Myths Lead to Bad Policy

What we think we know for sure may not be right at all. If this is the case, we will make policy based on the wrong facts and data. You might think this doesn’t mean you, but let me throw a few commonly held beliefs that aren’t true. These are ones in no particular order that irritated me this past week. Truth is especially crucial in an election year.

The Middle Class is shrinking. This is true, but not for the reason most people think. The implication is people are falling out of the middle class and ending up in the lower levels. The truth is both the lower and middle classes have shrunk. Where did the people go? To the upper-middle class. According to a study published by the Bookings Institute, since 1967, the upper Middle Class grew from 6% to 33%. in 2016. Instead of the dark world of falling or stagnant incomes, we keep hearing about, the truth is quite good. Those who think African Americans have been left out, their participation rose from 1% to 14% in the same period. Like the TV show, “the Jeffersons” many are moving up to the East Side. They finally got a piece of the pie. In any case, this should’ve been evident by observing more people buying better cars and bigger houses.

Automation Cost the U.S. more jobs than Globalization. We are manufacturing just as much as always. We’re just doing with more robots and fewer people. Elites have given this excuse for a dismal China Policy on both sides of the aisle. They claimed the Clinton Administration’s welcoming China into the World Trade Organization didn’t really do much harm to U.S.manufacturing workers. This argument has always seemed questionable. People across the rust belt said they were feeling the pain. Former Senator Rick Santorum even wrote a book, “Blue Collar Conservatives,” about what was happening in states like Pennsylvania. Few read it. Elites claimed the data said otherwise. One who did read the book was Donald J. Trump. He saw how these people suffering real harm. He fit into his Mercantilist economic view. He hammered Globalization in the ’16 election and won. The Rust Belt went for him. 

Elites claimed Trump conned the people with a lie. It turns out Santorum by listening to his constituents was right. A study by Susan N. Houseman, Director of Research at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Points out the data so many relied on was faulty. Instead of manufacturing remaining steady in the face of Globalization, she showed the data recorded healthy growth only by how one industry was handled. Computers led to distortion. Houseman provides us with two charts that tell the story. 

The automation argument was always dubious. How could we be so automated when we badly trail Korea, Singapore, Japan, and Germany in the number of robots in use? 

With the number of deaths at New Highs, we can’t Re-open. With the nation engaged in the great re-opening debate, on August 13, an ABC anchor stated the “United States is reporting the highest number of deaths in a single day–nearly 1500.” This wasn’t just on the ABC News site but appeared on the widely watched Good Morning America and other places. I never saw it on ABC but heard repeated by people opposing the re-opening of our schools. How could we send kids and teachers back to school when we are experiencing record deaths? This didn’t match any figures I’ve seen. Not even close. As it turned out, ABC blew it. Even the accompanying graphic gave the lie to what the news-person said. The toll given wasn’t even half of what we experienced in April. Still, it was ABC, not QAnon, and bad news travels fast. We still have people citing record deaths to keep things in lock-down.

President Trump was Responsible for our Lack of testing early on. This really has a life of its own. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal recently published a lengthy report placing the blame squarely on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA). Our bureaucracy managed to lose a precious three weeks needed to get out in front of the pandemic. This wasn’t the first time they screwed up. If swine flu had been as deadly as Covid-19, we could’ve had two million deaths. This was under the Obama administration. Different Presidents, but we had the same bureaucracy.

Getting things right is essential to avoid the wrong policy. If we know what’s going on, we have a much better chance of solving problems. It makes a massive difference if we become convinced we’re sliding towards poverty, or this is still a society with upward mobility. In the first case, our institutions have failed us, and we need a wholesale change. If the American dream is still intact, we may need only incremental improvement. How we tax and spend depends on what we believe to be true.

If you’ve benefited from lower prices or selling in China, it’s comforting to think working Americans would harmed anyway by automation. We can overlook China’s predatory practices on trade and liberty. An excellent example of these mental gymnastics is the NBA. Making tons of money in China it ignores civil rights violations in Hong Kong or China’s Muslim community. While encouraging the wearing of Black Lives Matter T-Shirts to show the NBA’s commitment to “rights,” it forces executives to recant any criticism of China. They claim while China may hurt their own people, they’re not harming Americans. They seem to be blissfully unaware of their American fans losing their jobs. The truth is that many Chicago Bulls, Detroit Piston, Milwaukee Bucks, and Indian Pacers fans did lose their jobs to China.

This head in the sand attitude towards China may explain why China was hardly mentioned at the recent Democratic Convention. Like the NBA, the focus on some civil rights problems at home while ignoring horrors abroad. This in the face of our being an ever-deepening a cold war with China. No wonder so many were utterly amazed, Donald Trump was elected President.

We have to know the best place for our children is in school. This is especially true of the lower grades. We know from experience abroad that the risk is small compared to the harm done by keeping kids out of school. We know this on a cerebral level, but there is an emotional factor involved. That’s why news of ever-rising death totals from Covid-19 can panic us into keeping schools closed. Correcting false reports later just doesn’t work. We still hear at the highest levels of Michael Brown’s death being called unjustified. This is in the face of multiple investigations, including the Obama justice department, declaring the opposite. It’s hard to stop a lie. That’s why the press needs to get right in the first place.

If we don’t place the blame where it belongs, we stand a good chance of repeating the errors. In the case of epidemics, we depend on the CDC and the FDA to protect us. This is the case no matter who is the President. If we blame the current President and don’t reform the bureaucracy that screwed up the last two pandemics, we will repeat the deadly results. Having said this, Presidents need to maintain a hotline open to the scientific and medical communities at large. Someway for the Companies, Universities, and hospitals wanting to move ahead with tests ASAP and were turned away could’ve appealed the terrible bureaucratic actions. The idea that science and truth reside only among our bureaucrats is silly on its face.

At least I got this off my chest. Unfortunately, there will be other myths next week.

One thought on “Myths Lead to Bad Policy

  1. The biggest myth this year is that this virus warranted societal lock downs and hysterical fear. Millions were not going to die. Yet, it has proved how non-thinking the majority of Americans are.

    Like

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