Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Less Arithmetic Megan

Shorter Megan McArdle:

Megan McArdle read a post that said the number of bankruptcies was falling. She saw a chart that said the year over year rate of bankruptcy filing has gone down since 2007. She repeated the message and copy-n-pasted the graph. Of course her graph does not show the number of bankruptcies, it shows the rate of bankruptcy filings since 2007, but McArdle still insists that black is white, up is down, and total number is rate.

pragmatism 18 hours ago

who would do something like this? that would be like using this chart to show a decline in bankruptcies going back to 2007 when this chart paints a fuller picture. i know, fudging the x axis is completely different.

pragmatism 18 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
A: McMegan.

McMegan 14 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
Again, not my chart, and what I was interested in is the decline in bankruptcies that just happened, and is clearly marked on the chart. In retrospect, I agree with you that it's not a great way to present the data, but the post was about bankruptcies next year, and in fact clearly discussed the fact that bankruptcies had gone up during the crisis, no?
Flag 1 person liked this. Like ReplyReply pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan

It's not her fault. She was just repeating what someone else said. It was right there in the post. What else do you want? And that graph-it doesn't say what it says. It says something else that supports my preconceived notion that bankruptcies, especially medical bankruptcies, aren't falling. Right? Right? What are you gonna do, argue with an Ivy Leaguer?

pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan
agreed not your chart, but your choice amongst the universe of charts. what your choice does not show is how bk's spiked prior to the passage of reform. those people are not likely to go into bk again during the crisis, no? that's why it would have been better to show that data as well.

McMegan 14 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
Pragmatism, I assume that you are new to this blog, because this is hardly a fact that I have been at pains to conceal. In fact, I alluded to it in that very post, along with the fact that the rates had been rising for some time:

"This may be evidence on a question that has puzzled bankruptcy experts--was the precipitous decline in bankruptcies after the 2005 bankruptcy reform act real, or was it simply a lull before the storm? Everyone agrees that the initial drop was a result of a lot of bankruptcies being moved forward before the law took effect--everyone who thought they might need to declare bankruptcy did. But there has been a lot of analytical effort put into trying to figure out what was going to happen later: would they stay low, or would they inexorably go back to their old level? Obviously what you think depends on what you think the causes of bankruptcy are: if you blame low saving and irresponsible consumers, you're apt to think that bankruptcy will fall when it becomes harder to get a discharge. If you think bankruptcy is mostly the result of cruel economic forces--medical bills, predatory lenders, or what have you--then you'll expect them to go back up.

You, reader, did not understand what you read because of your preconceived liberal notions. I, however, did understand what I read--because of my preconceived notions, which have been verified by this line that goes down and that word bankruptcy in the title of the graph.

There's been some evidence for Ronald Mann's "Sweat Box" model of consumer debt. The idea is that the law wouldn't actually end up reducing the number of filings; it would just slow down the filings, so that consumers spent longer struggling, and paying high fees and interest charges to the lenders.

I know stuff about economics that you don't know.

But that looked more convincing when they were rising towards their old rates. Now that they're filing again, it may be time to revisit. of course, it's not a big fall--but as I say, the economy is considerably worse now. "

We can disregard any contrary evidence because we have perfectly good evidence that supports my ideology.

On this evidence, I submit that I correctly read the graph, did not notice that other people would incorrectly read the graph, and then wrote a blog post aimed at people who were going to correctly read the graph.

You misunderstood me. I know what I'm talking about, you don't.

pragmatism 14 hours ago in reply to McMegan
perhaps the working poor families project wrote that report aimed at people who were going to read the graph in question properly?
you call out their motives behind their choices of graphical representation, fine. what you say is true, its not as dramatic if you don't truncate the y axis. you made the same choice--to heighten the impact of the graphical representation.
(Edited by author 13 hours ago)

McMegan 13 hours ago in reply to pragmatism
No, I didn't. I grabbed a post from the blog I had been reading. I had no control over the graph. Do you not see a difference between how you build a graph, and using the one that goes with a blog post you would like to write about?

