Letters to the Editor
To the editor:
“There are three kinds of lies,” quipped Mark Twain, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
My son, a math and statistics whiz and ConVal valedictorian in 1998, and I have been quoting this back and forth now for going on a decade. He also calms me when I fume at the impossible results of various public polls.
“Mom,” he says, “you have to know exactly how the question was phrased. Even you might have said yes.” Hmph. Yeah, sure, but I doubt it.
Yesterday I was alarmed by NPR’s report of 4.9 percent nationwide unemployment for 2006, as well as New Hampshire’s touted 3.6 percent rate, both below the 5 percent that was once considered “full employment” in a fluctuating labor market.
Impossible, flat and simple. The news media are not serving the public by putting out “facts” without any education to the public about what these “statistics” mean in context.
Not counted in these figures are the millions who are no longer going out pounding the pavement or the Internet each day because their job search over months and years has failed, and they have now lost hope.
It does not reflect the truth for the millions more of those laid off, downsized, fired from jobs at high pay or union wages with health insurance and pension benefits – and now working at whatever they can get to put some food on the table for their families.
My brother gave me a remarkably thoughtful gift for Christmas. A video course on economics. He knows that 5 percent of my brain, waking or sleeping, is chewing on what jobs will allow people to eat and sleep under a roof in our near future. My dad read that the biggest growing business in the USA is gambling. I had guessed health care and nursing home care for us aging baby boomers. Too bad I don’t have time to watch that video. But I DO need to understand the economics of our country better, and to be sure the government is providing the legal and social structure for the “free market” so that it is a level playing field for all.
I am worried. Are you?
Please, journalists, put statistics into perspective.