Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2008]
A little over one year ago:
1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.
Since voting in a Democratic Congress in 2006 we've seen:
1) Consumer confidence plummet;
2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3 a gallon;
3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.
America voted for change in 2006, and we got it!
Origins: This piece is one of the more ludicrous examples of the post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") fallacy we've received in a long time.
We'll start by noting that it's not technically correct to claim the public voted "in a Democratic Congress in 2006." The Democrats did gain
The other major fallacies here are the notions that a single party with control of only the House of Representatives (but not the Senate or the White House) could have, by itself, brought about all the economic conditions described above, and that it could have done so in the space of a single year. The financial woes currently being experienced in the U.S. are due to a multiplicity of factors (many of which are completely outside the purview of Congress), including policies of the current and previous presidential administrations, previous Congressional actions (or inactions), institutional investment decisions, credit expansion, market forces, and global events. Moreover, all these factors are part of ongoing processes that were underway well before 2007, as political/economic commentator Kevin Phillips described in his 2008 book,
By 2007 total indebtedness was three times the size of the gross domestic product, a ratio that surpassed the record set in the years of the Great Depression. From 2001 to 2007 alone, domestic financial debt grew to
The second component of the perfect storm is the upheaval in the oil industry. Domestic production peaked in 1971, and there are signs that production worldwide is also peaking.
Finally, Mr. Phillips turns to what he terms America's "calcified" political system. We may need new regulations to deal with the debt mess, along with an energy policy to address the changing world of oil, but Washington, he says, has become dedicated to "the politics of evasion," reluctant to pass dramatic reforms or to call for sacrifice from the public. Democrats and Republicans alike are so entrenched, so dependent on campaign money and special interests, that "the notion of a breath of fresh air has become almost a contradiction in terms."
Last updated: 21 April 2008
Gewen, Barry. "What Ails the American Economy? Everything, and There's Worse to Come." The New York Times. 21 April 2008 (p. B7). Phillips, Kevin. Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism. New York: Viking, 2008. ISBN 0-670-01907-0. Reuters. "Greenspan Won't Take Rap for Housing Meltdown." Los Angeles Times. 8 April 2008.