Monday, April 4, 2011
I still believe in education...
despite massive evidence to the contrary.
In the immortal words of the decidedly mortal Harvey Pekar, "Average is dumb."
For those who need recent proof of this adage, let us consider this Talking Points Memo link to a recent CNN poll of what Americans think about the federal budget.
How much of the federal budget goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which includes radio (NPR) and television (PBS)?
Less than 1% of budget :: 27% of respondents (correct answer)
1% to 5% of budget :: 40% of respondents (most popular answer and median answer)
6% to 10% of budget :: 8% of respondents
11% to 20% of budget :: 6% of respondents
21% to 30% of budget :: 5% of respondents
31% to 50% of budget :: 4% of respondents
more than 50% of budget :: 7% of respondents
don't know :: 3% of respondents
I marked the correct answer in bold, but it doesn't go quite far enough. The budget for CPB is about 1/100 of 1%, which sounds tiny. It's $420 million in actual money, which sounds like real money to a broke-ass math teacher like me, but in terms of the news and entertainment field, it's pretty damn puny. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, NBC Universal asked the NBC News organization to cut $500 million out of their budget, more than the entire budget for CPB.
So we have 27% who have a rough idea (less than 1% can mean waaaaay less than 1%), 3% who don't know and KNOW they don't know and 70% who don't know, but that doesn't stop them from guessing.
And when we have 7% thinking its more than half the national budget and another 9% thinking it's on par with the defense budget, words fail me.
Let's look at similar numbers for the food stamps program.
Less than 1% of budget :: 6% of respondents
1% to 5% of budget :: 40% of respondents (most popular answer and correct answer)
6% to 10% of budget :: 16% of respondents (median)
11% to 20% of budget :: 13% of respondents
21% to 30% of budget :: 4% of respondents
31% to 50% of budget :: 9% of respondents
more than 50% of budget :: 10% of respondents
don't know :: 2% of respondents
Well, let me polish this turd for a little bit. It's something of an accomplishment that 40% got the right answer, but the right answer is about 1%, so even a passel of people in there could be overestimating the budget by a factor of two or even a factor of five.
But then there's the bad news. One in every ten people think half the federal budget is food stamps. Even worse, two in every nine think the food stamp budget is on a par with Social Security or the defense budget.
I'm not sure how much we are spending currently on sterilizing the stupid, but clearly it's not enough.