CORRUPTION WATCH-Thank you Donald Trump for alerting us to a deadly serious problem: Alt-Facts. We are accustomed to Alt-Facts being sprinkled throughout sources of information like small doses of arsenic in our food so that we do not notice how our minds and thinking processes are being poisoned. The Donald, however, makes non-stop use of Alt-Facts. The best part of his Alt-Facts is that they are so obviously fake.
The Donald did not invent Alt-Facts, but many of Americans treat a panoply of long standing myths as true.
Here are some national issues that are misrepresented with Alt-Facts:
Foreign Aid: The general public believes that 25% of the Federal budget goes to foreign aid. You will hear people say we should stop giving away our money to other countries before helping people at home. The Real Fact is that less than 1% of the Federal budget goes to foreign aid.
3 to 5 Million Illegal Votes: Anyone who does not know about Trump’s bogus claim that he lost the popular vote because there were 3 to 5 million illegal votes for Hillary must have been sealed in an ice cave for the last several months. The interesting thing about Alt-Facts is that after they are proven completely false, their promoter sticks with them.
PBS and NPR Cost Too Much: Trump says he will help balance the budget, which by the way is a really foolish idea, by cutting things like the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. Some people believe that PBS and NPR use 5% of the Federal budget, but the Real Fact is that together they are 0.01% (1/100th of 1%) of the Federal budget.
Military Spending is Discretionary: Because the amount spent on the military is adjusted each year by Congress, people say it is “discretionary,” but I call this an Alt-Fact. Having a military is not discretionary, and thus, spending money on the military is not discretionary. The Real question should be what type of military do we need and how can we pay for it. One way of figuring it says the military is 57% of the budget. Another way of looking at the Federal budget says military spending is only 16%. Why do we argue over different Alt-Facts when both approaches are false? Shouldn’t we grow up as a country and realize that arguing over whose Alt-Fact is correct is not beneficial for any of us?
Here are some areas where we find Alt-Facts that directly affect Los Angeles:
Pensions & Benefits: The general public believes that 10% of Federal budget goes to pensions and benefits, when the real number is 3.2%. Also, if we were spending 10% on pensions and benefits, what would be wrong with that? The government’s main function is to provide services. Thus, spending money on pensions and benefits is required in order to have a government.
At times, however, cities like Los Angeles have huge pension deficits, but the Alt-Fact with LA’s pension deficit is that the pensions themselves are not the problem. No, the problem is that the City has been deliberately under-funding its pensions. If the City had not been committing fraud by not making reasonable contributions to the pension funds, we would not be facing a huge future deficit. The fraud on the public is the false representation that the City is putting away enough money to pay the pensions when city employees retire.
As one can see, Alt-Fact based upon Alt-Fact can lead us into a terrible situation. Had the City of LA been making realistic contributions to the pension funds over the years, we would not be facing a future deficit. Now people want to reduce the pensions for newly hired people. That is an Alt-Fact solution since we know that when we lower the compensation packages, we end up with less qualified employees who do a worse job -- and end up costing the city more money. For one thing, bad employees make mistakes which increase the likelihood of the City being sued.
LA City’s Lawsuit Settlements: The mayor intentionally understated the size of the upcoming lawsuit settlements and verdicts. Now that the money has to be paid, the City has to borrow about $60 million. If the City had not used Alt-Facts about the liabilities facing us, we would not have to pay Wall Street interest on the money which we now must borrow to pay for the lawsuits. Without the Alt-Facts that the City is using to mislead the public about our true liabilities, the City might not have given $197 million to the private Grand Avenue Project. That is triple the current “lawsuit deficit.”
Measure S Opponents Say ‘S’ Stops All Construction: Some people who oppose Measure S on the March 2017 Primary Election ballot claim it will stop all construction. That Alt-Fact merits a Liar, Liar House on Fire rating. That is like saying laws against shopping lifting will ban all shopping. The only projects that are temporarily halted are illegal projects. People should ask themselves, what is it that’s wrong with Los Angeles that it now needs to have another law to say it is illegal to break the law?
Why do we like Alt-Facts?
The main reason people like Alt-Facts is that they are manufactured to tell people what they want to hear. When Garcetti gets on TV and tells Angelenos that we are moving ahead, when all the independent demographic data show that Los Angeles is moving backwards and that LA is at the bottom of the list for almost all the measures of the good life, people feel good. Unlike the orange buffoon who makes Alt-Facts so obvious, Garcetti is smooth. His brilliance is shown in his use of photo-ops. Unlike Football Tommy (former CD 4 Councilmember Tom La Bonge), who used to elbow his way to the camera, Garcetti appears almost reticent to appear. If we gave Oscars for presenting Alt-Facts, Eric Garcetti would win every year.
The public is better off when Alt-Facts are yelled at us by lunatics like Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Steve (media should shut-up) Bannon and most recently and most frighteningly Stephen (“Actung, Thou shalt not question!”) Miller. Nonetheless, making decisions based upon Alt-Facts will never result in wise policy by a nation or by a city.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.