February 17, 2007
The Barack Obama Test
"The arguments of liberals are more often grounded in reason and fact."
- Senator Barak Obama in his memoir The Audacity of Hope.
As conservatives head into the 2008 presidential election cycle, they might consider brushing up on their facts to catch up with the "arguments" of liberals. I have prepared a short test to help benighted conservatives gauge their ignorance.
Try answering the 10 questions below, then I will reveal the actual answers and help you evaluate your fitness to cast an informed (by facts) vote in 2008.
1. In 2005, the U.S. federal government spent $581 billion on Health and Human Services and $560 billion on Social Security Administration, for a combined total over $1.1 trillion. How much did the United States spend on Defense-Military?
(a) $2.744 trillion
(b) $1.474 trillion
(c) $744 billion
(d) $474 billion
2. In 2001, public spending per capita on health in the United Kingdom, Canada and France was $1,518, $1,531 and $1,599, respectively. How much was public spending per capita on health in the United States?
3. In 2003 in the U.S., those making $200,000 or more (Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI) made up less than 2% of all federal income tax returns, yet they accounted for almost 22% of all income (AGI) reported to the IRS. What fraction of all federal income tax dollars came from those who made $200,000 or more in 2003?
4. While 140 countries have signed the Kyoto Treaty to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. refuses to do so. From 1994 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of fossil fuels increased by 19.4% in Canada, 26.4% in Greece, 42.9% in Norway, and 68.4% in China. How much did carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of fossil fuels increase in the U.S. from 1994 to 2004?
5. In 2004 in the U.S., just three years after the 911 attacks, there were 1,013 anti-Jewish hate crime offenses. How many anti-Islamic hate crime offenses were there?
6. In 2004 in the U.S., the cumulative total of men who had AIDS due to sexual contact with other men was 402,722. How many men had AIDS due to sexual contact with women?
7. In 2004 in the U.S., it was not known whether a weapon was present in 5.2% of the cases of rape and sexual assault. A non-firearm weapon was known to be present in 7.9% of the cases. How often was a firearm known to be present in rapes and sexual assaults?
8. The CIA's "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD" by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), also known as the "Duelfer Report", is the authority commonly cited to debunk the threat of WMD as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003. Which of the following statements was taken from the Duelfer Report?
(a) "we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war"
(b) "ISG technical experts fully evaluated less than one quarter of one percent of the over 10,000 weapons caches throughout Iraq"
(c) "Iraq could have re-established an elementary BW [biological warfare] program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so"
(d) All of the above.
9. In 2003 in the U.S., the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents was 5,991. How many motorcycle riders were killed?
10. The intelligence of President George W. Bush is often ridiculed, especially on late-night comedy shows. What fraction of the general population is less intelligent than President Bush?
The correct answer to every question was (d). The answers to the first seven questions can be found in The Statistical Abstract of the U.S. Specific tables from that source, and other sources, are cited in the discussion below.
1. The U.S. federal government spent $474 billion on Defense-Military in 2005, well less than either Health and Human Services or Social Security (Table 461). In fact, it was less than 20% of all federal outlays and just 3.8% of GDP. These are historically low numbers and unprecedented for wartime.
2. Despite the U.S. health care system often being described as a "free market", the U.S. spends more in public dollars per capita than almost all other countries, including Canada and the U.K. In fact, only Norway spends more (Table 1318). Note that these are public dollars, meaning government spending. Total public and private spending on health care in the U.S. is about double that, or about 16% of GDP.
3. Households with AGI of $200,000 paid over 42% of all federal income taxes, despite making up less than 2% of all returns and just 22% of all reported income (Table 474). In fact, the average tax rate for those making $500,000 or more was 25%, while it was only 7% for those making between $30,000 and $40,000, or near median incomes. That means the richest tax payers pay more than triple the rate of the middle class. And this is well after the Republican tax cuts took effect.
4. Between 1994 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. increased by 12.9%, the same increase as that of France and a smaller increase than that of Canada, Greece, Norway, and China. In fact, U.S. emissions grew at a slower rate than the emissions from 143 of 213 countries (67%), including Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. Moreover, North America is actually a carbon dioxide sink, meaning it absorbs more than it produces.
5. In 2004 in the U.S., just three years after the 911 attacks, there were 194 anti-Islamic hate crime offenses, about one fifth as many as anti-Jewish offenses, and only about 2% of all hate crime offenses (Table 308). In fact, anti-Jewish offenses constituted over two thirds of all anti-religion hate crime offenses, despite both the small numbers of Jews in the country and the much-feared "Muslim backlash" (meaning backlash of non-Muslims against Muslims) that appears ever more phantasmagorical.
6. In 2004 in the U.S. there was a cumulative total of 43,347 men who had AIDS due to sexual contact with women, or about a tenth as many as those who had it from sexual contact with other men (Table 177). However, since heterosexual men outnumber gay men by a factor of 10 to 100, gay men (herein meaning men who have sex with men) are 100 to 1,000 times more likely than heterosexual men to get AIDS from sexual contact.
7. In 2004 in the U.S., no firearm was known to be present in any rape or sexual assault - zero, despite some other type of weapon being present in about 8% of such crimes (Table 315).
8. The Duelfer Report admitted that dozens of chemical weapons actually were found [later determined to be more than 500], that the ISG did not search much of Iraq, that its sources were not reliable, that most suspected WMD sites had been looted or destroyed, that WMD could very well have been taken out of the country, that WMD programs could have been reconstituted and WMD produced quickly, and that Saddam Hussein intended to do exactly that shortly after he bribed enough countries using the "oil for food" program to drop the sanctions and inspection regime. Does that sound like "no threat" or "no evidence" to you?
9. More pedestrians than motorcycle riders were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2003 - in fact, 63% more, according to the National Safety Council. Of the 44,757 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, only 3,676 (8%) were motorcycle riders. Should pedestrians be forced to wear helmets, as are motorcycle riders in many states? Why not drivers and passengers in cars and trucks, for that matter?
10. George W. Bush's SAT score of 1206 has been widely reported. The SAT score (if taken prior to 1995) can be used to estimate IQ, to compare to the general population, and to compare to occupational averages and popular figures in history. Using such estimates, President Bush's IQ is between 125 and 130 which ranks him as more intelligent than over 95% of the population, more intelligent than most college professors and medical doctors, and similar to Abraham Lincoln, Rousseau and Thackeray (comparative IQs of 128).
You might be a liberal if you think
- We spend more on defense than we do on health care and other human services.
- Our health care system is worse than other developed countries because the free market has failed and our government doesn't spend enough on health.
- The rich pay less in taxes than the poor.
- The U.S. is one of the worst offenders in producing global warming gases, and keeps on polluting while other countries are cutting back.
- The biggest problem with Islamic terrorism is the resulting backlash against Muslims.
- AIDS affects everyone equally, gay and straight.
- We have high rates of rapes and sexual assault because of the availability of guns.
- There was no good reason to invade Iraq in 2003, certainly not the threat of WMD.
- More lives would be saved by making helmets mandatory for motorcycle riders than would be saved by making them mandatory for pedestrians or car drivers and passengers.
- President Bush is stupid.
Unfortunately, you'd be wrong on every point listed above, based on facts.
The test and list above were not meant to be comprehensive, merely illustrative. To list liberal beliefs that can be countered by reason and facts would be a task akin to counting grains of sand on a beach - beyond the scope of this article. Perhaps it will be attempted by a cloister of monks in the next century.
Randall Hoven lives and rides his motorcycle in Illinois, the great state of Barak Obama.