Lies and Fake News

As my readers know, my blog focuses on investments and retirement. But I sometimes wander afield when non-investment issues put at risk investing and wealth creation. Politics is one of those things. And politics, for me, is like technology: I fundamentally dislike the subject but find that I must know enough about it to survive and flourish in our modern world. Moreover, politics leads many to make painful investment mistakes. Some think, erroneously, that if their candidate’s position does not prevail or some social issue we support does not get enacted, then our portfolio will be harmed. So, we may sell out fearing the worst. This is an error often committed by the inexperienced investor. In reality, most times, markets don’t care about our politics.

But sometimes, they do.

Our politics today are about as partisan – even toxic – as they can be. I don’t think in my 70 years that I have ever lived through such an angry time, with the exception of 1968, perhaps. We don’t disagree agreeably, as we raise our children to do; we hate one another. And we lie, too, to make our case more convincing. And sometimes, our lies influence policy; and that policy can hurt our nation, our portfolios, and us.

Many pundits, for instance, think Trump’s such a terrible human being that the ordinary rules of journalistic or conversational integrity don’t hold. He’s just too frightening to treat honestly. No matter how good the economy might be, how low the unemployment rate may go, or how remarkable black and Hispanic employment is – to hit on just a few outstanding accomplishment of this President – there’s always the awful tweet or the overreaction of the volatile man. I wish that Trump didn’t have the failings he has. I wish he were not so thin-skinned, so coarse, so vindictive, for starters. But I still recognize in him, despite these deplorable personal failings, that there is a courageous leader fighting for millions and millions of ordinary Americans who have not had a voice, let alone a champion, in years. This is evidence, too, of a guy who is trying to make a large swath of Americans (may I say it?) greater again.

But, overwhelming, the press ignores his accomplishments and resists and reject him because his priorities, not just his manners, are not synchronized with the priorities of the more progressive administration that preceded him. And while I remind you that you should keep your politics out of your investment decisions, occasionally politics do affect economics and investing. Just look at the U.S. growth rate under Obama – just about 2% a year. Why? Priorities differed in the prior administration on what and who should be supported. But consequences for America followed – consequences for large numbers of the population, too. Policy differences may be real and honestly felt, but are they based on truth? That’s an important question. And here the bulk of the press is brazenly dishonest. Let me end post with just one recent example, one on global warming.

For reasons I do not understand, the Obama administration and many other progressives believe that terrorism or illegal immigration or unemployment, for instance, are all lesser issues for the citizens of the United States than is global warming and climate change. Obama went so far as to say climate change was the most important issue of our time. Progressives add that “the science is settled” on the question, as if science is ever – or should ever be – settled. Science, by its very nature, is, or should always be, open to new data, be it on smoking, sugar, needed sleep, or global warming.

This summer, our western United States have faced some of the worst forest fires in memory, or so we’re told. Here are a few words I extracted from a July 28th, 2018, NBC evening news report:

“Heat waves are setting all-time temperature records across the globe, again.
Europe suffered its deadliest fire in more than a century, and one of nearly 90 large fires in the U.S. West burned dozens of homes and forced the evacuation of at least 37,000 people near Redding, California. Flood-inducing downpours have pounded the U.S. East this week. It’s all part of summer — but it’s all being made worse by human-caused climate change, scientists say.

The press largely concludes – and evidently unnamed scientists support this conclusion – that this is further proof of man-induced global warming – exacerbated, perhaps, but not mentioned here, by a President who is accused of dismantling the EPA’s protections so rightly put in place over the prior eight years to save us from climate doom. At least, that’s the claim.

But is it true? Or, is this just more partisan bit of nonsense that aims to steer policy in self-servicing directions that favor wealthy and powerful elites, who would love to put a strangle hold on America’s ability to produce, safely and inexpensively, the energy we need for all Americans to prosper.

Take a look at this chart from a recent posting of the U.S. government agency that tracks forest fires:

Study its data.

It’s U.S. data from a U.S. agency based in Boise Idaho.

 

 

What is it truthfully saying? It’s saying three things that the press is ignoring or suppressing in pursuit of an agenda to undermine confidence in human economic activity and to raise foolish confidence in the sufficiency of alternative fuels to economically sustain, in the future, our citizens’ standard of living.

First, the chart tells us that in the late 1920s and all the way up to about 1950, there were far more acres of U.S. land destroyed by fire each year than there are today. Second, the chart tells us that there were far more fires each year, a different metric than numbers of acres destroyed – up to about 1980 – when the number of fires fell precipitously. Acreage destroyed had been falling since about 1932. And third, more recently, we have fewer fires and less burned acreage than in the distance past, though we are not as low in damaged acreage as we were in the 1990s. The dotted line shows the long-term trend of both fires and acreage burned. The current state of affairs is not perfect, as this world is not, either, but it’s moving in the right direction.

This data is incontrovertible. It is true, yet ignored; ignored like so much news that differs from an agenda of those who are looking for a different outcome.

This data does not specifically deal with Trump, of course. But as one who has tried to reign in environmental regulations that crush economic activity, he and his message get caught up in the gears of opponents who seek a different outcome. His lurid life and his habitual tweeting do not help his truth to compete.

May God help us all amid the lies and distortions.

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