Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/27/2016 --There has been a recent outcry against so-called "fake news," and rightly so, given the impact that slickly packaged clickbait fictions had on the discourse regarding the recent election. Outrageous fabrications, such as Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a DC pizza joint, or supposed Democratic intentions to impose Islamic Sharia law in Florida, or thousands of Trump supporters repeatedly chanting "We hate Muslims" at a Manhattan rally—these are the sorts of stories, masterfully manipulated to seem legitimate and engineered to go viral and spread through the Internet, that are receiving the majority of the outcry. Even Facebook is vowing to "do something" about fake news, if that's even possible.
These obvious (to many of us) fakes aren't the whole story, though. Looking at the history of reporting, we see a landscape littered with exaggerations, lies, and setups: the recent Rolling Stone coverage of a gang-rape hoax at UVA; Janet Cooke's imaginary 8 year old heroin addict; the 1993 Dateline episode where a truck was rigged to explode when the presumed safety flaw (fuel leaking from the tank) didn't provide the hoped-for dramatic effect. Historically, there is the case of Walter Duranty, whose reporting in the New York Times helped Stalin's Russia conceal the Holodomor, the intentional famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933, from the United States and the world. Duranty's work even received a Pulitzer which has never been withdrawn.
Beyond these specific examples, the glaring fakes and the willful fabrications, there is an even deeper problem that we as citizens and investors must contend with: a systemic and systematic degradation of the quality of the news we receive, a willing collaboration between mainstream media and government institutions that provides all the "good news" that can be manufactured. Cable news parrots the relentlessly upbeat message of recovery and growth being spouted by the Fed and the White House, and we are left without facts, having to dig through questionable reports to find the real numbers.
Let's look at that supposed recovery and growth. The Gallup organization was recently asked by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness to perform a comprehensive study on growth and productivity. Among their findings was this: since 2007, United States GDP has grown by a total of one percent. One. Percent. In nearly nine years. Their conclusion? "The Great Recession may be over, but America is dangerously running on empty." The only real way to fill America's tank is to increase growth and reduce inflation in America's three biggest costs (healthcare, housing, and education), but we simply won't have the will to do this as long as the government promotes and the media repeat the "conventional wisdom" that we've recovered, and growth is going just great, thanks!
It's not only the media that lie to us, though. We lie to ourselves. The post-election run up in stock prices and bond yields is an example. The election of Donald Trump resolved a long, ugly period of political uncertainty, and in relief the markets have surged, but corporate earnings have not. The S&P 500 is trading at 27.9 times the corporate earnings of the last ten years, a level last seen just before the market crash of 1929. Energy companies have exorbitant p/e ratios, their stocks priced for $115 oil rather than the actual $55. The financial sector is full of problematic stocks that are likely to get a beatdown during earnings reporting season. Add to that the fact that many investors are delaying profit-taking for what they perceive to be tax reasons who will be stuck in the middle of the rush to sell, January 2017 seems set to be a bloodbath, the worst we've seen since last January's selloff. And that doesn't even take into account the effects of the Fed's interest rate hike, which happened just before a quad witching day when stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures expired on the same day last Friday.
The Bank for International Settlements, essentially the central banker to the central banks, released a quarterly report this month where they write that the economy is due for a "paradigm shift." In the report, they say that the markets seem to think that everything is going to be fine and they're viewing the transition over to Trump with complete assurance but ignoring the $20 trillion in debt that we're sitting on and the poor economic numbers we've had for the last 8 years. It's not an economic nirvana out there. We're just borrowing growth from our future. We as investors need to heed this warning, pay attention to the warning signs.
Are we living in a fake news, post-truth world, a post-reality economy? When we can't agree on basic facts or even that there are such things as facts, you have to ask yourself 'How do we talk to each other?' My answer is as it so often is: we must dig for the facts ourselves, be on the offensive against passively receiving news that could truly impact our lives and well-being from our social media feeds, the mainstream media, and even the government and our elected officials. This is not only essential to protect ourselves, but is a basic act of patriotism, of caring for our neighbors and our society.
For over a quarter century, Dawn Bennett has been successfully guiding clients through the complexities of wealth management. Her unique vision and insight into market trends makes Bennett a much sought after expert resource with regular appearances on Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and MSNBC as well as being featured in Business Week, Fortune, The NY Times, The NY Sun, Washington Business Journal in addition to her highly regarded weekly talk radio program - Financial Mythbusting. Through prudent and thoughtful advice, Dawn Bennett has strived to consistently provide the highest quality of guidance.
About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett.