Why Americans Don’t Like Progressives: Case Study

Sometimes, the professional left says something true that is still self-defeating. Like the following:

Look at David Corn’s reaction to a Lord Donny Tweet crowing about a stock market rally that has been ongoing for about 7 years. Then, I’ll explain why it’s really bad…

This is true, as far as it goes. But there is a serious problem with using percentages for absolutely EVERYTHING. First of all, the highest proportion of Americans who invested in the stock market was 65 percent, in 2007, before the markets crashed. So, while David Corn is technically correct, the assumptions based on that are not correct. Many people recovered everything they lost in their 401(k) during the Obama years, but many people decided to do something else with the money, like invest in a Roth IRA.  (I’ll get back to this…)

In other words, this is irrelevant in the same way the Right Wing’s contention that the “workforce participation rate” is irrelevant to anything important. It is just as incomplete and pointless.

This is where Corn gets the 52% figure. (Source) It’s slightly old, but that’s okay. Let’s assume it has stayed steady. First of all, given that about 20 percent of Americans are too poor to even consider investing in the stock market in any significant way, it’s hard to argue that 52 percent of Americans Is a number we can just blow off as unimportant, as Corn does. Are “most Americans” unaffected by the stock market, as Corn suggests?

That’s absurd.

His claim that the top 20 percent richest Americans own 92 percent of all stocks is probably correct, but then, they also control at least 80 percent of the wealth, and the poorest 20 percent are just trying to keep the rent paid. Therefore, if you assume that all of the 20 percent richest Americans are invested in the markets, if you subtract that from the 52 percent, you are left with approximately one-third of Americans, which is quite a few Americans. Probably at least 70 million Americans depend on the stock market in some way. And just as an aside, the entire value of all stock markets in the United States is more than $28 TRILLION, which means 8 percent of that is about $2.4 trillion, which seems to be a lot of money, even spread among 70 million Americans. (Source)

And that 52 percent number is only those people who CLAIM to invest in the stock market. Many folks really have no idea they do. For example, many of those people who used to manipulate their 401(k) regularly before the mortgage meltdown and then switched over to an IRA may not even realize that their return is very much dependent on the stock markets. Likewise, many people have no idea that their mutual fund is invested in stocks. Many think they are only investing in bonds.

So, that 52 percent could possibly be higher. But even if it wasn’t, have people like David Corn (who makes a lot more than most of us from his status as a professional progressive) forgotten how many people lost their jobs when the economy lost $35 trillion in value, and the stock markets lost nearly $17 trillion? There was virtually no one who was unaffected. In fact, I spent three months in Australia in late 2008-early 2009 and even they were significantly impacted.

This is why people hate us. The only proper answer to Lord Donny’s Tweet was to smack him down for taking credit for Obama’s economic work. I responded by noting that the news media must report it or he wouldn’t know about it.

However, when you tell a family that is proud of the $200,000 they have been able to put away for retirement that the stock market doesn’t matter, eight years after that retirement account went from $100,000 to $50,000, you can’t reasonably expect them to like you. In fact, Corn, like most professional lefties, probably thinks of himself as a populist. How can you be a populist and dismiss a third of the population? Just asking for friends.

One last note: when you’re about to spew percentages as facts, think about what they actually mean. Percentages are among the most misleading statistics in existence, along with averages. Be careful.


Why Americans Don’t Like Progressives: Case Study — 2 Comments

  1. I KNOW people pay attention to their retirement. I watched retirees move from their homes to trailers, give up travel plans, and sometimes even reverse the trend and move in with their kids. So many of us are not direct stock owners having mutual funds or some other medium that a lot of the ‘ownership’ issues are masked. Banks largely vote for those holdings, too. That does not mean we don’t care. We invest in socially responsible things? Still masked. But to insist that the 1% owns everything and we do not is just wrong. We do care about the economy as a whole, and we can see that Trump’s policies mirror the 1920s headed to a major crash yet again. And you might also notice that while eviscerating Dodd-Frank, nobody is eliminating FDIC and FSLC because they know if they take down our money, even old blue haired widows will be coming for ’em. They don’t make old ladies like they used to. We have chainsaws. We know how to use ’em.

  2. I get the point of your essay, and I agree most Americans are as clueless about their investments/retirement plan as they are about the current state of affairs in American politics. I have a feeling most of their lives circle around their family, their work, and their neighborhood.

    Amen! to the point in your last paragraph. It really irks me when someone makes a specious point based on percentages, and ignores raw numbers that show a true picture. Also irks me when I try to find data, and it’s presented in a table of percentages with no raw number columns.