Everything is true. Tapping on a phone, or keyboard, you can find the facts to support almost any claim. That is because facts can be synthesized too. Once pushed out into the Internet, any idea, no matter how absurd, will find a believer. Believers will gather virtually into an audience then form a tribe. And once you are part of a tribe, you are never alone. When you let go of truth, there is freedom in every direction. Liberty means that you can live in a world where all thoughts are confirmed and the blessed buzz of dopamine flows through your brain like the mighty Mississippi. As I considered all the possibilities of joy that a conspiracy theory can engender, I asked, why not me? I want to be validated. I want to be part of a tribe. I want my own conspiracy theory.
Any good conspiracy theory, and all effective propaganda, starts with the nub of a fact. We saw a few conspiracy theories tossed out during the impeachment hearings. They all started with facts. Ukraine exists. There were people who didn’t like Trump in Ukraine. There is corruption in Ukraine. People don’t like corruption. You see what I mean? It is possible to string together a series of general truths that are simple to understand and provide a platform for a good conspiracy theory.
Next, you need to have a goal. What is your conspiracy theory trying to accomplish? Let’s take one. It is vital to the president to prove that Ukraine is hostile to Trump. How do you do that? Turn a few people into a country. There were commentators and a handful of politicians in Ukraine who opposed Trump in 2016. Why? Because in public remarks he had conceded part of their invaded country to Russia. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, said that Crimea was still part of Ukraine. So, naturally, people who didn’t like to be invaded preferred Clinton.
Next, say the false thing over and over, and have other seemingly smart people validate what you are saying. In this case, the big lie is: There are people in Ukraine who hate Trump, so Ukraine worked with the Democrats to defeat Trump. And there it is. Take a few facts, manufacture a few new ones and you have a conspiracy theory. Just yesterday, a US senator was on a Sunday morning talk show stating this conspiracy was a fact. You are going to hear this one a lot in the next couple of months. It is the basis for Trump’s non-defense, defense.
But what about me? I want my own conspiracy theory. OK … here goes:
I follow the stock market and the economy closely. Like millions of Americans, my retirement is now dependent on the stock and bond markets. So, a few facts. We have been in a bull market since Obama kept us out of another Great Depression in 2009. While the job mix is not working for all Americans, the job numbers are terrific. Across the board, businesses big and small are doing well. The GDP, while not going gangbusters, has been constantly above 2 per cent. Oil production is high, keeping gas prices low. Trump’s deregulation has been a boon for many business sectors. The tax cut meant that corporations can recover cash and do stock buy backs to keep their own stock prices high. The Fed, in response to Trump and Wall Street, has lowered interest rates and restarted Quantitative Easing (large scale buying of government bonds basically throwing money into the economy). Sentiment surveys consistently say people feel good about the economy. Finally, and this is the key to my conspiracy theory, the single biggest predictor of the reelection of a president is a humming economy. Like it or not, the president is the economy. People will ignore almost anything if they feel economically secure.
That’s an impressive collection of facts, isn’t it? Without a doubt, the single biggest factor to the Republicans and Trump retaining power is the economy. Trump is very good for big business. Given that, why would you believe the economy is not being manipulated to make sure Trump is reelected?
Let me be clear … I am sure the American economy is being manipulated to reelect Trump and that once he is reelected all of the economic influencers will take their hand off the scale and the markets/economy will revert to the normal business cycle. We will have a recession.
I watch CNBC and Fox Business Network. In the last year, the market gurus have begun to sound like cult members. “The markets will keep going up because they have been going up.” What? We have been in a 10-year bull market. That has never happened before. The world economy has been shaky for a while. American stands alone. That isn’t a good thing. The Fed is throwing every tool they have at keeping the economy pumped up. But in doing so, they are violating their mandate to keep some tools on the sidelines for an inevitable downturn. They are all-in on keeping this aging bull market alive. Why?
Unless you watch and read business news, you cannot begin to understand the terror that Democratic candidates like Bernie and Warren have unleashed. I don’t agree with their policies but that doesn’t matter. For big business, stopping them is an imperative. And, they have come to see the moderate Democrats as unreliable. So, the most important thing they can do is manage their companies for the election. Not for stockholders, the election. It may be the only way they are thinking beyond the next quarter’s numbers. Keeping Trump in power is essential to their bottom line.
Trump will also use all of his tools to keep the markets and economy right where they are. Billions of borrowed Chinese money to farmers to cover for the insane tariffs … you bet. And the Chinese this week said that they like having Trump around because in his simple-minded economic understanding he is absolutely predictable and easy to manipulate by tossing him a bone. Wait for it. There will be a trade deal before the election. It serves long-term Chinese interests.
The core to my conspiracy theory is simple: who benefits? There are entirely too many ways that big business and Trump are dependent upon each other for both to resist manipulating the economy over the next year. I think we are already seeing it. You just have to pay close attention. As always, “It’s the economy stupid!”
Please share this essay because, you know, that’s how a good conspiracy theory works.