Don't get me wrong.  Politicians from both parties say idiot things.  The reason I'll be talking about Republicans today is that the Republicans are the only party with a Presidential primary this go round, and we are bombarded almost daily with  their idiot comments.  

The first idiot thing I want to mention is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) saying that disabled children are "punishment from God" for earlier abortion(s) by the mother.  First, it's pretty clear that Marshall knows NOTHING about the causes of birth defects and disabilities.  Many birth defects are in fact, GENETIC, caused by an error in the DNA.  Many others, if they are punishment for anything, are the result of drug or alcohol use use during pregnancy or getting the measles!   Down's Syndrome is related to the aging of the parents and the physical decaying of their components of the embryo (egg and sperm).  Some are caused by combinations of things, including lack of proper pre-natal nutrition, and mother 17 or younger.  Still others have not been definitively assigned a cause.

Second, Marshall throws out a statement saying the number of disabled children born subsequent to an earlier abortion has risen "dramatically."  Since what year?  What is his source of data for this allegation?  How does he know the mothers of the disabled children had earlier abortions?  I don't know of any study which has asked motehrs of disabled children if they had earlier abortions nor of a study that follows women who obtain abortions to their next pregnancy to see if that child is disabled.    If such exists, Marshall should be able to provide the source, and indeed, a responsible user of statistical data would supply the source of data for such an allegation.  If there WERE such studies, wouldn't they violate the women's privacy rights?  OK possibly someone has conducted such a study on women WILLING to participate.  The question then becomes how much self-selection warps the data.   What are the odds a woman who doesn't want to tell anyone about her abortion(s) who has a disabled child would participate?  And what are the odds women who had an abortion but don't have disabled children would be included, or participate if they were somehow invited to participate   As it is, it appears that Marshal is either practicing MSU  (Making S..T Up) or he fails to comprehend the basics regarding unbiased research design and statistical analysis, or both.  Why would any voter accept this kind of assertion, give no data to back it up?  Unless they are intellectually or educationally disabled themselves?  (If you suspect you don't understand statistics, or you just don't trust them, please read my "Liars, D***d liars, and Statisticians essay under my The Language of Math page.  If that doesn't help, contact me directly and I'll become a  Statistics Instructor just for you. :)  I did that for years and published in international Statistical journals.  

The second idiot thing I wish to discuss is Rick Santorum's call for higher birth rates and his assertion that cjhildren are our greatest resource and create wealth. Is he attributing the US's post WWII growth with the baby boom?  More babies means more GDP?    Apparently Rick leaps his logic right over the devastated European economies who needed American goods to rebuild, as well as over the shuttered American factories which don't make anything any more.  In Research Methodology, this is called confusion of correlation with causality.  The classic example is the old joke about "100% of people who smoke marijuana drank milk as infants, therefore drinking milk as a baby must CAUSE marijuana use."  Now quit laughing like you just inhaled a doobie! ;)   Just because two things happen in order does not mean one causes the other.  Let's take a look at some US household sizes over time here.  The average US household size has been falling since 1790, even through the Baby Boom.  The Baby Boom was also partially an artifact in changes in the timing of births, caused by the war.  On one hand, you had couples rushing to have a baby before he left, unmarried women giving birth to children conceived when their intendeds left before the couple could get married, and after the war, couples separated for several years rushing to make up for lost time.  Moreover, there may be a causality working in the opposite direction.  The prosperity of post-WWII America, combined with the loss of so many American men in the 18-35 age range (prime childbearing years) may have encouraged couples to have more children than they would have without that prosperity.  The GI bill made it easier to buy a home and go to college.  Jobs, and salaries were plentiful, especially in the eyes of new young parents who had grown up during the Depression when large families often found putting food on the table difficult.  Rick Santorum seems to be unaware that the world has changed: unaware of the unemployment rate compared to those during the Baby Boom, unaware of the falling median income, the larger percentage of families living at or near the poverty level, and the larger number of older Americans who will fall into poverty from being laid off so long that they are now unemployable according to many human resources people.  Those with children are the fortunate ones, as the children may be employed and making enough to help their parents.  If nothing else, they may combine their households, which is happening more and more now.  Those without children may find themselves at the bottom of a deep deep pit from which the only escape is death.  Just who is going to profit from having more children?  Since the Industrial Revolution, when the added hands on the farm weren't a benefit in the city, groups have risen on the economic ladder by having fewer children, not more.    China is perhaps the most extreme example,  with India not far behind.  These are rising economic stars which many economists expect to eclipse the US in the next 25 years.  Both have instituted compulsory birth control policies.  China opted for mandatory abortion if the couple did not use birth control to limit the family size to 1 child.  India opted for encouraging and providing free birth control pills and devices.  Both encourage rigorous education in math and science, for men and women.  Historically, female education has been the single greatest predictor of falling family size and increased household wealth.  I know, I'm not providing the data to back up these statements.  However, I have studied these issues since I took my first demography class in 1972 or 3.  I encourage you to learn to find these statistics.  They are readily available online, easily searchable   using the terms I have used here.  You will find statistics to support what I have said.  You will not find any credible, unbiased design studies to support Santorum, or Marshal.  If you do, I'll eat this post.  I'll also write a blog entry called "Idiot things Bloggers say and do."  Go for it!
 


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