Lies, damn lies, and government studies

Posted: Aug 10, 2000 12:00 AM
"Spiraling" gas prices deeply concern Vice President Al Gore. After all, Gore condemns oil company profits as "enormous and completely unreasonable," and says that "Big Oil is gouging American consumers." Enough's enough, says the Veep, "We need to get to the bottom of this." Yes, America, Gore's mad as hell, "I think it's time to put our feet on the brakes of what may well be Big Oil's price gouging." But there's a problem. On July 15, 2000, the Washington Times reported that the Clinton administration did investigate the reasons behind rising gas prices. Their conclusion? The administration's environmental regulations, and their related expense, was a primary reason for the increased gas prices! But the administration ignored the results of their internal memo, and continued attacking the oil companies' alleged "outright thievery" and "price gouging." But ignoring government studies when they reach the "wrong conclusion" is a long-standing tradition. During the Reagan administration, the president sought to establish a link between pornography and rape. But, dagnab it, the Meese Commission just couldn't find it. According to the study, no causal connection exists between sexually explicit material and violent sex crimes. Frustrated, the commission then asked Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to collect more data. So Koop assembled a panel of experts, who once again found no evidence that exposing adults to nonviolent sexual material leads to crime. Yet, in defiance of their own research, the commission issued a conclusion that the material was harmful, and dismissed the lack of supporting evidence, saying, "What role pornography ... plays in the construction of these (aggressive sexual) fantasies remains to be answered." According to commission chairman Henry Hudson, the members used "common sense" when linking pornography to violence. Oh. Similarly, President Richard Nixon formed a task force to provide advice on how to combat the drug epidemic. He assembled a blue-ribbon commission. The results? Marijuana should be decriminalized! Ouch. Once again, the administration banned the study to the bottom left-hand drawer. The Head Start program enjoys bipartisan support, with Clinton loudly proclaiming, "Head Start ... is a success story. ... For every dollar we invest today, we'll save three tomorrow." Unfortunately, his arithmetic was based on a 1960 study of a single, non-Head Start preschool in Ypsilanti, Mich. But does Head Start really work? According to an analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services, "Children enrolled in Head Start enjoy significant immediate gains in cognitive test scores, socio-emotional test scores, and health status." However, the HHS report concludes that "in the long run, cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start." In English, this means that after a while, any initial Head Start advantage wears off, leaving the child no better than before. Two unpublished government reports suggest that the other supposed benefits of Head Start, such as improved health care to children and better social services to their families, may have been misreported and exaggerated. Remember "environmental racism"? Here, again, the Clinton administration attempted to prove that poor, largely minority people, more so than non-poor, live near a toxic or hazardous waste site. Another government study. Another "wrong" conclusion. Another government re-study. More shelved conclusions. The Detroit News wrote about the now-flustered EPA, "The next year, the agency completed an exhaustive survey of the racial demographics around every one of the 1,234 polluted 'Superfund' sites in the country. Again, the study failed to find evidence that would bolster the agency's drive to meld civil rights laws into environmental regulations. Again, the agency shelved the report and never released the results." A government study also examined whether legal gun-owning parents presented an increased risk to their children. But, much to the dismay of the Clinton administration, the study proved the opposite. When such parents teach their children the proper use of handguns, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, those kids are less likely to use a gun in a crime or to sustain a gun-related injury. The Clinton administration demands further gun control legislation. But did you know that in 1997, a research division of the Department of Justice examined how often Americans use guns for defensive purposes? Their conclusion? Americans use guns for defensive purposes approximately 1.5 million times per year. Conceding that their own findings were "troubling," the report stated, "According to these results, guns are used far more often to defend against crime than to perpetrate crime." But, but, but ... Moral to the story. When a government study proves what the government wants, it's front-page news. When the study fails to reach the "right conclusion," it's "what study?" Facts, to the Feds, are like kryptonite to Superman. Hm-mm, but maybe a government study could look into that.