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Resources: The American Majority

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, congress, corruption, dishonesty, economy, ethics, government, freedoms, Govtfearmongering, media, lies, politics, propaganda, usa )

- 1888 days ago -
The American Majority project reviews the available recent polling and finds a big difference between the economic policy solutions discussed by the media and policymakers and what the majority of average citizens would like to see from their leaders.

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JL A (281)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 1:22 pm
The American Majority

64 percent believe creating jobs should be the president’s and Congress’s top priority; only 33 percent of Americans think the top priority should be deficit reduction. (Morning Joe/Marist poll, March 25-27, 2013)
What the American majority supports
People who represent the American majority view
The latest commentary on the American majority position
Roger Hickey commentary
"American Majority Rejects Washington Austerity Consensus – And We Demand Media Coverage"

The media and government debate about economic policy inside the Washington Beltway is dominated by politicians, featured “experts” and advocates who assume that federal deficits are the most important problem facing the American people. And within this bubble, it seems that the obvious solution to this deficit problem is a limited range of policies that focus primarily on spending cuts: on funding for education, for low-income people, for the environment and on that narrow range of public expenditures known as discretionary spending.

This conventional wisdom also holds that it is imperative that we take on “entitlements” – cutting spending and “restructuring” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Conservatives have even threatened to crash the American economy by refusing to raise the federal debt limit unless this kind of radical austerity program is imposed on the U.S. government.

The advocates of this kind of approach to economic policy argue that it is strongly supported by the American people. But what do the majority of Americans really favor?

Almost daily, major polling organizations ask the American people what they think on all of these proposals through scientifically rigorous national polls. The American Majority project reviews the available recent polling and finds a big difference between the economic policy solutions discussed by the media and policymakers and what the majority of average citizens would like to see from their leaders.

What does this American majority think should be done to Social Security? Do Americans want to raise the Social Security eligibility age, reduce benefits, or raise Social Security taxes?

We also look at available data on public attitudes about:

Medicare, including polling on proposed spending cuts, the Republican plan to turn the program into a voucher system, and increased taxes on beneficiaries;
Medicaid, including public opinion on such issues as converting the program into a block grant in order to drive spending down, and covering health care costs for low-income children;
Taxes, including views on taxing millionaires and billionaires, eliminating oil company and other corporate tax breaks, and ending the Bush-era tax cuts;
Budget savings, highlighting the public’s support for bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and cutting the Pentagon’s budget.

Recently conservative legislators and governors have also suggested that America’s national and local deficit problem could be helped by weakening unions. So we look at recent polls on union employees and collective bargaining rights that measure support for the rights of public and private employees to unionize to negotiate with their employers.

Finally, we look at job creation and the economy, and present information on what the majority of Americans believe the role of government should be in creating jobs and getting the economy working again.

On the polling page you will find links to the individual polls we cite, as well as a full list of polls and details. On the experts page, we list economists, academics and organization leaders who support the sensible majority position on many of these issues and are qualified to represent those positions in the media or other forums. The viewpoints page is regularly updated with commentary and analysis from’s writers and other sources.

Kit B (276)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 1:33 pm

I guess we do know that Congress (lost in their bubble) does not care a flip about what people want, they have a personal agenda, and that comes first. Though there is one way Americans can send a strong message. Vote out the incumbents that do not represent your interests. Be active, vote and send them the message over and over till they finally hear us.

Kit B (276)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 1:34 pm

Austerity is a move of desperation, they are trying to force this country into an unnecessary collapse. We can not let this happen.

JL A (281)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 2:12 pm
Excellent points Kit.
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

Stephen Brian (23)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 4:16 pm
The two problems are not unrelated, and the relation is very complicated:

The U.S. government spends roughly double the deficit assisting people without jobs. By drivig up the total employment-rate (inclduing the labour-force participation-rate) in a cost-effective way, the government can try to address the debt. The difference in opnion on the issue is mostly about what constitutes a "cost-effective" method.

The first problem is that proactive attempts to help the overall economy are not normal reactions to the market, so economic indicators which were developed assuming only market-forces' presence don't work. If the government policies exist to create jobs rather than drive production (with job-production as a side-effect), then the economic production of those jobs will be less than the wages would suggest, so job-numbers would cease to work as an economic indicator. Job-programs can easily turn out like attempts to treat a fever by redrawing the lines on the thermometer.

