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There’s always something to howl about

Should you trust the numbers you read? Dig deeper . . .

The Republic is all atwitter today because “Prices of new homes slip by largest amount in nearly 36 years”. What’s the real news: Nationwide (a non-existent real estate market), year-over-year median prices for new homes were down 9.7%. Not great, not awful, and not really news at all. We need to know which houses, where, and why to know anything. The news hook — “36 years” — just means that the non-news have been very, very good for more than a generation. Without context there is no knowledge.

Witness: “County wages up 10.5% in a year”. That sounds like good news, although the Republic tries to spin it negative. I have never believed the complaints about low wages in the Phoenix-area, and our perpetually low unemployment rate is hard to dismiss. What this actually means in the long run is for you to decide. I would be much more impressed to hear about how Phoenicians are improving their job skills. Human capital is all the capital there is, ultimately, and people who take the trouble to learn something useful make good money.

Here’s my favorite fake number story of the day: “Light rail subsidies calculated”:

Overall, Metro estimates its total operating, maintenance and administration costs at $28.2 million in the first year and plans to recoup a quarter of that money from fares. That leaves Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa to come up with a little over $21 million among them.

So that means the subsidy will be $3 from the taxpayers for every $1 paid by the rider, right?

Wrong.

What is missing from the calculations? The cost of building the ding-dong trolley system, billions of dollars before we’re done.

The actual subsidy will be at least $13 from the taxpayers for every $1 put in the fare box — and possibly a whole lot more.

Best “news” of all: You will never ever know how much you are paying in subsidies. Whatever number you are told, you will know with an icy certainty that you are being lied to.

Now a thoughtful person might think to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing for profit.”

But the BoosterDogglers and the Shiny People have a ready retort: “You don’t know anything about Downtown Phoenix!”

And this must be the truth, for no matter how deeply you dig into the numbers relating to the the vampire-like “revitalization” of Downtown Phoenix, you will never once dig up a profit-making enterprise…

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  • 5 comments

    5 Comments so far

    1. Jeff Brown October 27th, 2006 9:26 am

      Pretty please write that in your next piece in the paper itself. Or would they allow that?

    2. Galen October 27th, 2006 6:19 pm

      Bus rapid transit seems to be a much better solution – flexible, inexpensive, and just as fast.

      Now a thoughtful person might think to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing for profit.”

      I agree to an extent, but I hear a lot more noise against transit than I do about roads. Where is the private highway lobby?

      My beef is the same one you discussed a week ago – my “urban” tax dollars being shuttled out to the suburbs to build roads and infrastructure for people who moved to places without adequate roads.

    3. Greg Swann October 27th, 2006 6:34 pm

      Oh, don’t get me started. You wouldn’t believe the cities we could build if roads were private property. The whole idea of access-to versus delivery-of is a false dichotomy: They’re they same thing, invalidly split by the false notion that roads are not real estate. The perfect mass transit is walking — found only in places that devloped before governments learned to buy votes with “free” roads.

    4. mike October 27th, 2006 8:23 pm

      “People! Calm down, return to your cabins and go back to sleep. There’s no need to be worried, it’s just a little water.”

    5. Jeff Brown October 27th, 2006 9:39 pm

      Rock of ages……