not be perfect and definitely would not end gun violence it would meet a major goal of gun control – adding measures of prevention to the ability of dangerous individuals (like the Texas church shooter Devin Patrick Kelly) to obtain the most dangerous weapons while at the same time making it possible for good people (like the civilian who chased the Texas shooter and hit him with at least one bullet, Mr. Stephen Willeford) with an interest in owning firearms the ability to enjoy their 2nd amendment rights to the fullest possible extent.

In the case of the tax bill, on the other hand, the solution does not lie in passing the bill. In an overall sense, it will not make the country a better place to be if we pass a bill that will raise the GDP by flooding the bank accounts of the rich. The “trickle down” effect is a fallacy. Outsourcing of manufacturing jobs was not because of the taxes involved in keeping the jobs here – it was because of the requirements that made corporate owners pay workers a fair wage related to the cost of living along with a benefits package aimed at improving the quality of life for the middle class. Outsourcing was class warfare – and giving a giant tax break to corporations will not bring the jobs back here if they still have to pay a fair wage to workers. They aren’t going to bring the jobs back if they have to pay a minimum wage with benefits when they can exploit the poor in other countries by paying them next to nothing.

If we really want to see economic stimulation, then we need to rely on our power as the largest buying market in the world. If there were a law on the books that said any product made by a worker without a minimum wage and a benefits package would not be allowed to be sold in the United States, the changes we would see would be drastic. The corporations that are benefiting from the exploitation mentioned above would have to find another way to cut costs, because they cannot give up the United States’ buying market – there is too much profit here. The manufacturing jobs would come back as a way to work around import taxes, and both the middle class and the upper class would see more prosperity.

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