The second problem is that even if there is economic production, it can be extremely difficult to tell whether it is worth the cost of the program, if a job-program costs more than keeping the same number of people on unemployment-benefits. The problem is that nobody actually understands the current economy. A good business-leader or investor can understand a single sector and directly related ones (whether related as customers, suppliers, or whatever), but there are a lot of interdependent sectors and nobody can keep track of them all.

I can think of a few more problems, making benefits of programs even tougher to measure, but you get the picture. Unless the cost of the program is actually less than the cost of unemployment-benefits for the number of people who get employed, it is impossible to tell whether a program is cost-effective.

Then there is the other side of the same relation. The debt and deficit are a quantifiable measures of how close a public sector bubble is to bursting. If the U.S. government fails to turn over enough Treasury bonds to pay salaries, it won't be able to pay them. There are those who think that the government could just print out the money, but that would devalue existing savings, including the Social Security Trust Fund (and printing out enough to restock that would really wreck investor-confidence and wipe out the private economy). If the deficit is not addressed, then when that bubble bursts, every public sector job is at risk and with that, the private sector which it supports. In the longterm, unless the deficit and debt are addressed, jobs will disappear in a way that could easily dwarf the Great Depression.

JL A (281)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 4:21 pm
Stephen--how does any of that relate to the divide between what people want, supported by the research done as cost-effective jobs programs BTW--no question on that math--and the failure of Congress to do diddlysquat?

Sherri G (128)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 4:45 pm
There is an excellent program on Link cable TV by Professor Richard Wolff: Democracy at Work: The Cure for Capitalism. He explains how President Roosevelt pulled us out the depression and his ability to make Corporations pay to revive the economy. He also explains what he used to make that happen and that Capitalism was "born, evolved, and will die". I highly recommend the program because his examples and recommendations can work. Thanks JL for the information.

JL A (281)
Saturday April 20, 2013, 4:50 pm
Thanks for the information about an additional resource for those wanting to better understand jobs creation and related economics Sherri! You are welcome.
You cannot currently send a star to Sherri because you have done so within the last day.

Uhane Pono (12)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 11:40 am
Bring back the WPA!

Arielle S (313)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 12:16 pm
There could be so many jobs working on the infrastructure - cleaning up the environment - planting trees - turning unused buildings into something useful - green energy, etc. etc. Instead we get "we have to cut the deficit". Congress either can't or won't hear the people. The simple answer is that we just need a new Congress.

JL A (281)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 12:22 pm
This administration put forward a proposal like the WPA, including vets as a target group to get jobs in the program, a couple months ago.
You cannot currently send a star to Arielle because you have done so within the last day.

John p (0)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 12:28 pm
I feel sure that polling would reflect even greater majority for fixing JOBS, if people really understood the astroturf foundation of the 'fix the debt' crowd of wealthy supporters. They believe that workers should have to fix the debt even though they had little to do with creating it.

Birgit W (160)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 4:04 pm

Robert K (31)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 5:16 pm
Austerity = stupidity!

JL A (281)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 5:20 pm
You are welcome Birgit

Kit B (276)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 9:02 pm

The Richard Wolff video is available on you tube:

Thanks go to Sherri for finding that. It was excellent.

Lynn S (235)
Sunday April 21, 2013, 9:10 pm
It seems so simple a concept yet Congress does not get it. . . . or perhaps they do get it but they are playing partisan politics with the lives of everyday Americans --- the middle and working income earners. If middle and working income earners are working on infastructure etc and other jobs, then they are generating income for the government to pay for programmes. Part of that goes to reducing the deficit. Add to that taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates, and cutting out all the special subsidies to various corporations, the US would be cutting its deficit.

Let's face it, a big part of the deficit is caused by 2 wars payed for on the American credit card.

paul m (93)
Monday April 22, 2013, 4:56 am

Just like Ireland ,, Talking about makeing jobs on one hand and on the orther cutting jobs and wages that dosen't meet inflationand they wonder why so many are on the " Dole "

Deborah W (6)
Monday April 22, 2013, 5:59 am
Imbalance abounds ... those in power battling left and right, while one side of the common folks are struggling to make ends meet (not much time to follow any truthful information available to them, minus the "spins"), while the other side is experimenting with bigger and better believable scams to draw in the suffering.

