Media madness #2 – their lies and ignorance make us stupid

An ongoing series at the FM website describes how we’re ignorant because we read the newspapers.  Today’s example comes from USA Today:   “Americans’ tax burden is lightest in developed world“, 25 November 2009 — Excerpt:

You’d never know it from all the cable news chatter, but Americans bear the lightest tax burden in the developed world.

Total U.S. tax revenues in 2008 equaled 26.9% of gross domestic product, according to provisional figures released Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That figure – which includes local, state and federal taxes, including Social Security – was lower than the 1990 ratio and far below levels across Europe. In Denmark, the total tax take exceeds 48% of the economy. In France, it tops 43%; Germany, 36%.

This is moronic, making sense only if one ignores what services those governments provide.  An accurate accounting would compare national costs for a similar basket of services.  Otherwise we get slovenly propaganda.  Here is a little more information, telling the rest of the story.

Health care

In Denmark the government pays for aprox 80% of all health care expenditures, with the rest mostly “out of pocket” payments.   In France, Germany, and the USA government payments are aprox 80%, 75%, and 45% respectively (source OECD).

University education

Many of America’s college graduates begin their careers carrying astonishingly high debt burdens.  Even more so for professionals, like doctors and attorneys.  No so in France, and Germany, where the government pays most higher education costs.  From Wikipedia:


Since higher education is funded by the state, the fees are very low; the tuition varies from 150€ to 700€ depending on the university and the different levels of education. (licence, master, doctorate). One can therefore get a Master’s degree (in 5 years) for about 750-3,500€. Additionally, students from low-income families can apply for scholarships, paying nominal sums for tuition or textbooks, can a monthly stipend of up to 450€/month.

The tuition in public engineering schools is comparable to universities, albeit a little higher (around 700€). However it can reach 7000€ a year for private engineering schools, and some business schools, which are all private or partially private, charge up to 8000€ a year.


“Universities in Germany are part of the free state education system, which means that there are very few private universities and colleges.”

Meanwhile America moves in the other direction, back to a 19th century system that limits social mobility and makes poor use of our greatest national resource.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.  Here are some posts about the news media:

  1. A time-saving tip when reading the daily news, 2 January 2008
  2. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  3. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
  4. The myth of media pessimism about the economy, 13 June 2008
  5. “Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham, 26 August 2008
  6. “The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism”, 23 December 2008
  7. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009
  8. The media rolls over and plays dead for Obama, as it does for all new Presidents, 19 February 2009
  9. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  10. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  11. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009 
  12. The perfidy of ABC News (tentative conclusion on a breaking story), 18 June 2009
  13. Are we blind, or just incurious about important news?, 6 July 2009
  14. We know nothing because we read newspapers, 12 October 2009
  15. Clay Shirky is brilliant and American – hence often delusionally flattering, 24 November 2009


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9 thoughts on “Media madness #2 – their lies and ignorance make us stupid”

  1. Governments dont provide , tax payers do .
    FM reply: True only at the aggregate (aka national) level. Not so for individual people or organizations. The government provides income for millions of people — rich, middle, and poor. When that number grows too large, or the other part of society grows unwilling to pay, then the system has problems.

  2. FM: “Meanwhile America moves in the other direction, back to a 19th century system that limits social mobility and makes poor use of our greatest national resource.

    A tragedy, but one that makes sense given the direction the U.S. economy has been taking over the last decade, i.e. net job growth almost entirely in non-tradeable domestic services. How much education do you need to be a bartender or pet-groomer? The sectors of health care and government obviously are exceptions, but on the whole the traditional route to the middle class through things like an engineering degree is being destroyed through off-shoring as we move towards a third-world income distribution model: a small elite with a large underclass of limo-polishers and burrito-makers.

  3. Re “Graduates drowning in Debt Pool”:

    Student loan debts are not dischargable in bankruptcy. Well, that would be debt you have to escape by leaving the frigging U.S.A. Now I see what they were thinking when they extended the income tax to include foreign earned income. Boy, these guys really think ahead.
    FM reply: This easily wins best comment of the thread!

  4. Every country pretty much wants citizens to pay tax on foreign income. HOWEVER, there are almost always tax treaties in place so that tax you pay to the foreign country counts as a CREDIT on your taxes in the US, so you don’t end up actually paying tax on that income for the US because you got taxed more by the country overseas.

  5. #2. Actually , you need some pretty awesome skills to be good bartender or pet groomer .
    Public service enterprise requires operator .
    You will be smart in appearance , literate and numerate , punctual and reliable . Recording and bookkeeping are essential to this post , but most important is your ability to constntly communicate in a charming and pleasing manner , with clients , some of who may be provoking ,mentaly or physically impaired , in the grip of strong emotions ,or totally from the planet zog , while ensuring the health and safety of yourself and co workers at all times .
    Money handling skills are required ( also references ); the post entails some heavy lifting and unsocial hours .
    You should have first aid knowledge , and be able to deal with regurgitations and excretions in a capable manner .
    You will have specialist skills such as mixing fancy cocktails for fussy rich a**holes / show trim for filthy , manic bichon frise .
    You will have some fancy certificate/portfolio regarding your skills .
    You will have a P45 , a pissport , a current clean drinking licence and 16 poofs of identity .

  6. Wow . The monstadatorium is going public !!
    Congratulations on bringing these Climate Change matters to our attention when you did .
    I still cant get over those pictures of the temp recording stations . ( on link from yr article .) Particularly liked the one with a car bonnet jammed up to it . There is some sort of monitoring station in one of my pastures , a green metal shipping container that emits a gentle electrical hum . On hot days , my horses cluster round it , being of the opinion that electrical hums deter flies . As they doze , they regularly trump , next to the air inlets .

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