It’s bottom-of-the-barrel trolling to cite anything from Daily Kos, but this one is particularly asinine and worth showing to demonstrate the futility of p-values. Thanks to Al Perrella for the discovery.
The article is “Pay more taxes and live longer, pay less taxes and die sooner, the choice is yours“. A snapshot of the “finding” is above, but go to their site for the full gory.
One of the things that our taxes should provide is a healthy populace, which should be reflected in the life expectancy of its citizens. And fortunately, mortality is something that is easy to measure. We have been running a set of economic experiments in our states for decades, and the outcomes should be discernible. If low taxes are better than high taxes, then that should be clearly articulated in the life expectancy data.
In fact, the opposite is the case, and the trend is unmistakable. The chart below plots life expectancy by state for the year 2013-14 against the total taxes (federal, state, and local) paid by its citizens. The tax year 2015 was chosen since those data were easily accessible. A trend line (linear regression) is also shown, which represents the best straight line that can be fit to these data. The raw data that I used are also shown in the table below. Federal, state, and local tax data for 2015 were obtained from sites here and here. Life expectancy data were obtained here.
The big “finding” is that “life expectancy is correlated with taxes”, and from correlation, which has no implication of cause, the author can’t help himself, as almost everybody can’t, and he jumps to cause. “Mortality statistics across the United States suggest that residents of blue states are healthier than those in red states.”
Yet one of the middling-lower taxed states has residents with the highest life expectancy. Grouping across states is also silly, as it’s the bigger cities that differ from rural areas, contrasts where we also find the biggest political differences.
Alabama looks to have the lowest life expectancy averaged across its residents. Raise your hand if you think it’s taxes that makes the even any difference between it and, say, New Hampshire, which has one of the highest life expectancies — and low taxes.
Well you can do this sort of thing as well as I can, and probably have more patience. Here’s the writer’s conclusion:
Tax rate statistics suggest that higher taxes are favorably correlated with mortality. Call me crazy, but if I were a resident of a red state, I would be calling my local, state, and federal legislators, demanding that my taxes be raised, not lowered, and that the increased revenues be used to improve my health and the health of my fellow citizens. Starting now.
Okay, I’ll call him crazy. We went from correlation, and a weak one at that, and somewhat silly, to “Call your congressman now.”
People just can’t resist finding causes in wee p-values.