Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lack of Math Knowledge, or Outright Lying?

The city in which I live has put a tax increase on the November ballot.  I received a flier stating the following:
On November 6, voters...will be asked to vote on Measure K, a local revenue measure that would temporarily increase the City's existing utility user tax by 1.75% (from 2.5% to 4.25%) for ten years.
An increase from 2.5% to 4.25% would be a 70% increase in taxes, not a 1.75% increase.  Is this flier an example of ignorance, or is it an example of manipulation and perhaps even lying?


Unknown said...

No way to really call which this is. You would have to see if there is a prior record of shading the truth when trying to get the citizens to tax themselves.

It seems to me that in our increasingly innumerate society that many folks have no real understanding of percentages and percent change calculations.

Darren said...

Not sure whether that's merely sad, pathetic, or both.

Anonymous said...

They *MEAN* percentile points.

This is just not what they said. They could have used the correct terminology without risk, because very few voters recognize the different terminology.

I'd bet on ignorance of terminology.

-Mark Roulo

Steve USMA '85 said...

Actually Darren, the wording is correct. It increases the tax rate from 2.5% to 4.25% which is an increase of 1.75%.

If you want to talk about the percentage increase, now you are talking about 70% increase over the previous rate.

Still, how would you have them word it? Personally and professionally, I normally list both numbers. "The tax rate increased from 2.5% to 4.25%, a difference of 1.75%. This is a 70% increase over the previous rate."

Darren said...

I disagree, Steve. It's not a 1.75% increase, it's a 70% increase. It's raising the tax rate 1.75 percentage points is *not* the same as a 1.75% increase in taxes. It's just using squishy wording to hide the fact that they're almost doubling the tax rate (and hence the tax).

Steve USMA '85 said...

So again, what is your proposed wording to cover both bases?

Darren said...

Why do we need to cover both bases?
"Measure K will raise utility taxes by 70%, from 2.5% to 4.25%." The 1.75 number is useless in this context, and only serves to obfuscate (and fool the innumerate).