Monday, December 7, 2009

When Numbers Don't Add Up

For the last few months I have, off and on, been presenting you with phrases to watch out for, to know when someone is spouting nonsense and should possibly have his or her entire opinion considered suspect. Today, I bring you another such phrase: "Americans overwhelmingly support this plan."
First of all, the phrase is ludicrous because there has rarely been any plan that Americans "overwhelmingly" supported. Here's a hint for those who are linguistically challenged: 2%-3% majority is not overwhelming support. For today's discussion, however, we're not even talking about that small a majority. In fact, we're not talking about a majority at all.
I'm referring, of course, to the health care debate. It should come as no surprise that I follow news on this debate fairly closely and also that I spend a considerable amount of time on the comments sections of these news stories to see what the "regular" people are saying. "Americans overwhelmingly support this plan," is a comment I see rather often and, I have to admit, I'm wondering about the medication levels of the people who say such things. These comments tend to come either from people who are giddy about the prospects of their favorite bill passing with no problems (apparently oblivious to the wrangling and difficulties that are reported daily) or from people who are angry with politicians not instantly falling in line on their favorite bill (apparently oblivious to the sheer numbers of people who have voiced concerns with the bills in question). The real problem here is that these people are pulling these overwhelming numbers out of their dreams.
According to the most recent polls (most from mid-to-late November with the Rasmussen poll being from this past weekend), there is no overwhelming support for the health care plans currently under discussion. There isn't somewhat-in-favor support. There isn't even the smallest majority support. When asked their opinions on the current plans under discussion, every major poll finds more people opposed to than in favor of.

Rasmussen 41% in favor 51% opposed
Gallup/USA Today 44% in favor 49% opposed
Washington Post/ABC 48% in favor 49% opposed
Associated Press 41% in favor 43% opposed

You'll notice that I'm showing polls from both the left and right side of the political spectrum and none of them show the slightest majority in favor, let alone overwhelming support. In the interests of being fair, that AP poll does show that 86% of Americans favor doing something to reform our health care system. Perhaps that is how these people are coming up with the "overwhelmingly support" claim. Americans overwhelmingly support reforming our health care system in general. However, that same poll only shows 41% approval for the specific methods of reform currently under discussion. Yes, people want reform. No, they do not want this reform.
That has been my point all along. Contrary to the lies being perpetrated by the far Left, being opposed to the current plans under discussion does not equal being in favor of the status quo. It does not equal being in favor of sky-rocketing prices. It does not equal being in favor of just letting people die. It equals being opposed to the current plans under discussion, nothing more and nothing less. News flash: More people are opposed to the current plans under discussion than are in favor. That should be cause for concern and should clearly indicate that we need to re-examine the current plans under discussion.
These people are operating under the idea that it is better to do anything at all than to do nothing, and that has always been a bad ideal. It is politically expedient, mushy, feel-good thinking that has caused more harm in history than it has ever done good. Following this thinking opens up the way to making things much worse because it makes intentions, rather than results, the guiding factor. We need to stop this headlong rush to "do anything" and make sure that what we're doing can actually have good results. Lying about overwhelming support isn't going to help anyone when reality comes to collect the bill.

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