What the hell happened to compassion, caring/sharing, comradery, the greatness of heart? All dead? One-on-one offers this once great nation the best chance of return to what we represent(ed) and the reason they just keep coming ... as experienced recently in Sandy Hook, Boston, West TX, etc.

Screw the government, there are a lot of good people out there that, when the time is taken to research and follow-up on results vs. rhetoric, will vote as needed to make necessary changes. In the end, the masses own it.

Raul M. (0)
Monday April 22, 2013, 9:43 am
Debt is what people pay to rescue those bankers who explode them, from bankrupt. Why should we do something like this???

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 10:33 am
You cannot currently send a star to Raul because you have done so within the last day.

Kathryn Niell (112)
Monday April 22, 2013, 1:00 pm
The government just doesn't listen to us. We have seen the effects of austerity in Europe. It doesn't work. The job of the government should be to invest, invest, invest to create more jobs and forget about reducing the deficit, which will take care of itself when everyone is working and paying taxes. The wealthy, and corporations, must bear a greater burden of taxes as the cost of doing business. I am so disillusioned by the status quo in the U.S., from the erosion of Constitutional rights, to government of, for and by the corporations. Our own history shows us what to do: all we need is to look back to FDR and what he did to drag the country out of depression. The current system is broken; the sooner we acknowledge that fact and take steps to change it, the better off we all will be.

Carrie W (6)
Monday April 22, 2013, 1:03 pm
This is American's new reality, adding millions more illegal aliens will only make us poorer.

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 2:05 pm
No person is illegal, but they may be without documents.

Judith Hand (55)
Monday April 22, 2013, 5:24 pm
Noted. I found it intriguing enough to get on their list, and for PM Updates, at that. Tx.

JL A (281)
Monday April 22, 2013, 5:31 pm
You are welcome Jude. You cannot currently send a star to Jude because you have done so within the last day.

Stephen Brian (23)
Monday April 22, 2013, 10:25 pm
Hi :)

Congress does nothing for a few reasons.

If it were just about people who care and try to help the country against those serving special interests, it would be simple to vote the "bad guys" out. The first complication is that both sides have real arguments in their favour because the issues that they address are not a solved problem. Both sides care, and both sides (at least mostly) care about both jobs and deficit, so Americans can't just vote out the "bad guys".

The second complication is that there is a false dichotomy between the two in current civic discourse: The joblessness-problem is what drives the bulk of government-spending, and the debt is a bubble that could drive disastrous job-loss. With voters pushing politicians to go one way or the other, I believe their hands are tied on a lot of potential helpful measures because pushing for the other side's goals (with efforts to achieve the two goals seen as mutually exclusive rather than heavily overlapping) would be seen as a betrayal of supporters.

The third complication is that it's a very, very complicated problem. It's so complicated that, arguably, sitting on its hands is one of the best choices for Congress. They don't really know what they are doing because nobody really knows how to solve the problem so they may be more likely to make a mistake than solve anything, and a screw-up at that level can be disastrous. I could point out at least three cases of screw-ups by the U.S. government which all sides would likely agree caused problems of a scale greater than errors by individual private companies possibly could. (Those would be the bulk of the Iraq War when Bremer fired the police, army, and civil service which had been taken intact and could have policed the country better than American troops, the current socioeconomic stratification of the U.S. due to bad hiring-regulations and outsourcing of aptitude-testing to universities, and the 2008 recession which could have been averted had the government gradually phased out funding to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rather than just cut them without warning.) It might actually be a better idea to let small regions and private industry experiment until there is a good solution to adopt. Still, I hope they take what small steps they can without abandoning caution.

Helen Porter (39)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 12:24 am
Thank you for the information.


JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 8:04 am
Stephen, Congress has the nonpartisan CBO to do the research and provide the numbers all agreed to use for making decisions--and the CBO dataand research was clear on what would and would not create jobs. The GOP tried to squash the report because it didn't give them the answers they preferred and showed their position to be mythical. Not so complicated--pretty simple. And the CBO report showed that doing nothing would make things worse.
You are welcome Zee.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 10:56 am
There is a major problem with nearly all CBO predictions, and this is why I trust it (mostly) for raw data, but not large-scale policy-prescriptions. It doesn't consider second-order economic feedbacks because nobody knows how to calculate those. Essentially, in its predictions it assumes that private industry will continue to behave exactly as it does now rather than adapt to any change in public policy. This leads to biased results on a large number of issues.

