Wholly Misleading Half Truth: Worker’s Share of Corporate Revenue

Technically speaking, this is true. However, it conjures up a picture of the line employees getting the same share of revenue, which is not in the data. Worker pay includes everybody from the CEO to the mailroom clerk, when the CEO gets a salary and stock options. It excludes dividends, but for tax reasons dividends are tax inefficient.

Those who don’t compensate their employees enough end up having trouble attracting good workers and often lose their best employees to competitors.

This part of the explanation is true. However, but the fact is that the mix of employee value changes with time. It used to be that you needed Joe the production worker, who was a hard and conscientious worker even if he wasn’t too bright. Now Joe’s grandson works in Taco Bell because those production jobs are automated. On the other hand, while Tracy Technician wasn’t that much more important than her husband Joe, the other grandson, Trevor Technician, basically runs the whole factory by himself and is much more productive, with payment to match.

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Correlation vs. Causation: US and Norway

This meme invites us to draw the conclusion that if we had paid our politicians to run their campaigns, we’d have less inequality and higher standards of living and median income. That the correlation comes from causation and not some other source. This ignores the fact that Norway’s wealth comes to a large extent from control of the North Sea oil field.

There is also a big warning bell in that the meme does not actually compare the results for the US and Norway. For Norway, it gives the standard of living and median income. For the US, it gives us economic inequality.

Norway’s Median income Purchase Power Parity is indeed #2 (Luxembourg is slightly higher), with the US at #6 (although it is probably underreported) with 85% of the Norwegian value. However, Norway is just one of the countries that do it. Japan (#15 at 34,822), Germany (#16 at 33,333), and Israel (#21 at 30,364) also have generous public funding for political campaigns – and they’re below the US. So does Sweden, which is above it (#3 at 50,514).

h/t Chris Benenati

Wholly Misleading Antiquated Statistics Abuse: Number Killed by Handguns

There are several issues wrong with this meme.

First, the figures are probably out of date, considering they include a country that has not existed for the last quarter century.

Second, the figures aren’t normalized on a per-capita basis. The US has a much higher population than the other countries, so even if everything else was equal the number of people killed by handguns would have been higher. The effect would still be there without this statistics abuse, but it would be smaller:

Country Killed by handguns Population in millions Killed by handgun per million
Japan 48 127.3  0.377
Great Britain 8 64.1  0.125
Switzerland 34 8.1  4.198
Canada 52 35.2  1.477
Israel 58 8.1  7.16
Sweden 21 9.6  2.188
United States 10,728 318.9  33.65

So the difference between the US and Switzerland, for example, is less than a factor of ten instead of the factor of 300 that the meme shows.

Third, even if the figures were up to date and presented per-capita, it would still be a half-truth and therefore wholly misleading. The meme doesn’t state it, but the obvious interpretation is that the killings by handgun are bad things that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of those handguns.

But a certain percent of killings are justifiable homicide, for example self defense. The people who are most inclined by nature to be violent are precisely those that don’t need guns to be violent. Richard Rapist can overpower Veronica Victim, and Robert Robber can overpower Elmer Elderly. But in both cases, it would only go into the statistic if Veronica and Elmer shot Richard and Robert with a handgun. In the US, that is a lot more likely to happen.

Note: I wanted to say that most handgun deaths are suicides, but it looks like the meme already took care of that, and restricted itself to homicides. The ~10,000 a year value is only for homicides. Suicides are about twice that, and as tragic as they are, it is hard to blame the gun when in other countries people suffocate or poison themselves.

h/t Philip Docfather Wohlrab

Statistical Semantics: Veterans and Suicide Rate

If 4% of veterans kill themselves every day, after 25 days there wouldn’t be veterans. I don’t think that is the case.

What the meme author meant to write is probably that if the same number of congress people committed suicide as veterans we’d be out of congress people in 25 days. That is a lot less impressive, considering there are significantly more veterans.

Then again, that number doesn’t necessarily mean what we are meant to think it means. 72% of veterans are above the age of fifty, and they commit 69% of suicides. Probably a large percent of those are “I’m terminally sick, and I’ll never get better” type suicides, and not many are related to military service decades in the past.

There is definitely a problem, and it needs to be addressed. We have drugs and therapy for PTSD. But we should talk about it honestly, rather than misinterpret statistics.

David Burkhead: Irrelevant Statistic for Emotional Appeal

Pick a long enough period of time (they chose 46 years for the US) and the same kind of statement could be made about any country for any cause of death. Another meaningless appeal to emotion.

Also missing is noting that since a peak in 1992-3, violent crime of all types, including crimes committed using guns, has been _falling_, this despite more and more states going “shall issue”, more people getting licenses to carry, more states going “Constitutional carry” (not even requiring a license). Each of these changes is heralded with predictions of increased “gun violence” and “blood running in the streets” which, of course, never happens. But that doesn’t stop the same predictions from being trotted out again and again.

And, yes, they do include suicide deaths (more than half of deaths due to gunshot), where “gun laws” are truly irrelevant. Presence or absence of a gun has no bearing on whether a person is suicidal. At most it influences choice of method. In the US, firearms are a common means. In Japan (where, incidentally, the suicide rate is higher than our suicide and homicide rates combined) stepping in front of bullet trains is popular.

But it makes a nice appeal to emotion, if you read it fast and don’t think much about it, don’t it?

Bad Comparison – Police in the US vs. Mexico

US “police” is a large number of federal, state, county, and municipal agencies. So it is no wonder that statistics collection is difficult and therefore imperfect. This estimate is 93% of 1,100 a year, or about 1020. This data does not distinguish between justifiable homicide (criminals don’t always come nicely just because you tell them they’re under arrest) and murder.

Mexican police is notoriously corrupt (see the references to the Wikipedia article). The protests in the article are the result of a massacre of 43 people. When was the last time a US police force massacred such a large group, under orders from local gangs? Would such a massacre have encountered apathy when even a single death can cause rioting?

h/t Patrick Richardson