Why Take Math? So Your Ignorance Isn’t Broadcast Nationwide on the AP Wire

November 6, 2009

This is pretty funny. Or horrifying. Depends on how you want to look at it.

Several days ago, I noted on Twitter that there were a lot of “saved” jobs that weren’t saved at all but actually cost of living increases. About 24 hours after I noted this, there was an Associated Press article about that very phenomena.

Coincidence? Almost certainly. But I’ll flatter myself anyway.

But the laugh riot comes several paragraphs into the article as they look into why Southwest Georgia Community Action Council was able to save 935 jobs with a cost of living increase for only 508 people. The director of the action council said:

“she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided. She said she multiplied the 508 employees by 1.84 — the percentage pay raise they received — and came up with 935 jobs saved.

“I would say it’s confusing at best,” she said. “But we followed the instructions we were given.”

“Confusing at best”? The multiplication of percentages is “confusing at best”? It seems obvious to me she should have multiplied 508 people by the amount the increase (.0184) and gotten 9.3. But she forgot that you have to divide the percentage by 100 before you multiply.

The fact that she had “saved” more jobs than there were people in the organization should have been a tip-off. But this is a pretty common problem with people who don’t have a very good grasp on mathematics… they don’t recognize obvious mathematical errors, they just plug in the numbers and go with whatever comes out.

And this, children, is why you pay attention at school. So you don’t get in the national news for doing something really stupid and then blame it on the instruction manual.

20 Responses to “Why Take Math? So Your Ignorance Isn’t Broadcast Nationwide on the AP Wire”

  1. Vicki Says:

    Ah, government. I love that our stimulus is going so smoothly.

  2. KB Says:

    Maybe we should use base 8 or base 5 or something else to make the numbers glow even brighter!

  3. Ryan Says:

    … and of course, this thread requires a link to the good ol’ Verizon video, where “looking at .002 dollars it the same as .002 cents on paper.” ; )

  4. Peter Says:

    :D:D:D:D this has made my day 🙂

  5. ThomasL Says:

    I have to admit, I’m significantly more bothered by the fact that giving a 1.8% raise is supposed to have “created or saved” any jobs at all.

    Not giving raises [as a rule] would lead to higher employment, since one could employ more people at the same total cost, albeit with lower wages each. But the number isn’t, “How many jobs exist with wages greater than X?” it is, “How many jobs exist?”, and there is simply no way that giving people a raise “creates or saves” any jobs.

    I want a raise too.

  6. ZZMike Says:

    It’s good to see that “innumeracy” is still alive and well.

    508*1.84 = 934.72 – OK, I see that.

    The obvious problem is that “1.84%” is really 0.0184, so she should have reported 9.35 jobs saved.

    Or, she could have said that an increase of 1.84% is really

    508*1.0184 = 517 jobs.

    “But we followed the instructions we were given.” What instructions? These:

    “.. she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided.”

    I’d like to take out a loan from those people – let’s say $10,000 – and at the last minute, say “I’d like a 2% increase – that’d be $10,000 * 2.0 = $20,000”.

    The “$0.002” thing was too painful to listen through all the way.

    It reminds me of all the stores (and there are many) that advertise something for “.99c”.

    I’m tempted to by 10 of them, give them a dime and say “keep the change”.

  7. Wacky Hermit Says:

    8 out of 5 people just aren’t that good with fractions! 🙂

  8. KingShamus Says:

    Math is hard.

  9. Al Says:

    I’m betting the director of the action council was one of those who received the raise. And she deserves it because half her job is 50% mental.

  10. So I take it that instead of creating or saving 1 million jobs, we only created or saved around 10,000 (after moveing the decimal place over two places). And since we know that no jobs were actually created what Obama really means, you have to interpret the Obonics, is that, “we lost 4.2 million jobs, but we think we would have lost 1 million more, but thankfully our $787 billion dollar stimulus program saved around 10,000”. Right?

  11. Steve Says:

    How is a cost of living raise = to any saved jobs? I’m not following that logic at all. Her math makes her look stupid but saying that raise ‘saves’ jobs makes the administration look suspect at best.

    • politicalmath Says:

      I would agree whole-heartedly. But this is the White House’s attempt to maximize the number of “saved” jobs on paper. Every little bit helps.

  12. GC Stevenson Says:

    Larry M. Walker Jr. ,… Is Oh! so RIGHT!

    Obonics is an illusion, that keeps on ,.. “change”-ing.

    So much for the “Yes We Can”,

    Larry, what gets me, is after two years on ‘Campaign-trail 2008 of illusion’ and one year ‘in-material’, these idiots (all and both parties) were, and are, still using the same Keynesian Math and model of full employment.

    There was only two times in American History that it actually worked,.. World War II,.. and during the Slave Plantations,.. care to guess which model we are nearest to today?

    Thanks Bro-

    Guy c.

  13. Hahah, yea, I almost posted that Verizon video. hahaha freaking hilarious.


  14. […] Vean un estupendo ejemplo en el blog “Political Math” en el post “Why Take Math? So Your Ignorance Isn’t Broadcast Nationwide on the AP Wire”. […]

  15. […] Also on the topic of percents, politicalmath explains Why Take Math? So Your Ignorance Isn’t Broadcast Nationwide on the AP Wire. […]

  16. Wakefield Says:

    This is pretty funny. Or horrifying.


    Like a funny-looking giant squid who nevertheless can nip your head off…

  17. bjvom Says:

    Congratulations on your math skills. Let’s work on your verbal skills now. Phenomena is plural. The word you want is phenomenon. You write in sentence fragments instead of complete sentences. Several sentences begin with “And” or “But” or “So” which should be an obvious tip-off of poor grammar.
    And this, children, is why you pay attention at school; so you don’t broadcast your ignorance on the internet.

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