It has been said by those who understand how numbers can be used as propaganda that there are lies, there are damned lies, and there are statistics.
On Monday, the White House released a batch of statistics.
Actually, 50 sets of numbers, one for each state, were released by President Barack Obama's administration. The press releases purport to outline the effects on each state of federal spending cuts that will kick in Friday through the "sequester" process, unless Obama and Congress agree to a deal to prevent it.
Obama's goal is to provoke anger against conservative lawmakers he claims are blocking agreement on such a deal. His hidden agenda is to pressure them into accepting massive new tax increases, coming on the heels of others approved in December.
But many of the administration's numbers are, to be blunt, fishy.
Take the West Virginia report, for example. If the sequester kicks in, the White House maintains, the state would lose $247,000 for job search assistance, referral and placement.
Why, about 9,230 people would be affected, according to the report.
Clearly, those who see the number are supposed to infer it means 9,230 people will be deprived of help finding jobs. But do the math. It works out to less than $27 for each of those 9,230 people - just about enough to cover mailing each of them a booklet of helpful hints for job seekers.
No doubt other numbers of people affected by the sequester have been doctored similarly. If Obama wants to touch off a scare campaign - and if history is any guide, he does - he will have to do a more convincing job than that.