Separating Political Myths from Reality
While this blog is 99% about cool old houses, I also have a section titled Other Cool Things where I reserve the right to discuss other topics.
Even scary topics.
It is said that one should never discuss politics and religion in polite company. I find this helpful advice, and cannot count the times I have managed to keep my mouth closed tight about both subjects while in the company of others.
Today however I would like to discuss politics.
Luckily, I am alone…
Michael Short, the Republican National Chair spokesman, recently said:
“Once again Hillary Clinton laughed off questions about her secret email server even though it put our national security at risk and is being investigated by the FBI.”
This is a powerful, damning statement.
But, is the statement true?
Living inside me is an Inner Skeptic, and he relishes statements of the kind made by Short.
My Inner Skeptic has a rule: All satements made by an opponent should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. Of course candidate X is going to say terrible things about their opponent, candidate Y. It has always been this way, and it is shocking to read, for example, about the terrible (and untrue) things Thomas Jefferson’s opponent said about him!
So, here is the same statement by Short after being filtered through my internal Skeptic-O-Meter:
“Once again Hillary Clinton laughed off questions about her secret email server [there was no secret server. There was a private server. Which was legal] even though it put our national security at risk [there is zero evidence of this] and is being investigated by the FBI [Clinton is not being investigated by the FBI. And, on September 21, FBI General Counsel James A. Baker would neither confirm nor deny that it had the server] .
In short, what Short stated was, well, a big lie.
I know, I know, people reading this who dislike Clinton will just assume I am a fool, and will discount my assertions. They know what Short said is true, and have read and heard tons of stuff supporting Short’s claims.
But just because lies are omnipresent does not mean they are true. I mean, remember when everybody believed the Earth was flat?
Just yesterday, on my Google news page, was this headline:
Yes, Hillary Clinton broke the law
The article was in the New York Post, hardly a bastion of credible reporting. And that was the first thing which got my Inner Skeptic on alert.
Then I looked to see who the author was: Ken Cuccinelli.
Who was Cuccinelli? So, I scrolled down to the bottom of the article: Ken Cuccinelli is president of Senate Conservatives Fund.
What is the Senate Conservatives Fund?
Answer: The Senate Conservatives Fund is a political action committee dedicated to electing true conservatives to the United States Senate.
You see, even before reading the article my Inner Skeptic knew it would be a hit piece, because Cuccinelli is being paid to destroy his perceived opponents, the truth be damned!
When a person’s very existence depends on having X view, their views cannot be accepted uncritically.
And why? Because if there is a conflict between:
A) Making the next mortgage payment, or
B) Telling the truth.
…the mortgage payment will win. Almost always, as paying the bills and eating are powerful motivators.
Whenever I read an article about politics I always first try and ascertain WHO wrote the article and HOW are they paying their mortgage. Knowing the answers to these two questions will either calm my Inner Skeptic or put him on high alert.
GETTING HYSTERICAL ABOUT PROBLEMS…which do not exist
Americans get worked up by a lot of things. We argue and fight and complain endlessly.
This is mostly good.
However, it is not good when we get all riled about about issues which do not exist, or issues which are not significant problems.
This year, there has been a HUGE amount of hysteria over illegal immigrants from Mexico. A massive amount of rhetoric has been expended over this issue.
But it is, if one cares to check, a non-issue.
In 2008 there were 723,825 illegal alien apprehensions by the US Border Patrol.
The media, and Donald Trump, would have us believe that, in 2015, this number is now out-of-control.
In 2014, the number was down by half, to 486,651.
Down by half.
Down by half.
And in the year 2000 there were 1.6 million illegal immigrants.
In short, the “huge” problem is not a huge problem, and illegal Mexican immigration has dropped by more than 3/4 in the last 15 years. The “huge” problem is actually self-correcting.
But you notice how Donald Trump never mentions this provable fact?
HOW DOES ONE FIND ANY TRUTH?
Most people do not like their views challenged. Recently a friend dramatically stood up and with great energy stated:
“I just want the truth! I just want the truth!”
What my friend wholly does not recognize is that he does NOT want the truth. What he wants is ONLY information which corresponds to his worldview; he thus 100% rejects anything which conflicts with his worldview, and accepts, without question, anything supporting his views no matter that it might be totally, provably untrue.
My friend, sigh, is not a truth seeker, even though he believes himself to be. Well, I still like him.
I certainly have a worldview (we all do) but I work hard at discerning the important distinctions between truths and myths. So, if I am searching for the truth, I avoid any media which has an inherent obvious bias. So, a place like the the Senate Conservatives Fund is SO not trustworthy!
If I am on a website and it consistently slams Republicans while praising Democrats, I will soon stop clicking on the site. The same is true if a site consistently slams Democrats while praising Republicans.
Fox News is notorious for its bias. I know, I know, its loyal followers swear it is fair and balanced but this has been proven to be untrue. Fox, for example, is almost 100% critical of Barack Obama but was almost 100% uncritical of George Bush. That is not fair and balanced.
And I feel confident that Fox has never, nor will ever, say anything positive about Hillary Clinton. Clinton could find a cure for cancer and Fox would find some way to be critical.
