Forum Post: OPINION: Congress, lies and statistics Sen. Sessions manipulates GAO report about Obamacare for partisan points
Posted 9 months ago on March 4, 2013, 9:33 a.m. EST by GirlFriday
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What Sessions was doing was engaging in a practice common in politics and propaganda—“statisticulation.” If you haven’t come across that word before, check out How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, a classic that’s as relevant today as it was when first published in 1954.
“Misinforming people by the use of statistical material,” Huff wrote, “might be called statistical manipulation; in a word: statisticulation.”
Statisticulation is an apt description of what the senator was doing with the GAO report. He was disclosing only the data that would support his assumptions. The truth is that it would take a scenario in which future Congresses repealed or phased out the deficit-reducing sections of the law—or all of them failed completely—for the $6.2 trillion addition to the deficit to be realized. And even if all that happened, that $6.2 trillion, which came from Sessions’ staffs’ calculations, not the GAO report, would be spread out over 75 years. That’s right. Three-quarters of a century.
Sessions did not disclose the GAO simulation showing that Obamacare will lead to a decline in the deficit over the same time frame if it is implemented as Congress intended, with the cost-cutting and revenue-generating provisions intact.
The GAO report stated that, “The primary deficit declined 1.5 percentage points as a share of GDP over the 75-year period in this (GAO’s Baseline Extended) simulation.” But somehow those words didn’t make it into Sessions’s disclosure. He disclosed only the alternative simulation. And he made certain to disclose it several hours before the GAO made the report available to the press and the rest of the world.
More from Wendell Potter here