Our piddlingly tiny Defense Budget

Friday, October 20, 2006 | 07:05 AM

I want to bring a different tack to our usually fun forays into Data Analysis:  Instead of me railing about some statistical aberation, smoke coming out of my ears as I type, I want you, dear readers, to exercise those muscles. 

For this, we go to a reliable source of bad data: The WSJ's OpEd page. 

Is_ther_e_a_waron_19200209_1While editorials are by nature supposed to be opinion pieces, over time I have noted that this page has a tendency to disconnect from reality when it comes to mathematics, data, statistics. At times, the word dissembling comes to mind. 

Feel free to agree or disagree with the premise of the commentary. But this is not a political exercise. Instead, I am looking for ways you find that the data has been spun or misinterpreted or otherwise omitted in support of this argument.

You may also feel free to argue the data is correct, or that the Op-Ed understates the facts. Either way, focus on the data.

Professors of Economics, Statistics, and Mathematics can feel free to make this a regular part of their curriculum.  And don't limit yourself to the WSJ: The NYT, WP,  LAT are all fair game. But I keep coming back to the WSJ OpEd for their long standing tendency to use economic or budgetary data, and then to distort it. 

No matter: Lets see how strong your powers of observations are: Identify the errors in this Op Ed:

Our Small Defense Budget
October 20, 2006; Page A12 http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009124

The full text is at the free Opinion Journal site.


NOTE:  I do not want to make this about politics, but, rather, about how data is tortured for political ends. The most political this could get is perhaps how the WSJ Op-Ed page advocated for tax cuts during the war or things along that line which impact the budget -- but not the political arguments.

Make the focus on numbers, not partisanship.


Call this crowdsourcing:  If anyone wants to reference charts, tables, etc, feel free to do so, and I will gather them all in a follow up post next week.

Friday, October 20, 2006 | 07:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)
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In the chart you have shown, I think that even it is literally true, it could be very misleading due to federal government debt levels limiting how much can be allocated for every area of government -- not just defense. We have run deficits almost every year since WWII. Therefore our debts have continuously grown. There has never, to my memory, been any serious attempt to pay down the national debt.

A chart showing the percentage applied to all federal government spending (including interest payments on the national debt) would give you a fuller picture. Another is what GDP was in today's dollars, vs then. Another is what the tax rate was then compared to now.

And even all that does not tell you the whole story, but it would be a good start.

Find the Truth. Do Justice.

Posted by: OkieLawyer | Oct 20, 2006 8:30:27 AM

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