Patterico's Pontifications


Mikekoshi Screws the Pooch

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:20 am

Nofanofcablecos is now Nofanofaccuratestatistics. In his latest silly rant about how California doesn’t spend too much, Michael Hiltzik claims:

Indeed, the idea that California’s budget has been out of control as measured against inflation and population growth is a deeply cherished talking point in the debate over the state’s fiscal deficit.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be yet another infectious myth. The truth is that over the last 10 years, California’s spending has tracked population growth and price increases almost to the penny.

. . . .

Analyzing the 2008-09 budget bill last year, the legislative analyst determined that since 1998-99, spending in the general fund and state special funds — the latter comes from special levies like gasoline and tobacco taxes — had risen to $128.8 billion from $72.6 billion, or 77%.

During this time frame, which embraced two booms (dot-com and housing) and two busts (ditto), the state’s population grew about 30% to about 38 million, and inflation charged ahead by 50%.

Uh, no.

Chris Reed has the scoop:

According to official state government statistics, the population in 1999 was 33.4 million.

Yo, Michael, guess you’re another one of those journos who not only can’t do math, you can’t work a calculator. Just go to Google. Enter 38,000,000/33,400,000. You’ll see the actual percentage increase: 13.772455 percent.

Reed is right. His math is accurate. California’s population in 1998 was 33.3 million (.pdf). We’re now at 38.3 million. Using these numbers, we’re looking at an increase of 15% at the most. Not 30%. Hiltzik has doubled the increase.

Time for a letter to the Readers’ Rep. I’m too tired right now; you can reach her at

Matt Welch takes a few more swipes at Hiltzik’s substance here.

UPDATE: Here is my letter to the Readers’ Rep.

17 Responses to “Mikekoshi Screws the Pooch”

  1. Heh. Somewhere, a sumo wrestling match is missing a fanboy.

    Mike LaRoche (bcba39)

  2. What’s odd is that if the 50% inflation number is accurate, then the population growth of 15% multiplied by inflation of 50% (i.e. $1.00 in 1998 buys you $1.50 of stuff now) yields a steady state budget of $125.3 billion, just three and a half billion less of the $128.8 billion number Hiltzik cites. So the math kinda works (2% difference) using the correct 15% population increase number. This suggests a typo, not ignorance of math.

    Cyrus Sanai (ada6da)

  3. It gets worse because Hiltzik’s 50% inflation claim over 10 years is also bogus.
    The December 1999 CPI index is 163.9 (1982-84=100).
    The December 2008 CPI index is 210.036, which is approximately a 28% change (price inflation) from December 1999.

    I believe the CPI data can be found here, but you might have to enter in a range of dates.

    The California inflation rate may be slightly different, but only slightly.

    Perfectsense (0922fa)

  4. OMG, I think Hiltzik, an exalted business journalist, does not know how to read a CPI table. It appears that he might have equated the CPI’s 10 year index change from 1999 to 2009(about 50 points) with the inflation rate (he used 50% inflation in his article).

    Deducting the 1999 CPI value of approximately 160 from the 2009 CPI value of about 210 is about a 50 POINT index change, not a 50 PERCENT CPI change. To determine the CPI percentage change, the difference between the two index values is divided by the older value.

    For example, if a candy bar’s price changes by fifty cents from $1.50 to $2.00, it is not a 50% price change; it is a 33% price change.

    Perfectsense (0922fa)

  5. How long before the Hiltzik sockpuppets attack?

    PCD (02f8c1)

  6. How long before the Hiltzik sockpuppets attack?

    PCD (02f8c1)

  7. John and Ken, the talk radio guys who’ve been pushing tea parties this spring, have been talking about this Hiltzik story for a week. I simply don’t understand why the Times, having already been embarrassed by him once, keeps the guy in the Business section. It is probably cluelessness but the guy is such an embarrassment.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  8. How long before the Hiltzik sockpuppets attack?
    Comment by PCD — 5/29/2009 @ 5:50 am

    Commencing in 5…4…3…….

