Category Archives: Cherry Picking

Bernie Sanders is not a millionaire?

13925041_621169351398978_3231773894843699484_nTL; DR Summary

  • A shared social media poster asserts that Bernie Sanders would have been the first president who wasn’t  a millionaire, since 1945.
  • On the surface, this statement sounds plausible. His Senate disclosure forms list less than $1 million in assets.
  • But it leaves out the value of his retirement savings and his government provided pension. A private sector worker would need at least $1 million in assets to have a pension payout similar to what Sanders will receive at age 74 – and that does not include his own retirement savings. Update: Sanders just bought his 3rd home, with 500 feet of lake front.

Time magazine says the total value of Sanders and his wife’s assets and retirement benefits are well over $1 million and probably over $2 million. See “Sanders is a de facto millionaire“.

In my state, state employees may retire at age 58 or 30 years of service and receive full pension benefits, guaranteed by taxpayers. The Salem Statesman-Journal newspaper found that in Washington, Oregon and California, the average career employee pension at day of retirement has a net present value from $1.5 to $1.7 million dollars.

Pensions have tremendous value.

This post is not arguing whether the pensions are appropriate or not. The point is that a pension, regardless of source, is a bona fide asset. If you did not have the pension, it would take large assets to generate a similar monthly benefit. A pension’s future cash flows are part of your assets!

The above poster is a high quality propaganda poster that furthers Sanders’ public image as being just a regular guy not connected to the powerful. The poster works because of its simple design, the simple portrait, and the simple phrase that is easily processed. Since the claim fits the pre-existing memes about Sanders, it will be quickly processed by System 1 thinking and few will continue on to System 2 and realize that the claim is a stretch.

Note – Sanders did not create the above poster – someone else did. Further, there is nothing wrong with his acquiring assets to prepare for retirement. The problem is that this social media meme is not true yet is passed along, unquestioned, on social media because, as they say, “it fits the narrative”.

How to use charts for misleading propaganda!

This chart appeared on a blog post saying auto sales are “down again” and this should worry us about a recession.  See that blue arrow at the right? Looks horrible!!!!

But this chart design is a real mess.


First, the blue arrow anchors our view on the blue line and its downturn at the right. But the real chart is the harder to see gray column chart. Column charts are a *terrible* way to show a trend – line charts work much better.

The blue arrow and the blue line is what we see when we look at this chart – but it is the gray columns that show the trend the original writer was referencing!

But look closer. Over 80% of the length of that down arrow, truck sales were growing – and truck sales make up the majority of vehicle sales. The miscolored blue arrow was anchoring our thought processes inadvertently to the truck sales – when it should have been a gray arrow to link us to the columns (which again, are a terrible way to show a trend) – what a mess!

Now look even closer. Truck sales are down during the winter and spring every year:

domestic-auto-REVISISED sales

From merely eye balling the chart, you can see that this years sales drop is less than the prior years sales drop.

Truck sales, are more than 50% of all “auto sales” and every every spring, they drop in a cyclical fashion.

What the chart shows is that truck sales, which are the majority of total auto sales, are doing well. Overall “total auto sales” for May 2016 are greater than May of 2015, although in between sales went still higher and then dropped back.

This chart “works” due to the use of “anchoring” on the blue line and failing to compare sales year-over-year, which rise and fall in a non-linear manner due to seasonal effects.

Is this why Denmark has free college education?

11745935_1665704370329445_941328983120687525_nTL;DR  Summary

  • Denmark has free tuition because …
    • College grads earn only slightly more than high school grads (2015 data says just 11% more), reducing incentives to go to college.
    • A shrinking youth population
    • Fewer Danish adults have a college degree compared to the U.S.
    • Denmark has economic reasons to pay students to attend college.

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Denmark Fairy Tales: Is Denmark the happiest country because of this? No.

DenmarkPoster2TL; DR Summary

  • Denmark is the happiest country because of an alleged $20/hour minimum wage, 33 hour work week, etc.
  • Is Denmark the world’s happiest country? On one survey, yes. On other surveys, no. Pick your survey!
  • Is the happiest nation rating system based on the items listed on the poster? No. They have little or nothing to do with the rating. The poster uses a logical fallacy.
  • The fictitious and non-existent link between the rating and the alleged reasons are a logical fallacy.
  • And besides, the World Happiness Index never measured “happiness” of anyone.
  • This first post looks only at the ranking of Denmark as the happiest country in the world. This is a long post – sorry!
















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