For example, when lowering taxes, it takes into account the fact that businesses have a greater portion of their money to spend privately. It does not consider the effect of lower taxes on investment-psychology (which is currently not calculable), the work-ethic of those with profit-sharing (payment in stock), nor does it consider any change in business-practice in response to lower taxes (which is, again, not calculable). All of these effects, and a few more I could list, including the effect on the rate of start-ups, drive the economy in the same direction as taxes drop. As the economy's reaction to a reaction to policy, the effects are technically second-order, but they are large second-order effects, and in some cases have turned out to be larger than the economy's direct reaction to changes in public policy (first-order effects). For example, the lowering of corporate taxes in Canada near the beginning of the recession go it listed as the #1 place on Earth for investment, bringing in massive foreign investment and allowing the government to nearly stabilize the debt in the middle of the global recession.

The same sort of trouble arises in social programs where it assumes that nobody will game the system, ignoring the "welfare trap" which actually is calculable, the financial industry's abuse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and other such things. It also ignores the effect of the rate of change in public policy on perceptions of the stability of the business-environment, and resulting behaviour by private industry, and if I thought about it, I could probably come up with several more important things it ignores. Looking at which way many of the incalculable and ignored feed-backs go politically, you can imagine why the Republicans tend to oppose CBO predictions, even if they accept its data.

The CBO predicts that doing nothing will lead to things getting worse for two reasons. First, it's probably right. These are a lot of things the government could do which would cut costs and promote job-growth. Second, however, it would come to that conclusion even if it were wrong because it predict what business-owners will do so it assumes that private industry will not adapt.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:03 am
Apparently you missed their reports that did indeed calculate and demonstrate actual responses to those changes by corporations and businesses that were opposite of all GOP claims about them Stephen.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:12 am
sorry: typo:
Near the end, "There are a lot of things ...", not "These are a lot of thing ...". Also, a quick elaboration on that: People are looking for leadership and fear that the U.S. government is paralysed. Just a show of activity, even policies that would themselves have zero effect, would raise confidence in the markets. Of course, if the government really is unable to take meaningful action and its intervention really is needed, then that would create a bubble of false hope.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:14 am
Hi :)

I did miss that report. Where is it?

I would be very surprised if it turns out to be accurate because no working model of most of these things exists, and as changes in business-practice involve innovation, I don't think a working model could even be produced. However, if their model can retrodict the data, I would be very happy to see it.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:19 am
I would be doubly surprised after checking the CBO's website:

They try to predict direct responses of businesses to changes in policy, but not the economic impacts of those responses (Paragraph 2 under "what sorts of behavioral responses are included in your estimates?"). This means they cannot predict the economic impact of any resulting job-growth or account for any rise or drop in future revenues resulting from the responses.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:30 am
These policies were tried under the first Bush--look at the longitudinal historical analyses Stephen.

Lois Jordan (63)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 4:13 pm
Polls ask so many questions regarding personal info. Zogby used to send me online polls a few years back. I marked the boxes that I had no religion, wasn't part of the "investor class," considered myself politically "progressive".....I began receiving polls from them having nothing to do with politics; asking me "consumer" questions about products, which I answered. They haven't sent a poll to me in a couple years now. I think they specifically select people they want to poll to create a false database.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 4:19 pm
Some polls with marketing intent are skewed that way Lois. Many political polls are structured to be fully representative with unbiased questions--although many I used to get from my former US Rep. were not valid with totally skewed questions.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 6:53 pm
I had a very long discussion on another Care2 thread about the effects of spending on growth with David Connaly a long while back to see the economic effect of government-spending as opposed to private-sector spending, looking through White House records from 1948 on (when the shift away from the WW2 wartime-economy finished). We looked at the U.S.'s GDP growth-rate as a function of government-spending (as a fraction of GDP). A few things came out:

First, there are short-term fluctuations resulting from politics and market-externalities, wars, the Cold War, etc. that cause heavy fluctuations, as well as the standard boom/bust cycle. This would suggest that a long-term analysis is better than a collection of short-term ones, but the second thing that came out is that in the longterm, technological changes seemed to dominate economic growth. For example, GDP in inflation-adjusted dollars per hour worked (a fair measure of worker-productivity) in the U.S. has roughly doubled since the 1970s as ocmputers entered the workplace.

