A Few Misconceptions

Just trying to clear up a few misconceptions that I’ve read in posts or comments on  Facebook or “news” websites recently.

  • Democratic presidents have presided over the greatest increase in the national debt. Franklin D. Roosevelt increased it the most and Barack Obama was second. Harry Truman was third. It could be argued that economic circumstances mandated these increases, but everyone certainly does not accept that argument.
  • The argument that Democrats tend to accept more welfare than Republicans is false. Republican-leaning “red states” (though states are represented by shades of green in the map presented here ) overwhelmingly accept more federal welfare money than do “blue states” that lean Democratic.  Further, Republican states are significantly more dependent on federal money than are Democratic states.
  • Liberals tend to believe they are more tolerant of alternative points of view, but that is not necessarily true. The number of student protests on college and university campuses over invitations to conservative speakers has led even liberal sources to express concerns over censorship. In 2016 alone at least 43 speakers were disinvited from college speaking engagements because of their political or social views. At least some protests became violent resulting in injury to individuals. Colleges and universities should be THE place open dialogue is welcome.
  • The 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to gun ownership (see District of Columbia v Heller), but that right does not extend to the unrestricted ownership of every type of firearm. Justice Scalia said so in the Heller case. Should everyone have the right to private ownership of anti-aircraft weaponry or M1A1 Abrams tanks? The idea that firearm ownership should be unrestricted emerged in the 1970’s when the National Rifle Association, an organization created to promote sportsmanship and responsible gun ownership, was taken over by radical groups focused on absolute gun ownership. Prior to the takeover the NRA actually supported reasonable restrictions on gun ownership such as permits and waiting periods. Conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger once said that the 2nd Amendment’s development since the 1970s “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word –fraud — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime”.
  • James Comey hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances for reelection, but Hillary mostly did it to herself. She never grasped the impact her private email server was having on the public’s trust of her as a candidate. A recent CNN Report makes it pretty clear that this one issue doomed her candidacy. Other factors contributed to the public’s lack of trust, but the email issue was most important in the eyes of the voters.
  • President Trump won the Electoral College in the 2016 election by 306 to 232 electors but he lost the popular vote by 2,868,691 votes. In spite of President Trump’s claims to the contrary, there is no credible evidence  that voter fraud had a significant impact on the final vote tallies. Some voter fraud is to be expected when over 120 million people vote, but the number of fraudulent voters is very small.
  • Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America. Although the time reference cannot yet be agreed upon, we certainly know that Native Americans came here thousands of years before Columbus. Evidence also suggests that Vikings Leif Eriksson and Thorfinn Karlsefni arrived centuries earlier.
  • According to most economists and other pundits, including  conservative writer Juan Williams and contributors to the conservative leaning Washington Examiner, President Trump’s proposed budget would most hurt the very voters who put him in office.  The cuts affect sick children, loans for students to attend college, people confined to nursing homes, and other healthcare for the elderly. The wealthiest Americans would apparently do very well because of tax breaks, the elimination of estate taxes, and similar provisions in the plan. This would continue a three-decade trend concentrating wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. The impact on the middle class is uncertain because the proposed budget is apparently pretty vague in a number of areas.
  • A pie chart circulating on Facebook indicates that 57% of federal expenditures are dedicated to the military and only 1% to food and agriculture. The truth is that we spend about 16.4% of our budget on the military and about 4% on food-related expenditures. Still, we spend more than $550 billion per year on the military and that will grow to more than $600 billion if President Trump’s current budget proposal passes Congress.
  • American citizens pay significantly more for healthcare than do citizens in other similar nations, but we have a lower life expectancy.  Americans spent an estimated $3.4 trillion on medical care in 2016, and forecasters say that may grow to $5.5 trillion by 2025 because our population is aging and because costs of medical services and drugs are growing at a rapid pace. By 2025 healthcare may consume 1/5 of our total economy. So the belief held by many that the free market will take care of healthcare costs appears false.
  • Even though a good many Americans do not believe it, the truth is that less than 1% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid. That money goes for such things as HIV/AIDS prevention and other health-related projects, helping maintain forests (which produce clean air for everyone regardless of nationality), combatting drug trafficking, economic development, and various other humanitarian projects.  Opinions regarding whether we should be spending money for these projects depend on one’s ideology. We spend in the neighborhood of $50 billion per year on foreign aid. By comparison, after paying medical and other benefits to soldiers we will have spent more than $2 trillion (about 40 times as much) on the War in Iraq. We also spend well over $200 billion per year in interest on the debt. Interest on the debt doesn’t impact AIDS or forests.

I’m currently working on a webpage to host this blog, and with my technical skills this may take a while! I’m trying to save a few bucks because the current host is fairly expensive. As a consequence I’m not adding posts to the blog as frequently as I’d like, but I’ll keep it going as time permits. Let me know if there are topics you would like me to address. I may not know anything about the topic but that has never stopped me before!