Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Misinformation Superhighway

There's an odd chart that seems to be floating around the interwebs these days. It shows the percentage of National debt increases under Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama.

Based solely on the numbers shown from this chart, it's safe to say that the Republican Presidents are the villains of the story. With absurdly high percent increases, Reagan clocks in at raising the debt by 155%, Bush Sr. by 55%, Clinton 37%, Bush Jr. 115%, and Obama 35%.

You can find that chart here, on Nancy Pelosi's Flickr page.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/5684032538/in/set-72157623367757714

To tell you the truth, I don't know which is worse. The fact that Nancy Pelosi has a Flickr account, or that this graph is essentially worthless for proving the point it seems it was meant to prove; that under Democrat Presidents the National Debt has only raised a teeny tiny amount in comparison to the heinously evil amount those dastardly vile Republican Presidents have raised it.

When I first saw it I thought, "Wow."

Then, just to be sure, I used Google to do what Google does best; Google things.

Just by punching in a few words and clicking the mouse here and there, I came up with these facts.

When Ronald Reagan was sworn in, in 1980 the National debt was $712 billion. When he left office in 1988 it was approximately $2 trillion.

When President George H.W. Bush was sworn in, in 1989 the Reagan debt remained and by the time he left office in 1993 the National debt was, and I'm rounding up here, about $4.4 trillion.

So Clinton came in, starting with $4.4 trillion in debt and at the end of his Presidency in 2001 had added about $1.5 trillion to the debt, and at the end of his Presidency and the beginning of George W. Bush's, the total debt was approximately $5.7 trillion. (Yes, Clinton did pay down some of our debt. But from the 1993 fiscal year we were at $4.4 trillion, increased to $5.7 trillion at the 2001 fiscal year mark.)

When W. left office in 2009 the debt was $10.6 trillion.

It's September of 2011 now, nearly October, and the national debt, according the live calculator, is $14.7 trillion and rising.

Under President George W. Bush's eight years in office our debt increased by $4.9 trillion. Under President Barack Obama's three years so far, the debt has increased $4.1 trillion.

I learned all of these things just by using Google, which is powered by this thing called "The internet." You may have heard of it.

Wait, but the graph says that under W. the National debt went up 115%, and under Obama it's only gone up 35%. Doesn't that mean he's spent a lot less money? 35 is so much smaller than 115. 35 pieces of pie is so many less pieces of pie than 115.

Ah, the deceiving abilities of percentages.

I'm not using these numbers as a way to hi-five one President over the other. Our Country has a spending problem, period. What I do want to do with the information, however, is inform people. See that? The INFORMation INFORMs the people. Weird how that works.


But from the looks of it, information, as Bruce Campbell might say, doesn't mean "but two things right now: Jack and shit. And Jack left town."

See, information should mean a lot. But the bigger problem today, yes, bigger even than our National debt, is this rise of the Misinformation Superhighway. A rip-roaring ride through the "interwebs", as the kids say, to places we thought we'd never go. Yes, the Misinformation Superhighway! If you're willing to believe in a place that exists only in your mind, well, the Misinformation Superhighway takes you there. You can even bring your friends!

Scrolling through the Facebook comments alone on the graph Pelosi had posted, (I originally saw it on Facebook), it was astounding how much Democrats were touting those percentages as victories. As if they meant something they didn't actually mean. It's safe to say that most people who saw that graph assumed the percent sign was actually a dollar sign, and that the increases made in the national debt were in dollars and not percents.

Well that was wrong. And everyone who assumed that was wrong.

But hey, it's the internet! The one place you don't actually have to be held accountable for what you say because, if someone calls you out, you can delete their comments, or remain silent, or delete the post altogether.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many issues do you think people feel they are actually informed on and, in reality, aren't even close to the truth? I'm going to say a lot.

And this graph, posted by Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, current House Minority Leader, was meant to do what? Make the people believe Obama has spent oodles and oodles less than any President so far?

He's spent $.8 trillion less in three years than Bush Jr. spent in eight. Congratulations?

Someone like Pelosi, in such a high and respectable position, should have the guts to post things like the truth. Instead, she'd rather fuel and perpetuate this discordance between parties because, why exactly?

Both parties do it. Both parties have done it since the beginning and will continue to do it until the end. This is just one example of how easily misled the public can get because they've simply taken someone at their word. Do you know how easy it is to do the research for yourself? Why it's as easy as saying to yourself what everyone seems to be saying to everyone else these days, "Just Google it."

I'm not trying to persuade you on how to place your vote, I'm just trying to encourage you to think for yourself. This debt misconception is massive. And I'm sure there are gobs of policies you could throw in my face about Democrats versus Republicans, or vice versa. But that isn't the point. The point is, we all have brains. I think it's high time we actually started using them.

If I wanted to get to Mexico and I asked someone for directions and they told me to get on the I-5 North, to take it all the way up past Washington and boom, I'd be in Mexico, and I followed these directions, would I get to Mexico? Nay. I'd be in Canada. If I'd wanted to party it up with the gang from Degrassi I'd have asked how to get to Canada. But I wanted to go to Mexico.

Now I know what you're thinking. "That is an absurd example."

But do you know what I'm thinking?

"No it's not."

Whoever that Jack was who sent me the wrong way told me to hop on the wrong highway, and I listened to him. I didn't go to Map Quest to confirm the directions, or Google Maps, I just trusted him because he seemed like an honest guy with a wife and kids and two dogs and a pretty house with a nice smelling rosebush out front.

But I should have thanked him, then did the research on my own just to be sure I wasn't being led in the wrong direction. Ultimately, my being misled was no one's fault but my own.

Stop taking people, especially Politicians, at their word for everything. And when you listen to someone without doing any thinking for yourself, stop blaming everyone else when you discover you've been misled. It's time to accept some responsibility, not in that you were tricked, but that you allowed yourself to be tricked.

I like to believe people are good. But some of them aren't always too interested in being good and are more interested in getting ahead or servicing themselves. Be aware and careful of these people. You don't want to end up lost, miles and miles from your goal, stuck in traffic on the Misinformation Superhighway thinking, "Where am I and how do I get back?"

5 comments:

  1. It's odd to me that people seem more interested in blaming the President for the escalating debt, and not Congress. Last I checked, the purse strings were held in their five hundred thirty-five hands, not the President's. If you want to blame the President for something, show a chart that reflects how many American service members have died in battle or from wounds suffered in battles during his presidency.

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  2. You're right. Congress is too often overlooked. Under both Bush and Obama, when their own party controlled both the House and Senate, the debt sky rocketed. (I feel like it's that, "we can get away with this now..." mentality.)

    In Iraq, there were way more causalities under Bush than there have been under Obama. But just the opposite in Afghanistan. But as far as the numbers go, more servicemen and women, total, died under Bush's command than have died under Obama's.

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  3. Wonderful research. We see the manipulation of statistics all the time. My favorite is "save up to 50%" on this item when you come into our store. Up to 50% includes 0%.

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