I tried looking at the results in 10-year periods which fit nicely, running from 1948 to 2008, but we found that the results depend pretty heavily on where the dividing lines between study-periods are because the correlations are mostly so poor. The strongest correlation I found was a negative one, suggesting that the economy grows faster if the government borrows and taxes less (as it must borrow or tax every dollar that it spends), with those original dividing lines and an assumed delay of one year between spending and effect on economic indicators, with chi-squared of about 0.4, if I recall correctly. In general, though, other factors appeared to dominate in both short-term and long-term analyses.

Essentially, we found that without a whole lot of clearing of confounding factors, longitudinal analyses comparing government-spending to GDP can't give the kind of information we want. Those counfounding factors are still so badly modeled that even after trying to clear them away, there would be so much uncertainty in the study that the results would be useless. We could try using other indicators, like employment-rates, accounting for changes in labour-force participation-rates (because after 6 months unemployed a person is no longer counted in unemployment-rate calculations), but again that would run into effects of things like cultural changes with women entering the workplace,recessions, booms, and changes in demographics, and probably a few other things. The whole system is so badly modelled that I don't think we can get reliable information out of longitudinal analyses.

Hi Lois :)
My guess is that Zogby only gets paid to do political polling around elections, if even then. Polling agencies' main business is market-analysis and I suspec they predict elections mostly as a way of establishing credentials with companies thatwant to know where to sell what products. If Zogby's current customers are no longer asking the agency to poll your community, then it won't call you. It could be dirty skewing of polls, or it could just be business.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 7:09 pm
That data is not appropriate for a single correlation statistical test Stephen--you violated the assumptions required for your results to have any validity.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 7:50 pm
Hi :)

That's pretty much what we found. No simple one-to-one correlation existed so other factors absolutely had to be considered and have their effects removed in order to see individual relations. The central problem is exactly the one that plagues the CBO's predictions: The system is too poorly modeled to clear out those other factors, making useful longitudinal analysis impossible.

I think we've run into a difference of belief that comes down practically to a matter of faith in the state of modern social sciences (or modern social scientists). The political theory of the Progressivist movement, as far as I can tell, essentially boils down to "We know or can practically figure out how things work. Move this lever and have that effect. Let's move the levers that will fix the problem." Unlike a lot of posters on Care2, I don't really consider myself a part of that movement because I don't think we're anywhere close to that level of understanding. I think we need to give individuals or small groups the freedom and responsibility to try a large number of different solutions to problems on their own, and then see what works and could scale up. That freedom would also let them restore a lot of the problems of the past, but I think it may be the only way to really get those methods quickly and avoid a lot of large-scale errors which would create new problems.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 7:52 pm
no--the data fit would've been a time series analysis or a series of pre-post policy shifts regression analyses. Your erroneous choices radically reduced the sensitivity of prediction and results possible from the data and thus your method skewed it to not find the relationships that CBO found using the appropriate statistical methods which fit the data.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 9:15 pm
The problem is that they can't really do the regression-analyses effectively because too many factors change at the same time and have different delays in effect. I don't even know if they can even get more than about a decade's worth of useful data because technology and market externalities change the system on that timescale. considering longer times would dramatically increse the number of counfounding factors, including all of those which come with a change of generation. What I did was technically a regression analysis, though a very basic one, drawing from the raw data of GDPs and spending by year.

The CBO can find whatever it wants by assuming different factors to be important and plugging in different models relating different causes to different effects. With the system changing so quickly, they effectively have smaller data-sets than they do numbers of plausible contributing factors. Consider that they have to deal with demographic changes (cultural changes due to immigration.emmigration, language-barriers, age-structure, diversity itself), changes in gender-gaps in education and labour-force participation, changes in education from however many years prior affecting people now at different levels in business-hierarchy, trillions of dollars in annual trade with foreign countries which have their own changes, natural disasters, wars, the rate ofchange of the business-environment, the rate of adoption of technology and business-practices, and a whole lot of other stuff. Some of those are long-term issues that could be handled by limiting the data-set to recent years, but I could probably double the length of this list, adding a whole bunch of short-term stuff with another minute's thought. There are just too many moving parts with too many different delays and too little data for an effective regression-analysis. The only way the CBO can handle it is by assuming the effects of some things to be small and then running the statistics. The problem is that its assumptions are likely to be wrong because some of the things which affect the economy and budget are very difficult and politically incorrect to measure.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 9:58 pm
No the CBO cannot, but you found what you wanted to find.
The data determines the method in each and every step for those who know more than a minimum amount about statistics--a parametric regression method on nonparametric data and treating a continuous variable as discrete is doomed to failure.

