innumeracy

Mad Max(ine)

Maxine Waters (M-oonbat, CA) on the effect sequestration would have. Hilarity ensues:

Even if you only heard the audio of this on the radio (as I had at first), it was apparent fairly early on that the congresswoman had no idea what she was talking about.

Jay Leno picked up on this, too:

After the opening theme and credits, Leno walked out onto the stage and said, “Welcome sequestration survivors. Yes!”
 
“As you know, Congress did not reach an agreement,” he continued, “and Congresswoman Maxine Waters said today that 170 million jobs could be lost because of it.”
 
“Now, there are only 155 million workers in America,” Leno explained, “yet, she says we'll lose 170 million jobs."
 
"Beginning to understand why we're in this situation in the first place now?" he asked. "Is it starting to become clear why everything isn't quite well?”
Hmmm...what exactly did he mean by that? 
 
a) Many members of the political class are stupid.
b) Many members of the political class are deceitful.
c) The media does not report the idiocy or mendacity of the political class unless they have "R" after their names.
d) The majority of the American electorate is not paying attention.
e) The majority of the American electorate is functionally innumerate (illiterate, too, but that's a whole 'nother issue).
f) all of the above
 
Just to get some idea of how things have changed and perhaps gain some insight into Leno's question about  how we've gotten to this point...from a little book called Four Centuries of American Education:
Consider...the basic math content of previous generations. Ray’s Arithmetic was one of the most popular elementary math texts in early American schools; notice some of its questions:

arithmetic

 I insured 2/3 of a shop worth $3600, and 4/5 of a house worth $6000, paying $126: what was the rate of insurance?

 How much money must be given with nine $100 shares at 15% discount, in exchange for eight $100 bonds at 2% discount?

 These were elementary math problems during the 1860s!

Consider also the math problems from an 1877 mental math text (that is, a text in which students solved the problems mentally – no pencil or paper allowed):

 A boat worth $864 – of which 1/8 belonged to A, 1/4 to B, and the rest to C – was lost; what loss did each sustain, it having been insured for $500?

 On a farm, there are 60 animals – horses, cows, and sheep; for each horse there are 3 cows, and for each cow there are 2 sheep: how many animals of each kind?

 If 7 men can do a piece of work in 4 days, in what time can it be done if 3 of the men leave when the work is half completed?

These were mental math problems for elementary students in 1877!

I wonder how Congresswoman Waters—or for that matter any of our elected officials today—would do with these questions.
 
Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters is not particularly sanguine about our chances:
It therefore seems impossible at this stage of our nation’s history to imagine a well-informed electorate being governed by honest leaders that have their best interests in mind.
 
h/t Tom
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