"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams #42, #16, #45, Abraham Lincoln, Alt-Facts, Apples to Apples, Confirmation Bias, Constant Dollars, Critical Thinking, Donald Trump, Health Care, Joe Nelson, Lies, Nathaniel Weixel- "The Hill" 04/19/19, Selling, Spin
I don’t know if you’ve heard but in 2016 the United States elected Donald J. Trump as our Forty-fifth president and when we vote again in November he’s slated to be the Republican Party’s top-of-ticket candidate. Forty-five’s cut from a different cloth than most previous US Presidents and the nap of his burlap definitely rubs me the wrong way, but this post isn’t directly about Donald J. Trump, it is about presenting facts rather than hyperbole.
Facebook, the all knowing, all seeing arbiter of truth, has a paid advertisement deriding Trump that bemoans that the US now has one million more uninsured residents than we did in 2016. I looked at that number and thought, “Okay, how many more people does the USA have now than we did in 2016?” Turns out the answer is a delta of 8,000,000 more residents in those four years. (BTW- Eight million is a number far higher than 42 which is purported by many to be the answer to everything.)
Seeing the ad I posted a picture of Donald Trump with a Pinocchio nose along with, “OKAY, in no way excusing Trump or his atrocities but the ad saying we have 1,000,000 more uninsured US residents than we did when Agent Orange took office fails to note we have nearly eight million more US residents now as compared to then.
Could we all PLEASE stop SELLING our position and try to start TELLING the truth.”
I got a response from my friend Joe “Pegleg” Nelson that read, “I don’t see how not mentioning the second statistic diminishes the first statistic. 8 million more people, and 1 million (The number I actually saw was 2 million) more uninsured is still not a good look, at all.”
To answer Pegleg’s query I used this very simplified example:
(All prices are in US dollars.)
In 1960 gas cost $.31.
In 2010 gas cost $2.28.
In 1960 minimum wage was $1.00/hour.
In 2010 minimum wage was $7.25/hour.
In 1960 a minimum wage earner had to work .310 hours to earn a gallon of gas.
In 2010 a minimum wage earner had to work .314 hours to earn a gallon of gas.
In 1960 US car’s average mpg was 14.3.
In 2010 US car’s average mpg was 22.4.
Despite a 736% increase in the cost of gas from 1960 to 2010, based on how far a minimum wage earner can travel by car on .31 hours of work a 2010 minimum wage earner pays less for gas than a 1960’s minimum wage earner.
I bemoan the constant barrage of lies, semi-truths and “spin” that plagues my country. Donald Trump et al is a blatant spinner of outright lies who seems to believe that President Abraham Lincoln got it wrong when Sixteen declared, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Trump’s strategy is he can divide and conquer using atrocious lies with impunity because we the sheeple have become so lazy that we are willing to believe whatever we are told so long as the information supports our confirmation bias.
If someone raises an alarm and uses scary statistics without context then they are SELLING not TELLING. Questioning everything along with Fact-Checking is our only defense in a world where lies rule and truth is a valueless commodity.
BY THE WAY- The ad I was bemoaning used terrible verbiage when it said the US now has one million more uninsured than we did in 2016. The actual answer is that more than 1 million Americans have lost health insurance coverage since 2016, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. The truth is, “The analysis, which was released Thursday, estimated that the number of Americans without insurance has risen from 27.5 million in 2016 to 28.9 million in 2018.” (The Hill, courtesy of Nathaniel Weixel- 04/19/19)
We all need to search vigilantly for the truth and look past the hype.