Stephen Brian (23)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:10 pm
Money flow is continuous, but annual averages are not.

PArt of my point is that non-parametric analysis, if I understand your meaning correctly, is necessary, but not currently practical when looking for causal relations. To sift through that many causes and effects, with multiple indicators changing over time and countless immeasurable mechanisms affecting the system, you need to make some model-assumptions, even if only in the choices of contributing factors to consider. The problem is that we don't know what assumptions to make even in that regard.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:21 pm
Wrong. Using parametric methods on nonparametric data gives wrong answers--like you got.
It is totally practical for anyone who knows enough about statistics to use the right methods.
Nonparametric statistics are routinely used in all fields of study and have been for more than a decade--more than two in many fields. The relationships among the factors were determined by research long ago and are no mystery to those who know what they are doing (factor analysis is among the methods that does that BTW). Multivariate statistics were developed to handle exactly what you don't know how to do. The research and statistics determining assumptions you don't know are known by those with the expertise to do the analyses.

JL A (281)
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 11:30 pm
One parallel situation comparable to what I am seeing is if a person, who had a minor in physics in their undergraduate program 25 years ago, were trying to repeat the work of a team of specialized engineers, who earned PhDs in their fields 5-6 years ago, who are working in their specialty areas and that person was limited to what they had learned, and still remembered, in college and said those engineers can't do what they just did and accomplished.

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 1:12 am
Hi :)

I know multivariate statistics. To go from multivariate statistics to one-to-one relations between unknowns and observables (factor analysis), you have to separate out that unknown from the rest. If you have more variables than constraints, you run into this:

X + Y = 10
what are X and Y, given that they may be positive or negative real numbers? It doesn't matter how good the math and computers are, or how skilled the engineers are. It can't be done. This isn't just a parallel problem, a simplification, or an example of something similar. The CBO's problem can literally be phrased in exactly this equation and quation (though it would be silly to do so).

More generally, if there are more variables (parameters of relations between contributing factors and whatever indicator) than constraining equations (clusters of data-points which must be reproduced), then there will always be degrees of freedom in the result. I don't just mean wiggle room from spread in the data: I mean numbers which an analyst can only confidently say are somewhere between negative infinity and and infinity. As long as there is interaction between contributing factors, those degrees of freedom will prevent any conclusive determination of any one-to-one relation.

I get that the CBO can look at a large number of different indicators, check for correlations, and separate them out for analysis, getting more data-points. With relations between contributing factors and economic indicators which each have multiple parameters, and a large number of contributing factors, even using every single recorded indicator (interst rates, GDP, GNP, employment-rates, balance of trade, total international trade, startup success-rate, total startup-rate, etc.) one cannot hope to construct enough independent indicators to get enough data-points to significantly outnumber the unknown parameters. (The unknown parameters have to be significantly outnumbered because, as you can imagine, with X parameters and X data-points, you can get a perfect fit every time, regardless of whether additional mechanisms are really needed to accurately model the system.) This is why I consider the research which claims to have worked out the causal relations to high precision and confidence to be junk.

The method I described in PMs (sorry, but I just prefer to keep discussions in one place if possible to make things easier), not considering lines where the Gaussian approximation would fail, was non-parametric analysis, building the statistical model from the data itself rather than assuming one. I know how it works, and it aruably makes the problem worse in this case. By building the model from the data rather than assuming one, one can almost always get a reasonable result, whether or not it is correct. The model built from the data is then used to construct underlying theory. Alone, there is nothing wrong with this: It's just data-driven research (rather than hypothesis-driven research). However, for confirmation as being true rather than just plausible, the theories would need independent data for confirmation. This, at absolute minimum, doubles the data-points needed, exacerbating exactly the central problem that economists face. For proper confirmation, one would need at least 10x the data to get 3-standard-deviation evidence that the model is correct. (Social sciences use 2 standard deviations, so I guess economists would only really need 5x the already-impossibly-large dataset.)

JL A (281)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 7:42 am
Once again you continue to diverge from the topic at hand--Congress diverging from the desires of the American people.
You persist in demonstrating to those who understand statistics, which is not the interest of the readers of this article and why I guided you to do any continuation in IM instead of here out of respect for others, that you know barely enough about to be dangerous and fool people who know less than you, but not anywhere near enough to fool anyone with actual expertise in statistics.

