This post is a bit of a change of pace for me.
As you all know, when it comes to politics, I'm a hardcore lefty liberal type. And lots of annoying people like to claim that the reason I write more critical posts about right-wing politicians than left-wing ones is because I'm hopelessly biased. I definitely do end up writing more posts critical of RW than LW politicians, but I believe that that's because in modern day america, the right wing has completely lost touch with reality. They're just far more likely to regurgitate long-disproven lies, or to use specious, unsupportable, or just plain pig-ignorant reasoning.
But a reader sent me a copy of a recent fund-raising letter from the Obama campaign, and it's pissed me right off. I probably actually received a copy of it myself, but I've got my spam filters set to throw away anything from the Obama campaign, so I didn't see it until it was pointed out to me.
When it comes to bad math, in my opinion, there are two main kinds. There's ignorant bad math, and there's dishonest bad math. In the former, the people pushing it don't understand what they're talking about. They're saying something that they actually believe. It's hopelessly wrong, and if they made any effort to learn something about what they're babbling about, they'd see how wrong they are. In the latter kind, the people pushing it are deliberately trying to deceive their readers/listeners. They know that they're doing something wrong, and they're hoping that you are stupid enough to not catch on.
The latter kind of bad math is far worse than the former.
And this Obama campaign fundraising letter is very firmly in the latter camp.
I'm not going to post the entire thing, and I'm not going to provide a link. That would be giving them publicity for this despicable, dishonest effort, which is exactly what they want, and I will not reward them for this.
The letter starts by complaining about a Romney campaign fundraiser, saying:
It may not take the Romney camp very long to get to a million -- they announced today that just 9 percent of their money comes from donors giving less than $200.
Take note of the fundamental point there. Of the money collected, 9% came from small donors.
Then they attempt to contrast themselves against Romney:
Our campaign is different. It's about bringing people together to protect the progress we've made and make a lot more in a second term. And 98 percent of the donations people like you make to this campaign are $250 or less.
The main point: of the people donating, 98% were small donors.
You're supposed to look at that, and say "90% of the donors to Romney are big-money people, but just 2% of the donors to Obama are."
But they're not comparing the same thing. One is a percentage of money, and the other is a percentage of people. Let's take a quick look at an example, to show how this works.
Suppose we've got just ten donors. They gave 200, 200, 200, 100, 100, 100, 50, 50, 50, and 1,000,000 dollars, respectively. Obviously, 90% (9 out of 10) donors gave $200 or less. And if you work it out, more than 99% of the money came from donations of $1,000,000 or more.
What does the Obama campaigns actual donor distribution look like? I don't know. But I'd guess that it's actually pretty similar to the Romney campaign. Politics in America is, very much, a rich persons sport. Both campaigns are absolutely relying on huge donations from people with lots and lots of money. The Obama campaign wants to trick us into believing that they're different. But all they're doing is proving that they're not. They're lying to us, and hoping that we're too stupid to notice.
(There's another level of dishonesty there, but it's far more trivial. In the Romney campaign figure, they talk about the percentage of donotions smaller than $200; for the Obama campaign figure, they use $250. Why? Probably because they wanted a number for the Romney campaign where they could say that more than 90% came from big donors. And hell, once they were lying, what's another lie?)