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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Do you know what you’re investing in, and where?

Posted by James McPherson on July 11, 2012

The question above may be trickier than it looks, but since many right-wing media have decided that their readers are clueless about how investment funds work. Maybe they’re right–they’d know their audiences better than I do–but, regardless, the question in the headline seems worth asking today.

The Weekly Standard yesterday offered a post critical of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who while in enemy territory on Sunday commented about Mitt Romney and the millions of dollars he has apparently stashed in banks in offshore accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, “Americans need to ask themselves, why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments like that?”

The Standard post notes, “But disclosure forms reveal that in 2010, Wasserman Schultz invested between $1,001-$15,000 in a 401k retirement fund run by Davis Financial Fund. As the fund discloses, it is invested in the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and the State Bank of India GDR Ltd., as well as other financial, insurance, bank institutions.” Predicatably, the post was then picked up by Fox News, Human EventsNewsmax, examiner.com, Twitchy, and their conservative acolytes. You can see mostly identical examples here, here, hereherehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. (And no, I don’t expect anyone to go to all of the links; I simply wanted to partially demonstrate how far and fast ignorance can be repeated).

Some of the posts–like this one, which is actually kind of funny, if you overlook the inaccuracy–actually outrightly lie, saying that Wasserman Schultz “had her own Swiss bank account.” Keep in mind that I’m not defending the hypocracy or lying that run rampant in politics on both sides of the political aisle. But pretending that Wasserman Schultz’s foreign investments–and perhaps yours–are the moral equivalent of Romney’s is a major stretch. The two have almost nothing in common.

For one thing, the Congresswoman ISN’T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. Even if she were, her investments were public (declared on her financial disclosure form), pretty small (less than $15,000) and occurred years ago. Any idea how much Romney still has stashed abroad today? Most importantly, the investments–which, again, were far different from “overseas accounts”–were made by the manager of her retirement fund, not directly by her. For an embarrassing example of why that matters, I’ll share a brief story:

A few years ago, using an IRS Form 990, one of my students found out that the Christian university where I work was unknowingly investing in Abercrombie & Fitch–a company popular with many college students, but not one most Christian institutions would choose to affiliate with. The investments were made by a financial manager, of course, and the student’s story led to a change in investment policy by the university’s board of trustees. In fact, chances are that if you have a retirement fund you have no idea which companies your money is supporting at any given moment. (For the record, my own retirement fund is set up to avoid certain industries, based on my own politics, but the many individual companies that get small pieces of my money vary widely and change with time.)

Oh, speaking of money: Americans paid record-low amounts of federal income taxes during Barack Obama’s first year as president. I wonder if the Weekly Substandard will get a conservative meme going about that.

14 Responses to “Do you know what you’re investing in, and where?”

  1. SBJ; does it really matter where a man/woman stores his/her booty, er loot?

  2. James McPherson said

    It does matter to a lot of folks, who think someone who wants to be president ought to be investing in the country s/he wants to lead.

    And I suppose there are other factors related to transparency; after all, how would you feel about your favorite candidate if you found out that s/he had been investing in Chinese child labor, or in Iranian missile technology? Those obviously are extreme examples, but we fall somewhere on a continuum in terms of the things we care about as voters. Thanks for the question.

  3. Reuel said

    Yes the investments of anyone whom chooses a elected office should be vetted. All persons activity and financial transaction should be know. Have you looked at the last Speaker of the House and her financial gains while serving in congress. The problem is all Governor Romney and Ex Speaker Pelosi did and are doing are not against any law. That we know. Also the voter on both sides are basically unaware of any of the real truths, they hear the talking point and that is the end of their thoughts on the matter. Both sides use half truths, because both sides have the understanding that most that voters think that “Hope and Change” or “Forward” or what ever the flavor of the week is a real working plan. We didn’t get to 17 trillion dollars in debt by one persons action or a clever politic Sloan. We got there by the majority of the voters using the (WIIFM) factor. (Whats in it for me). Whomever promises the most is about to come full circle and the reality of the federal debt going to turn this country into a situation we now see happening in Chicago. Mayor Godfather Rahm is seeing it with a front row seat. He is doing pretty much the same as Governor Walker with cuts but he seems to get a pass.We demonize the ones that tell us the truth and reward the one’s that promise what they can no longer afford. Yes to many voters on both side are mind numb about what both sides are really saying and doing. It’s to late to fix it, but all will even out in the end.