Comments relevant to the topic of this thread will be welcome: Congress diverging from the desires of the American people.

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 10:00 am
Hi :)

Sorry about drifting so far off-topic. I will keep the severely off-topic stuff to IMs. I should let you know, though, that it was never my intention to fool anyone. I just don't see the

Also, just to bring it back to the topic explicitly, my point was that addressing the debt and saving jobs make for a very complicated problem with no clear solution. Congress does so little not only because it has internal division, but because even working together it would still have trouble. I brought the statistics here to demonstrate that even just following the CBO's predictions won't work.

JL A (281)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 10:34 am
You brought unworthy, inaccurate, unprofessional misuse of statistics here Stephen.
Apparently the GOP prefers hurting the country by refusing to accept accurate research using appropriate methods independently validated and confirmed by many reputable university research professionals and supported by all the reputable economists and you choose to support them in their views based on myths and what they would prefer to believe that was proven false.

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 9:01 pm
Hi JLA :)

I'm really sorry about bringing this back here, but for some reason I am unable to send you messages directly. I know it's at least partly off-topic, but this is the only place I could put it.

This discussion of statistics is ridiculous. I get why you feel you have to do it: If you accept that I know the math, then you can't argue on those grounds against my comment that it is impossible to design an analysis which both works with available data and provides reliable results. I get it, but look at the points going down this path has gotten you arguing:

1. Averages aren't numbers.

2. Unbiased estimators don't exist.

3. You can dynamically add new mechanisms to a theory to explain existing data and use that to produce a reliable model. (This is what it means to take a non-parametric approach to parameter-identification.)

4. We don't need to check theories against the null hypothesis.

5. With advanced statistics and good computers, one equation can be used to uniquely determine two variables.

I know you're a lot smarter than this. You know you're a lot smarter than this.

A lot of people disagree with me over the basic point on the grounds that we have identified all of the primary underlying contributing factors to the economy, that there are few enough of them that the data we possess suffices, and that further factors can be treated as a perturbation or have effects that fall within the error of the important indicators. I happen to think that factors which are not measured or used, including those stemming from culture which are politically sensitive, to say the least, have a large impact and disrupt any predictions made by the CBO or anyone else.

The fact is that this is an unanswered question, and that is why there are liberals and conservatives. Some believe that people are mostly good and would succeed without interference, so when they see statistically significant groupa being unsuccessful in some way, they conclude that there is external interference. Others believe that cultures are primary determining factors in many forms of their members' success, so when they see inequity, they just chalk it up to internal differences between the two groups. There is a whole spectrum between the two, where they demand different levels of evidence to overturn their initial assumptions, and this is the Western political spectrum. Roughly half of Western civilization isn't stupid or evil. Though there certainly are idiots and monsters among us, mostly people just take different assumptions regarding questions which have not been definitively answered.

Regarding your latest point here, which I just saw:
You mentioned "many reputable university research professionals and supported by all the reputable economists ". Reputable among whom exactly? Have you heard about the Republicans' rejection of a lot of "science"? Forget the hype about evolution and biology: This is mostly about the social sciences, because there is a lot of junk science out there. While I think they take their rejection too far for political reasons, the fact is that we don't have a woking model of society. We don't have a working model of human psychology. We don't have a validated, predictive working model of any of the social sciences with a range of applicability which includes all of the issues that we regularly face. Economics are no exception: To understand the markets, we would need to understand human decision-making, small group-dynamics, every culture of significant demographics, and more. We don't. I think Republicans go too far because they don't even accept that we can make predictions under some specific conditions, which we can, but such specific conditions are not met by the U.S. economy as a whole.

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday April 24, 2013, 9:10 pm
In response to your latest PM, to which Care2 is not allowing me to respond directly:

Geometric means have greater stability against outliers. This is why they can be used where data-quality is poor, like in the social sciences, or where instability would be magnified, like in numerical simulations. However, they are also notoriously biased estimators, always giving results below the arithmetic mean (except when all numbers being averaged are the same). This is why, beyond study of the initial data, it is often a very, very bad idea to use them. I didn't know that they were regularly used for all averages in the social sciences, like you said. That actually causes me to trust the results of social scientists even less than I did before.
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