I have no responsibility. I'm just following orders. I had no control over which graph to publish. Don't you understand how this works?

All our fine and honorable Villager pundits lie to us endlessly. It's rare that we get to point it out in person, but it's also inevitable that if you lie and obfuscate for a living you open yourself up to ridicule and frequent, humiliating corrections.


Lurking Canadian said...

Many years ago, when Star Trek: TNG was on, my mother told me a (to me) funny story. She had always been impressed with the depth of the scientific research Star Trek writers did to come up with all that impressive technobabble. Always, that is, until one day, they said something about food biochemistry, a field in which my mother is a certified expert, and got it COMPLETELY WRONG. From that day forward, she assumed the writers were just writing plausible sounding gibberish in all fields, and that she just hadn't noticed before.

Megan is just like a Star Trek writer. When she's talking about put options, and short positions, and whatever Wall Street gobbledegook she emits that I know nothing about, it all sounds very impressive. But then she makes fundamental mathematical errors on stuff I can do in my head and refuses to see the error even when it's pointed out to her and I start to wonder if maybe she's full of shit all the time, instead of just when I can tell.

Merry Christmas, Susan. Thank you for your hard work on behalf of us all. I hope you have a chance to relax and enjoy the holiday.

Uncertainty said...

Lurking Canadian:

I have to admit something similar watching political drama. I liked watching The West Wing years back and also assumed, with all of the consultants working on it who had been in the White House (Dee Dee Meyers, Lawrence O'Donnell, etc) that on the politics, it was probably fairly close to reality.

Then one episode they dealt with a subject I know at a professional level, and oh dear did they get it wrong. Everything. I mean if they had spent ten minutes talking to anyone in the field, they would have had no chance of writing the ridiculous dialog and characters that they included.

I then checked with an acquaintance who worked in politics and he told me that the show operated at pretty much the same level on the political topics.

This of course has led to no end of disappointment, like when I keep expecting Obama to march up to Capitol Hill, on foot, to confront the Republican leaders and when they make him wait for one minute too long, walk back to the White House and thus secure a major political victory (they kept him waiting! They lose!) just like on TV.


I guess I could have seen how absurdly even the political subjects were handled without even asking, looking at that, but ah well.

KWillow said...

Our everyday news media is as bad as Hollywood-Argelbargle. Even back in the 70's, reading a news article, or seeing one one on the Nightly News that I had factual information on- they would get it horribly wrong. And since reporters had access to the real "facts", I had to conclude that they weren't really reporting News, they were telling a story.

ArgleBargle, of course, is just a propagandist. A dumb one, too.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand.

MM's post appears to show data about what percentage of families are 200% below poverty.

I don't follow your characterization of her argument or the excerpted comments from her blog. Without a trace of irony, sarcasm, or rhetorical flourish, What is the point here? Because after reading both posts a couple of times, I have not a clue.

atat said...

"not my chart..."

Classic. Ah, such is blogging.

And I've mentioned this before, but has anyone else noticed how she resorts to incomplete sentences, dropping prepositions and subjects, whenever she's making a transparently bone-headed excuse? It's tics like this that lead me to believe that she does in fact know how dishonest her arguments are. It's a tell that a 13-year-old would have.

Susan of Texas said...

Anon, the bankruptcy graphs from this post were discussed in the comments.

Anonymous said...

i should have h/t'ed you susan. as canadian says above, thanks for what you do.

DocAmazing said...

has anyone else noticed how she resorts to incomplete sentences, dropping prepositions and subjects, whenever she's making a transparently bone-headed excuse?

A good observation, but it's easy to tell which McMegan posts contain falsehoods: they have punctuation. And letters.

freq flag said...

But then she makes fundamental mathematical errors on stuff I can do in my head...

Will you people please get off her back? She has told you and told you: HER CALCULATOR DOESN'T DO BILLIONS, OK?!!!

Anonymous said...

Once you've put up the dead parrot sketch, really, nothing more needs to be said. That's megan in a nutshell--one excuse after another.


Susan of Texas said...

Pragmatism, you did the right thing. As long as someone is pushing back it doesn't matter who is doing the pushing.