I consider myself a reasonable rational person, and I’d like to think I have an open mind about most things.  So when opposing views are discussed, I am quite happy to hear what the “other” side has to say and then, if I have the knowledge and inclination to do so, rebut their claims with evidence, facts, and context as needed.

Apparently, this is not the case for some other folks.  Some people think that presenting their side of an argument is sufficient to “win” the debate (in their mind), regardless of how spurious their logic is, how fallacious their arguments are, and how out-of-context their evidence might be.

Case in point:

I came across this gem on Facebook and, after some very easy fact-checking, it became obvious what a joke the implication of this Post-It note was.  (The premises being: a) gas prices were low when President Obama took office; b) gas prices are high now; therefore 1) it’s President Obama’s fault and 2) you shouldn’t vote for him because of this).

First, some context:

A) Prices of oil and gas were indeed low in January of 2009 after having grown steadily since 2001 (when George W. Bush became president), though they actually declined a bit and then hit a plateau until 2003.

Remember what happened in 2003?  That’s right, the Bush administration pushed for war in Iraq based on faulty and cherry-picked intelligence, while continuing operations in Afghanistan.  Oil (and thus gas) prices continued to increase until July of 2008, right before the U.S. stock market crash.  (There is ample evidence that speculation on the price of oil led to a bubble of sorts which facilitated and contributed to the crash.  In other words, financiers were looking to continue making money in oil on the backs of thousands of dead soldiers and civilians.)

So the market crashes, sending everything plummeting (including the price of oil), just before the inauguration of President Obama (who inherited the recession which had already started before his term).

B) Since then, as the market has slowly recovered (and oil demand returned), the price of oil (and gas) has gone back up.  Nothing really surprising in that now, is there?

See? Context matters.

As for the conclusions asserted by Mr. Post-It:

1) First, no President has any direct control over the price of gas (which is derived from the price of crude).  Why? It’s a global commodity, largely influenced by OPEC, a conglomerate made up of countries in the region where we’ve been waging war for 10 years.  If they want more money for their oil, they withhold production of crude and the price goes up (they sit on 40% of global oil production and most of the world’s reserves).

And, as you may know, the U.S. doesn’t even get most of our oil from the Middle East; our top four imports are from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Venezuela.  But, since it’s a global market for oil, we don’t catch a price break from our neighbors because they, like any other smart business entity, are telling us to “show them the money.”  Getting most of our oil from outside OPEC is more of a political move than an economic one.

Well, I guess this guy would.

Certainly the U.S. president (and his administration) can indirectly affect the price of oil (and gas).  For example, say the U.S. unilaterally invades a nation against the better judgment of the international community.  And say that invasion is based on false premises sold to a panicked citizenry.  And let’s say tax cuts are offered as a vapid olive branch to the citizens which consequently removes more money from the nation’s coffers to actually pay for the war.  Sure, those things could have a detrimental effect on the price of oil (indirectly through antagonizing OPEC) and directly on our economy.  But I mean, who would do such a thing, right?

2) So is any of the offered premises and conclusions a reason to not vote for President Obama?  I’ll leave that to you to decide, now that you have all the relevant facts and context.  But let me leave you with a few other changes that have occurred since January 2009.

* Gays and lesbians were not allowed to serve openly in the military, but now they can.

* Struggling young people can stay on their parent’s health plans longer until they get on their feet.

* Seniors pay less for prescriptions thanks to the closing of a loop hole in Medicare.

* He issued the kill order to end Osama bin Laden’s threat to the United States.

* We are no longer at war in Iraq.

* Workers with student loan debt (which has surpassed credit card debt in this country) can now have that debt forgiven after 10 years of making payments and working in public service, a traditionally low-paying and unselfish career choice.  If you pay for 20 years in any other field, the loan will also be forgiven (because paying 35 years for a 4 year education is ridiculous).

I would say that the above “changes” certainly provided “hope” for all those involved (FYI, that’s like millions of citizens).

So for all you folks out there who think you’re presenting your side of the story and hoping for an objective analysis of the situation, that’s not how “objectivity” works.

Objectivity requires full disclosure of the facts in order for them to be, you know, objective.  Leaving out information provides a set of subjective premises and leads to a subjectively biased observation (and consequently skewed conclusion).  Of course, if you don’t actually want to have an open and honest dialogue about something, then presenting only one side of an issue (and doggedly refusing to see the other) will certainly reinforce your own narrow world-view (and certainly, this is much easier to do anonymously or, you know, on the Internet).

But it won’t win you any real victories in a debate.

Advertisements