Carol Roth: Let's stop the financial 'gaslighting' of Americans

People are being led to believe a myriad of financial nonsense that is easily disproved.

As the presidential campaign heats up, Democrats have the extra challenge of campaigning against a strong economy. Whether you like or dislike President Trump-- or want to give him or deny him full or partial credit for it-- the numerical facts remain that unemployment is at near historic lows across the board, and at record lows for minority groups and women.

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However, despite the financial strength of America, many Americans have been “gaslighted” by politicians, media and talking points into believing a whole slew of financial lies and misinformation.

I saw this phenomenon in a recent set of exchanges on Twitter where, for the umpteenth time, people were spreading misinformation that the tax cuts that came with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 only benefitted the rich.

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When I explained that the majority of Americans received a tax cut as a result, I was barraged with dozens of tweets accusing me, incredibly and erroneously, of lying.  Now, the tax cut benefit is not a difficult thing to prove. You can go to a search engine (aka “Google it!”) and the top search results will show you that the majority received a cut. While the estimates vary up into the 80 percent range, even the liberally-leaning New York Times printed that around 65 percent of all taxpaying households received a cut—a number that’s firmly in the majority.

Staggeringly, in the same article, it shows that only 40 percent of the people who did receive cuts thought that they did, ostensibly because people kept more money in their paychecks and received smaller refunds. While the outcome is a good one (unless you like giving the government an interest-free loan), the confusion obviously runs deep.

So, while some may not agree with the cuts or may think they could have been structured better, feelings do not matter to the facts, which are that the majority of people did receive a cut-- concretely.

The tax cut is not the only area of bad information floating around. People are being gaslighted to believe a myriad of financial nonsense that is easily disproved.

The “rich,” as you know, have also become a target of the far left. Their attacks on those who have done well have created a lengthy and untrue financial lore.

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One of the big gripes that shows up on social media is that the rich in our country supposedly all inherited their money. Not that there’s anything wrong with inhering money, but it isn’t true. It is also easy to disprove.

In fact, in America, it is estimated that approximately 80 percent of all millionaires in the United States are first-generation. Recent news shows that 675,000 brand new millionaires were created in the country last year alone!

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That’s a much different reality than the misinformation that is spread around to support this financial gaslighting. It is also just one piece of countless data supporting economic mobility and opportunity in our country.

So, people can’t calculate that they received a tax break, nor can they do a simple internet search to confirm basic financial facts. As taxpayers who finance the primary and secondary education system in this country, it is time we demand some basic financial literacy skills, along with fact-checking and logic coursework, to ensure that people learn how to evaluate financial and economic information and verify basic facts. Because, while information may not fit someone’s narrative, it doesn’t make it untrue.

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, host of "The Roth Effect" podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of "The Entrepreneur Equation."

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