Rumors are spreading this a.m. that the reality-based number cruncher at the New York Times, Nate Silver, may soon be appointed to a high position in the Obama Administration.**
Silver successfully humiliated the entire D.C. center-right pundit class and Fox News by nailing the polling and the high probability of an Obama election victory by looking at and understanding what polling numbers actually mean. He may now be picked to replace Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner or become head of the White House Office of Management and Budget or some other high advisory position where his skills are sadly missing.
While the White House has made no official announcement, several sources with close ties to the Administration confirmed the matter is under discussion.
“It would vastly improve America’s policies and help restore the economy if the White House began listening to someone with a proven track record and who actually uses and understands facts and numerical relationships, instead of discredited dogma,” a White House adviser who asked for anonymity remarked. “This would be especially good for the economy and the role actual facts, proven mathematical relationships, economic experience, and a commitment to rationality play in setting policies to improve employment, reduce inequality, which has continued it’s 40 year slide over the last four years, supporting growth and creating fairness in the tax code.
Silver is now acknowledged, even among a few Serious People, to have the ability and courage to use actual facts and numbers to predict the probability of events, and not being afraid to express them. These are skills several White House friends saw as noticeably missing in Mr. Obama’s first term and lacking among his key economic and political advisers. They cited several areas in which Silver’s type of reality-based predictions could benefit the country and help frame a more beneficial agenda for the President and Congress over the next few years. For example:
- Silver would likely note that a policy of austerity, as currently advocated by both parties and the White House, particularly one focused on significant cuts in government domestic spending when the economy was still recovering, would have a high probability, likely 95.4%, of increasing unemployment and reducing GDP while stripping valuable services and needed investments from the federal budget .
- Silver could read and understand the relevant, fact-based analyses/studies that show that reducing taxes on the rich would just increase the economic and political power of the extremely wealthy to the detriment of the middle class and poor, thus worsening inequality, slowing growth and undermining democratic principles. Probability: about 97.3 %.
- He would also predict, with 84.7% confidence, that raising taxes on the very wealthy would have virtually no adverse effect on the economy, since all the claims they are the “job creators” driving the economy was just dogma.
- Silver would do the math to show that proposed changes in the Social Security COLA formula likely to be accepted by Congress and the Administration would adversely impact the economically most vulnerable seniors, for no good reason. Probability: 100%
- Silver would actually pay attention to, understand and explain the economic studies that show the current deficits are not a crises and that the long-run debt to GDP ratios are not a structural problem except for growing private (not government) health-care costs, and even that issue may be receding if, in fact, those costs are no longer rising at their previously unsustainable course, as recent studies suggest. Probability that most of Congress and the Administration will get this wrong: 82.5%.
- Silver could use data from Hurrican Sandy, correlated with massive climate science, to predict the absurdity (92.8%) of continuing to pretend that these events are unrelated one-off events that won’t recur or get worse. He might also note, using real numbers, that a policy of “all of the above,” which he’d correctly note are mostly the carbon-based fuels that are creating the problem, would fail. (91.3 % probability.)
In short, paying attention to someone who thinks in a reality-based, rational world would lead to dramatic changes in US public policy. It would argue for a dramatic reversal of the expected (100%) destructive policies likely to be pursued in Washington.
Several pundits and D.C. politicians have already begun to predict that anyone with Silver’s skills, honesty, and attitude toward facts could never be appointed to any position of power or influence. Chris Cilliza noted that the likelihood of this happening was zero, so Serious People shouldn’t think about this further and should continue to be be misinformed by the Washington Post.
Speaker John Boehner said he’d rather the country go to hell and a hand basket before Congress should listen to someone whose statements were reality-based and diametrically the opposite of his members, who live in another universe. A Boehner aide later clarified Mr. Boehner meant that he believed the nation, and particularly the House existed in another universe, and we just had to accept that. Probability he would lose his job if he accepted Silver’s reality-based mindset: 100%.
**Satire probability: 100%