“How many anecdotes? Where did this all start? What is this about? I don’t know when it started, but I know when it got bad, really bad. It got bad under Ronald Reagan, who had a very active fantasy life. … He was convinced that he did things in the Second World War that he clearly hadn’t done. You can look it up. He didn’t do them. He would say these stories over and over again. He would remember what he’d done and he hadn’t done it. And he remembered things about welfare queens who had abused the privilege of welfare and bought Cadillacs and things like that. Perhaps there was one such person. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. But what does that prove? Government by anecdote. … The federal government in the Office of Technology Assessment, in the Congressional Budget Office, in the Congressional Research Service, and in several other bureaus, … is very good at generating statistics that are good points of discussion because they’re accurate. But accurate statistics have the inconvenience of destroying prejudices. And if you find, for example, that the average woman who receives public assistance in this country is on for less than two years and has only 1.5 children, very much would like to get off public assistance, but has certain inconveniences, like lack of education, drug and alcohol habits, abusive former or current mates hanging around driving her nuts, you add all those up and you find that sixty or seventy percent of the women in this country terribly need some program that would deal with all the aforementioned problems. They’re not sitting home watching TV on fat welfare checks, breeding more. There may be some, but there aren’t very many. That’s not what data says. That’s what anecdotes say.”
Larry Bensky, 14 April 1995






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