Ed Driscoll

Phony Statistics Saved or Created

1984-not-a-users-guide

“President Obama likes to claim that he’s deported a lot of people. But he hasn’t,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his latest column:

President Obama has gotten a lot of grief from his base for being the “deporter-in-chief.” But the basis for this charge is rooted in some statistical sleight of hand that he uses on the stump to show that he’s tough on illegal immigration. President Obama likes to claim that he’s deported a lot of people. But he hasn’t. What he’s done is count people caught and turned around at the border as “deportations.” If previous administrations had counted thwarted illegal immigrants that way, Obama’s number of “deportations” from the border would likely still be much lower than that of other recent presidents. Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April, “expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40 percent since 2009.”

“If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, the former acting head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told the Times.

Obama has been even more generous to the kids of illegal immigrants, sometimes called “dreamers.” He unilaterally — and some would say illegally — granted permanent resident status to any kids who’ve been living here a while and who came here under the age of 16. The same president who denounces his opponents for “playing politics” made that decision during an election year.

Oh and speaking of playing politics, this is far from the first time that the Obama administration has used a statistical sleight of hand to bolster their position, or at least get them through that week’s news cycle. As former Bush #43 speechwriter Bill McGurn noted in the Wall Street Journal back in June of 2009 at the apex of Hopenchange, “‘Saved or created’ has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs:”

“Saved or created” has become the signature phrase for Barack Obama as he describes what his stimulus is doing for American jobs. His latest invocation came yesterday, when the president declared that the stimulus had already saved or created at least 150,000 American jobs — and announced he was ramping up some of the stimulus spending so he could “save or create” an additional 600,000 jobs this summer. These numbers come in the context of an earlier Obama promise that his recovery plan will “save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years.”

[Bush #43 Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto] sees a double standard at play. “We would never have used a formula like ‘save or create,'” he tells me. “To begin with, the number is pure fiction — the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being ‘saved.’ And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it.”

Of course, the inability to measure Mr. Obama’s jobs formula is part of its attraction. Never mind that no one — not the Labor Department, not the Treasury, not the Bureau of Labor Statistics — actually measures “jobs saved.” As the New York Times delicately reports, Mr. Obama’s jobs claims are “based on macroeconomic estimates, not an actual counting of jobs.” Nice work if you can get away with it.

And get away with it he has. However dubious it may be as an economic measure, as a political formula “save or create” allows the president to invoke numbers that convey an illusion of precision. Harvard economist and former Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw calls it a “non-measurable metric.” And on his blog, he acknowledges the political attraction.

“The expression ‘create or save,’ which has been used regularly by the President and his economic team, is an act of political genius,” writes Mr. Mankiw. “You can measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much, much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million fewer jobs without the stimulus.”

Remember when Obama’s campaign tried to paint Hillary as Big Brother (or Big Sister in her case) from Orwell’s 1984 to launch Obama’s presidential bid? And yet no other administration in American history has governed more using the Big Lie propaganda tactics of 1984’s Ministry of Truth, in the style of its ever-rising chocolate rations and other economic happy talk, to Oceania being at war with Eurasia one day and East Asia the next.

QED:

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But then, as Jonah notes in his latest emailed G-File (which should be online at NRO tomorrow), “I think I’ve stumbled onto a handy heuristic…for listening to Obama. Whenever he talks about himself, immediately flip it around so he’s saying the opposite:”

It’s not so much that he’s lying. Though if he were a Game of Thrones character, “Obama the Deceiver, First of His Name” would be a pretty apt formal title. No, he’s projecting. It’s an ego thing. I am fond of pointing out Obama’s insufficiently famous confession, “I actually believe my own bullsh*t.” What I like about it is that’s it’s like a verbal Escher drawing. He believes his own b.s. but by calling it b.s. he acknowledges it’s not believable. It’s like sarcastically insisting that you’re being serious. It’s earnest irony or ironic earnestness. If you take the statement too seriously, you could end up like android #1 in “I, Mudd.”

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Anyway, I don’t take psychoanalysis, too seriously (“If you did, what would happen to me?” — The Couch). But I think Obama’s penchant for deriding his opponents as cynics and opportunists stems from the fact that he sees the world through precisely those sorts of prisms. But he tells himself he’s different because he does it for good purposes and besides, he’s so awesome his b.s. is true. No one knows if God can make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it, but Obama can sling such exquisite b.s. even he can believe. And because he believes it, he can’t tolerate the idea that others don’t.

Oh and speaking of 1984, that Time piece we quoted earlier today, titled, “Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State,” contains this quote:

“Increasingly, the Obama White House has become so brittle, and so controlling of the message, that people are afraid to respond to me,” said Kimberly Dozier, a former Associated Press reporter. She was one of the journalists whose phone records were obtained by the Department of Justice last spring during its investigation into a leak of classified information about a failed Al-Qaeda plot. The scope of that investigation, some critics said, was unprecedented overreach.

Brittle is an adjective that sums up this administration rather nicely — and even more so the condition of its figureheads, Jarrett, Biden, Kerry, and in particular Obama himself, as pesky reality can’t help but interfere with their socialist worldviews and entirely undeserved hauteur.