Day 3: 3 Day Quote Challenge

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Thanks to socialworkerangela from iammyownisland.wordpress.com for nominating me. I’m not big on nominations, but a few of you may get a note from me to spur you on to take the challenge. Just a warning.

In light of the recent Brexit upheaval, I searched for and found an applicable quote: “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” Mark Twain

Statistics is – or was, when I went – an entire field of study at University level. It’s the flash dance of mathematics; the trashy and showy bit that will whore itself out to anyone willing to crunch the numbers. The same batch of numbers can be used by both sides to try to drive home a point.

Let’s take a very simplistic form of this beast. A sample group of 10 people, 5 men and 5 women. The question is irrelevant; we will only deal with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. Two men say yes, three say no. Four women say yes, one no. There’s all sorts of statistics you can get out of this basic scenario. In all, 6 out of the 10 say yes. They like it, they’re for it – whatever. That’s a rate of 60%. But what happens when we begin to pick apart our sample group? Now that’s where it gets interesting. Rather than saying 60% are positive and 40% negative, you could make the any of the following claims:

  • Only 40% of men say yes (2 out of 5)
  • 60% of men say no (3 out of 5)
  • 20% of women say no (1 out of 5)
  • 80% of women say yes (4 out of 5)

While overall this simple survey shows a positive view, if you push the fact that 60% of polled men say no, it comes off sounding negative. And this is just using one variable – sex. If you add in age, race, religion, education level, income level, housing area, or a thousand other factors you can get many, many more numbers out of it. You can, in fact, search for a subgroup among your sampled people to make your stats say anything, back up any claim. You can make it seem like everyone is against, or everyone is for this thing.

Here’s a tip-off. These days, when stats are quoted from polling, fine print needs to be run across the screen telling you how many people actually make up the sample group. Be wary of small numbered groups – they can easily be targeted by taking the polls in wealthy or poor neighborhoods to skew them one way or another. Be wary, too, of sample groups with odd numbers of people in them. If you see a sample group of 171, ask yourself why 171 people rather than 200 or 150. Odd numbered groups are often formed at the last minute by seeking out responses pollsters want to hear. In other words, if they want to show a positive result, they’ll go to places and ask people most likely to give them that result. And they’ll keep asking until their sample group is large enough to negate any answers contrary to the result they want to show.

It’s a scam.

Unfortunately, that level of mathematical manipulation does not stop at polling stations. It just keeps going. At the risk of setting off any and all financiers, I’ll say the following: everything you ever heard about the stock market is nothing but mathematical manipulation. A scam. A lie.

Good goddess, did the earth just open up and swallow me? Nope. Still here.

Let’s talk stock prices, shall we? There’s the P/E ratio, the EPS, the P/S ratio, and the PEG rate (don’t worry; we’re not going to do any maths). If any or all of that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, you’re not alone. The problem is – and this was a problem back in the stone age, when I went to school for this shit – is that before beginning any of these ‘calculations’, financiers BEGIN by manipulating the financial data given them by accountants. Certain items counted for financial purposes are removed from companies’ numbers prior to calculating the information that’s used on the stock market. If you’re sitting there asking why, I was right there with you. It doesn’t make sense. The financials of a company are based on legal and tax law. They show the information of a company in a certain manner and for a certain reason. Yet the financial sector tosses those numbers out the window when valuing stock.

This is why I say the stock market is nothing but a big gambling table. It’s Vegas on a world wide level, playing with companies and people’s lives.

The idea of the stock market is a rather good one. It allows companies to raise needed cash for investment. But, as with many good ideas, the reality of the way it’s played out has been rather hellish. Once ON the stock market, companies are under pressure to produce financial numbers that look a certain way. Investors want dividends from their investments. Management bonuses are tied to year end numbers. This leads to behavior like mass firings near Christmas time in order to make the last numbers for the year look good. It encourages the unscrupulous movement of money from one sector to another, or from one shell company to another, to avoid tax.

None of this is illegal.

I know this subject matter is as dry as the Mohave desert. I also know that as soon as the ‘experts’ are called in and start to use language exclusive to the financial sector most people kind of tune out. But it’s one of the most important things facing the modern world. Deregulation has led to complete fucking chaos. We need to reign them in.

And do not believe anyone who says this current financial upheaval is a ‘good’ thing. The only reason anyone would say that is because they’re personally reaping the financial benefits bought at the expense of the working man’s back. We haven’t seen yet the full backlash from the Brexit vote. We’ll see what England says once people start to really lose their jobs.

As for me, I vote for tighter regulation in the financial sector. I vote for high restrictions and even higher fines for breaking the law. Because it isn’t their money they’re playing with, it’s YOUR money. It’s YOUR job. It’s YOUR home, YOUR education, YOUR health care.

Besides, 100% of the people we polled think all statistics should be done away with. [Sample group: 100% of people writing this blog.]

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