I’m in an airport lounge, for my sins, and there’s no avoiding the TV running CNN. And there’s David Gergen, telling me that the Ryan plan, whatever its flaws, is “serious”. So I guess that’s the Very Serious People line.The reason for this is that the pundit class is by and large innumerate. And the reason for that is that journalists and TV producers are by and large innumerate. I don't mean that they can't add or subtract, but they can't look at numbers or statistics and begin to ask or answer the most elementary but important questions: how big is this number as a fraction of other important numbers in the problem space? How does the current instance of the number compare to the trend over time? What would happen if I corrected this for inflation or economic growth?
So, we have a plan that proposes to cut spending to Calving Coolidge levels, without explaining how it will do that; that includes $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but asserts that it will make that up by broadening the base — yet says literally nothing about what that means; and has as its centerpiece a Medicare plan that will collapse as soon as seniors start getting their grossly inadequate vouchers.
Oh, and it directs us to a totally ludicrous Heritage Foundation analysis for support.
There’s nothing serious about this plan. And the way our pundit class swooned over this fantasy document suggests that all those people lecturing the American people about our unwillingness to face up to reality and make hard choices should spend some time looking in the mirror.
The blogosphere is the best hope of this improving over time. At a minimum, it has meant that some of us now have access to expert opinion that is not filtered through the lowest common denominator of what a news culture dominated by one-time english or journalism majors thinks the public wants to know. And hopefully, over time it will elevate to more prominence thinkers who are extremely savvy and quantitative (Calculated Risk comes to mind).