    GM Roper (85dcd7)

  9. We have daily reports of California’s budget apocalypse, but they still run asinine programs like this gem from the California Dept of Boating and Waterways:

    Take a survey and leave your name, and you might win 1000 gallons of gas for your boat! The website isn’t that fancy, but you can bet they are paying top-dollar to set that up.

    Also, the way I even found out about this is I heard a radio AD inviting people to visit the website. The state is buying radio airtime
    to advertise their stupid contest.

    Wesson (03286d)

  10. “Unfortunately, it turns out to be yet another infectious myth.”–Hiltzik

    You’re an ignorant idiot, who doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about.

    IOW, a typical journalist.

    Government growth, at all levels, has been completely out of control in this country for decades, and it’s so far gone now, that we’re never going to stop it short of violent revolution.

    State and local government spending has risen roughly 100% in America since 1960.

    That’s where we are now…halfway to full blown communism, and we’ve got an economy that’s been in steady decline, relative to the rest of the world, for three quarters of a century to prove it.

    Dave Surls (5d2aef)

  11. 7, Mike K, If John & Ken got behind you, start looking for the knife in your back. They are flighty opportunists. No one counts on them to do any intellectual heavy lifting. John is bribable with cheese pirogis.

    PCD (02f8c1)

  12. Back in November, the Sacramento Bee had basically the same editorial as this column-based on the Legistlative analyst’s numbers, general fund spending has not grown over the last ten years.

    I got the raw data for the numbers from the LAO. Here are the three flaws I pointed out to the Bee’s editors in an e-mail I sent:

    “…First, the LAO CPI inflation numbers used are higher than those found at the California Division of Labor Statistics:

    Using the CA CPI fro All Urban Consumers from June 1998 to June 2008 and the population numbers provided by the LAO, I get a 1998-1999 per capita general fund expenditure of $2435. [vs current expenditure of $2692] This means that per capita expenditures have increased by about one percent per year over the past decade, yielding a net increase of over 10.5% over that time frame.

    Second, the general fund is not the budget. The budget has grown from $75.3 billion to $144 billion over that time period. Using the LAO CPI and population, that is a 7% per capita increase in expenditures over that time period. Using the CA CPI numbers, the growth is almost 19% in per capita expenditures.

    Finally, 1998-1999 was in the middle of an economic expansion, and the state’s expenditures were growing rapidly. The state’s general fund expenditures had grown 16% in the two previous years combined. Thus, the Bee’s graph starts at an inflated baseline compared to prior years…”

    So the LAO used an inflated baseline, looked at only one part of the budget, and overstated inflation. Other than that, their numbers are correct.

    MartyH (52fae7)

  13. And the play was pretty good too, Marty.

    SPQR (72771e)

  14. When I read his article, this is the sentence that jumped out at me:

    A couple of caveats are in order. These budget figures don’t include federally backed spending. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s ’08-09 budget included $56 billion in federal funds, mostly for health and social services programs such as Medi-Cal.

    Nor do they include spending of bond proceeds or the various borrowing scams the governor and Legislature implemented, such as dipping into local government coffers.

    Now, to the extent that bond financing has taken the place of general fund financing for many infrastructure projects over the last decade, excluding such expenditures of bond funds from the overall spending profile of the state makes his analysis meaningless.

    Its no different than saying, “My spending in 2009 was only 50% higher than my spending in 1999, thereby tracking the general rate of inflation, if you don’t consider the $10,000 in credit card purchases made but have not yet paid for.”

    Shipwreckedcrew (e73ed2)

  15. It is simply wrong to say that spending should keep pace with inflation and population if Cali didn’t have a sensible budget in the first case (1998). And we all know we didn’t. Regardless, it simply is not a given that budgets should increase with population on a 1 for 1 basis.

    hoglet (3322f0)

  16. “The truth is that over the last 10 years, California’s spending has tracked population growth and price increases almost to the penny.”–Lying journalist

    The truth is is that spending by state, local and federal government was less than 10% of GDP 100 years ago, and, now thanks to the “liberal” scum in this country, it has risen to about 45% of GDP…and it’s going to rise even more, just like it always has, until people wake up and put a stop to it.

    The government basically owns your ass at this point.

    That’s what the truth is.

    Here’s the current breakdown. Read it and weep.

    Dave Surls (83046d)

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