If I told each of you that Pres. Obama has six fingers on his right hand and that’s why he’s left-handed – then each of you told 20 others – by midday tomorrow, half the country would believe it. Maybe half the world. Damned Internet!

Baseless “facts” now circle the globe at light-speed and eventually take on a life of their own. They become so ingrained in our culture they can’t be killed. An unquestioning media often picks up many of them, uses them without researching or authenticating, then someone will say to you “Last night on the news, I found out why our President is left-handed. Ever count the fingers on his right hand?”

Economic writer Morgan Housel has examined three of these lies-that-will-not-die issues, noting one of our nation’s major economic problems is the acceptance of misinformation. “A tsunami of it,” he writes. To which I would add, economic news is not the only “information” we receive daily that is without factual basis. But I digress.

The three generally accepted “facts” Housel cites are (1) most of what we buy comes from China; (2) we owe most of our trillions in national debt to China and (3) we get most of our oil from the Mideast.

None of those – I repeat – NONE of those “facts” are true. With Housel’s help – and some research of my own – we’ll demolish them one by one.

MOST OF WHAT WE BUY COMES FROM CHINA: The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks how we spend our bucks. Just over 88% of the goods and services we buy are American-made. That’s 88%! Chinese-made goods and services account for 2.7%. That’s a fact! The remaining 9% or so comes from the rest of the world.

When Housel uses those numbers, people don’t believe him. They say, for example, “Everything Walmart sells is made in China.” I really doubt that claim. But that’s what “they” say.

But these are the facts. While Walmart has a $280 billion dollar effect on our national economy, the TOTAL U.S. economy is $14.5 trillion. In addition, people buy a lot more small stuff – from Walmart and elsewhere – so it appears Chinese products represent far more things than is really the case. Look at total American purchases and the China effect is very, very small.

CHINA OWNS MOST OF OUR NATIONAL DEBT: Not true again. At the end of 2011, our national debt – again, Bureau of Labor Statistics and other federal agencies as the sources – was $14.9 trillion. Of that, China holds promissory notes for $1.3 trillion. About 7.6%. Elsewhere overseas, Japan has $1 trillion of our debt; the United Kingdom about $429 billion. Together, they hold more than China.

Know who owns most of the rest? We do. Us. There are several government funds – Social Security for example – holding it. The Federal Reserve alone has another $1.6 trillion – again, that’s more than China. Interest on Fed Reserve debt is paid back to – US. To the U.S. Treasury.

MOST OF OUR OIL COMES FROM THE MIDEAST: “You are wrong, petroleum breath!” The U.S. Energy Administration figures our consumption of Middle East oil is about 9.8%. That’s a fact. Less than 10%.

As a nation, we consume about 19-million barrels of crude products a day. About 49% of that comes from our own domestic sources. Yes, Virginia – 49%! The other 41% is imported from the rest of the world – exclusive of the Mideast – with Canada and Mexico furnishing twice as much as all Mideast countries combined.

It would be a perfect world if we could produce all the energy we need. We can’t. At least not now. But I’d settle, at the moment, for the vast majority of Americans just knowing the facts about who we buy what from. And how much.

Housel ended his epistle with the words of the late sage, Andy Rooney. “People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”

Now, forget about my fiction of the President’s added digits. Just concentrate on these three national economic myths that need setting straight. You tell 20 others – have them tell 20 – and maybe we can make a difference. Maybe.

A misconception is a misconception until people are told the truth. Then it becomes a lie.

One Response to “Lies and damned lies that just will not die”

  1. Shirl Boyce Says:

    Hi Barrett!
    Good to see that you are still at it. This is a great peace. You should send it to Mitt Romney. His recent ad is over the top asking if we want to borrow more money from the Chinese for programs we don’t need.