  4. Reuel said

    PS: Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s is no angel. She just puts that act on when in public. You should hear her behind closed door? WOW. She is where she is because she can repeat talking point and never really answer the questions she is asked. Oh and she is very rich and has two houses one in Florida and the other in a very prestigious part of the NE. I think she also has a condo or house in the Washington area too. A real fighter for the real people. LOL 🙂

  5. James McPherson said

    Reuel, I agree with most of what you’ve written. And of course I don’t know how angelic DWS is, though I generally assume no one in national politics is very “nice”–even less so if they head the DNC or the RNC. And I’m sure she’s rich–almost everyone in Congress is, unfortunately.

  6. Reuel said

    The heck with this, wait till you see the things the Sec of Treasury is doing to get passed November. Any business in the world that played with figures like this would see their self’s in jail. How much you want to bet the national debt is higher than being reported? I don’t gamble but they are. You can see the stress in Gietners(Turbo Tax genus) face when he speaks. I wonder if he ever made up that 100,000 dollars he owed? Sorry I don’t know how to spell his name, that is only a misdemeanor. I am wondering if I should shelter some money overseas myself, legally of course as it seems Romney has. The problem with the whole attack on his money and where he has it is going to back fire, Lots of people on the left are doing the same thing. Bain is also toast, 3 out of the four (ARE DEMOCRATS and TWO OF THEM SUPPORT OBAMA) that were at Bain and are talking about it, say he had no control after February 1999. CNN reporting not Fox.

  7. Not to offend, SBJ, but I kinda have a big crush on Reuel.

  8. James McPherson said

    Not offended in the least–why would I be?

  9. Reuel said

    Quote of the week. “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” President Obama. The answer to building the economy is to give the government more money and increase regulation by Executive Order/Departmental mandates? That is his plan. The problem is the Democrats always over reach with Regulations and the Republican seem to under reach. When are we going to send a message to Washington and elect a Independent President? Never, because the system they have put into place makes that impossible. 😦

  10. James McPherson said

    “Democrats always over reach with Regulations and the Republican seem to under reach. When are we going to send a message to Washington and elect a Independent President? Never, because the system they have put into place makes that impossible.”

    Sad but true, Reuel.

  11. Reuel said

    It turns out that Jonathan Lavine, current Obama bundler, was actually in charge, at Bain, during that period, when the layoffs occurred. Oops, that isn’t right, is it? Yes, that story is the one that needs to be reported on. Sorry Mr. President, your lies are just getting to be more than many of us are able to handle.

    Now is this a lie or do you see this reported on the Left Stream Media? This is not going to be a repeat of 2008, that is for sure and the gloves are going to come off on the Right. You know Barry is well versed in lying, that is for sure. Must have a very good history of lying to be this good. This was about a steel company that they used in a ad against Romney. Told you the Bain thing will back fire, but for the most of Left it doesn’t matter, they saw the commercial and will go back to watch what happens on Jersey Shore.

  12. Reuel said

    I just did my Friday afternoon break time check of Dot Gov sites and if this chart doesn’t open some eyes, then they are OK with the projections. Now I recall that during the first two years of this Presidency all we heard was that all the bills they passed will in fact reduce the rate of increase of the total deficit in half by the end of his first term. Look at the end, it is projected to be near 25 Trillion. I guess we can say they mislead us in a mild way of saying it. If I were running against Barry I would put a picture of this chart behind me on every stage or stump I was on until November. And Steal part of 1992 slogan “Its the Debt Stupid”. Disclosure statement; this is not intended for all that comment here. I am also sure that we could of possibly passed the point of no return if this chart that the Government produced themselves is correct.


  13. James McPherson said

    The numbers sound logical, though the site you’ve linked to isn’t a dot-gov site. It’s from a website (http://www.usgovernmentdebt.us/) produced by this avowed conservative: http://www.christopherchantrill.com/. I got suspicious when I saw the Mitt Romney ad at the top and the Tea Party update link at the left. And the numbers are projections (estimates), of course.

    In truth, I don’t think either Dems or Republicans care much about the debt, though they pretend to–each just wants to cut different things while they pretend. And they know that most Americans really don’t understand big numbers.

  14. Reuel said

    I think both side have figured me out, I assumed it was a official site. Must pay attention these days. I still think the numbers for 2016 are close and quite disturbing. Department of Labor announced yesterday to it Contracted Employees that they are not required to give them a 60 Day notice about the layoffs on January 2, 2013. That would mean they would have to notify them on November 2, 2012. Not a good time for that for sure. We are now playing a large game of Ginga and they are only showing us a view from the top and not all the pieces missing from the side view. The most open and transparent administration in history? Maybe they are right to not show us the real status we are currently in, but some change is most certainly coming no matter whom is elected. To many promises and no money to provide these gifts is the first lesson in being a parent. Seems a whole lot of spoiled children are going to be crying and acting out real soon.

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