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January 13, 2014

Corey Booker Falls Below 130% of the Intellectual Poverty Line For Math, Reading, and Basic Common Sense

Corey Booker, our newest idiot Senator, Tweeted this:

Could that possibly be true? Half of all students -- which means half of all children, period, given that school is compulsory until age 16 or so -- are in poverty?

No. It's not possible. Booker should have realized that half of all children in America were not living in poverty. It's such an outrageous stretch it defies imagination that a halfway reasonable man could have believed such a thing is true.

So where did he get this? Let me explain. And as I do, keep two things in mind:

1. These are supposedly our "elite," who do the thinking about policy that we can't do.

2. That "studies" are offered by various quarters on the left which are then taken as proof that we need to Do Something! These should be discounted.

Booker should have realized something was wrong with his claim from his own "cite" for the proposition. Because early in the piece, it offers a much lower estimate of student poverty. Not half, but almost 25%.

Poverty is the most relevant factor in determining the outcome of a person's educational journey, and in Finland, the child poverty rate is about 5%. In the U.S., the rate is almost five times as high.

So that's around 25%. Does that bother Senator Booker? No, because later on there's a "half" figure cited. He doesn't read it very carefully, and doesn't check the citation to see if it's legit. He just seizes on it.

Here comes the "half" nonsense:

But here's the really bad news. Two new studies on education and poverty were reported in Education Week in October. The first from the Southern Education Foundation reveals that nearly half of all U.S. public school students live in poverty.

Two errors in Booker's claim, then: First, this says nearly half. More importantly, it specifies that nearly half of children in public schools "live in poverty." Public schools presumably service a generally-less-wealthy cohort, so we'd expect to find higher poverty rates there.

Booker just clips that "public" limitation out of his claim.

But still-- half? Doesn't that seem a mite high? What "study" determined this?

Well, if Booker had clicked the link, which he obviously did not do, he would have found out that the USAToday contributor misrepresents the "study," as did Edweek.org, which reported on it. Because while this article does indeed make that claim, it gets there by a crooked path:

Nearly half of all American public school students now live in poverty, and in broad swaths of the South and Southwest, state supports have not kept pace with significant and rapidly rising majorities of poor students in classrooms, a new report finds.

The report says that nearly half are "living in poverty"?

Ummm... not quite. Let's read this carefully.

In 17 states spanning nearly all of the South, Southwest, and West Coast, a majority of public school students qualified for free or reduced-price meals in 2011, according to the analysis released last week by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation.

So the study does not claim that they're "living in poverty," but rather that they receive either free or reduced price lunches through the schools.

So that must mean the free and reduced lunches are only offered to students "living poverty," right?


Students are entitled to free lunches if their families’ incomes are below 130 percent of the annual income poverty level guideline established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and updated annually by the Census Bureau (currently $21,756 for a family of four)...

Students with family incomes below 185 percent of poverty are eligible for a reduced price lunch. Schools cannot charge children who receive reduced price lunches more than 40 cents per meal, but each school food authority sets the exact student contribution level independently.

Okay, so let's see how EdWeek.org misrepresented this study, which was then misrepresented by USAToday, and then by Cory Booker:

It claims that anyone receiving free or reduced-price lunches is "living in poverty." Not true. Free lunches are offered to children of families at 130% of the poverty line -- 30% over it -- and reduced-price lunches are offered to families at up to 185% of the poverty line, nearly double the poverty income level.

But Edweek.org takes "130-185% of the poverty line" as "the poverty line."

The actual study EdWeek.org purports to be faithfully reporting doesn't say that half of students are "living in poverty." The actual study calls them "low income students" -- a perfectly accurate description, but not grandly Dickensian enough claim to be useful for purposes of political agitation.

So that gets edited to "living in poverty."

Note what's going on here. The left is essentially running an information-laundering operation. Rather than laundering money, they're laundering information. At each step of the process, the claim is changed ever so slightly, to allow the next lefty to change it slightly more.

So that we start with something like:

a majority of students in public schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, which are given to anyone under 185% of the poverty line

and we end up with:

Half of all students live in poverty

And all we had to do to get there was define "the poverty line" as "the poverty line plus another 85% again of the poverty line."

At each step, the claim is cheated and distorted just a little bit more, deformed and tweaked bit by bit until a not-particularly-breathtaking claim is turned into a Ready For Public Consumption Alarmist Factoid, a hot new false new meme spit-polished to a high shine and ready to be bandied about in every Democratic stump speech from now until January 2017.

All I needed to debunk this obviously false claim was four things:

1. A functioning bullshit detector and a basic working knowledge of what "half" means
and what it couldn't possibly mean
2. A willingness to click through to source material -- even the thrice-laundered original study this crap was based upon

3. The twenty minutes of time required to do so

4. An internet connection

Apparently Corey Booker, USAToday, and EdWeek.org are missing one or more of these things.

Whatever we do, we should listen more to "wonks," because they're Johnny-on-the-Spot with "studies" and "facts" and really know what they're talking about and have no deceptive agenda at all.

And we should trust the media's multiple layers of painstaking fact-checking editorial oversight, of course.

I will ask USAToday to correct its misrepresentation of the Souther Education Foundation study. Despite my being right about the study and their being wrong, they will, of course, refuse.

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posted by Ace at 05:32 PM

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