I have never met a regular Fox News watcher who did not think that Obama was the absolute worst president ever, and is actually destroying America. The worst! Destroying! Not surprisingly, people I talk to who get their news from a variety of sources do not think this. They may not like Obama, but do not think he the Destroyer Of All Which Is Good.
There are three online non-partisan sources I check out frequently:
NOTE: People who are far right usually HATE these sources. I understand why, as all three sources regularly prove that what Republicans say is often not true. However, and this is vital to me, the sources do the same with Democrats! That is what non-partisan means!
So, if you are a Republican or Democrat and do NOT like your views challenged, then you will NOT like my suggested sources.
I have one other source which I check regularly. CAVEAT: It cannot by any stretch be considered non-partisan:
From its website: “Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.”
While Media Matters is highly partisan, I have nonetheless found it to be highly reliable, something which cannot normally be said of a partisan media outlet (liberal or conservative), as per my comments above.
FUN BLUE GRAPHS
PolitiFact.com offers really great, really easy to understand graphs which at a glance show how truthful a candidate is.
I offer this sampling for your consideration.
PLAYING WITH POLLS
As I am skeptical about the media, I am also skeptical of polls.
When I come across a poll, I first note where it came from.
Like this poll:
The media has breathlessly reported on Clinton’s recent drop in the polls. What they do not point out however is the Joe Biden, who is NOT running, has recently been included in the polling. So, yes, duh, Clinton’s numbers would drop. But in the most recent CNN poll, if you take Biden out of the poll, Clinton’s numbers shoot up to 57% of registered Democrats, far higher than ANY other candidate. Even with Biden in, Clinton polls at 42%, which is still FAR higher than any other presidential candidate.
In my opinion, the media is mostly hostile to Clinton, both left and right. As such, it is difficult to find any accurate reporting on the candidate. What is interesting however, fascinating actually, is that even with the relentless negative reporting, Clinton far outstrips all other presidential candidates. What this indicates is that Americans have a much stronger Bullshit Meter than we are given credit for. And this warms my heart.
In short, when I look at a new poll I want to know the source (and is the source credible?), and what is the poll based on (all voters, or voters from X party? Is the poll national, or state-based?). I am also aware that poll numbers this early in the game offer no guarantee about what will happen on November 4, 2016.
OLD FINANCIAL MYTHS
It is accepted as a truism that Republicans are better with money than Democrats. Even many Democrats believe this.
The chart below shows the US Federal deficit since WWII (as a percentage of the gross national product). A glance will state the obvious: most presidents, no matter which party, run a deficit (meaning the government is spending more than it is taking in).
Since I was born in 1957 there was a tiny surplus under Kennedy, and another tiny surplus under Nixon. Under Reagan and George H. Bush there was a huge increase in the deficit. Then along came a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who immediately began reducing the debt, which he then totally erased, and then created a four-year surplus, the longest and largest surplus since I was born.
Then came the second Bush. The surplus was instantly spent, and the deficit increased to its highest ever levels:
Until the deficit becomes a surplus, the national debt cannot be lowered, as the two go hand-in-hand. So, decreasing the deficit is the first step to lowering the debt. And the current debt level, while staggering, is manageable. So far.
Another interesting fact is that the national economy does better under Democrats than Republicans, and more jobs are thus created:
Change is afoot.
From a Pew Center report, as of 2014, there were more registered Independents than ever, 39%. However, this is only a bit higher than 23-years ago, when the number was 36%.
Democrats are at 32%. This is only a tiny bit lower than 23-years ago, when the number was 33%.
Republicans are at 23%, down from 28% in 1992, the largest statistical change.
All this matters. Hugely.
A big chunk of the Republican base is the oldest generation alive. This demographic group is very conservative, and they also vote. They really love voting. So, they are a powerful group. But, this group is dying off. In five years this group will be reduced significantly. In ten years this group will basically vanish.
The majority of young people are identifying as Independents. So, this party is growing. However, without a strong Independent candidate, the majority of Independents will vote Democrat (in the last two presidential elections, young people voted Democratic almost twice as much as they did Republican, 65% to 35%).
In 2008 and 2012, statisticians predicted that there were no longer enough Republicans to win the presidency.
They are predicting the same for 2016.
Well, we shall see.
A PLEA TO ALL THE CANDIDATES
I am not interested in what you think about your opponents.
Really, I am profoundly not interested.
Not only am I not interested, but I am repelled when you disparage an opponent, be the opponent on your side of the political fence, or across the fence.
What I am interested in is two things, and two things only.
How are YOU going to make a difference?
What is YOUR experience?
All politicians lie.
I repeat, all politicians lie.
Some lies are deliberate. Some are based on ignorance. Some are simply because the candidate was exhausted when X question was asked.
I think elections matter. And no matter what party you identify with, do you think doing some basic non-partisan research, to find which candidate of your party lies the least, is a good idea?
Do you also think it is a good idea to do some basic non-partisan research to find out which party really IS better at improving the economy, creating more jobs, and helping to make better lives for most Americans?
Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.