We’re beginning a new series called Memebusters.
The social media meme is the modern propaganda tool for lazy activists. Lazy activists is an oxymoron but sadly applicable. You can change the world (and not for the better) by sharing memes that confirm your own prejudices and being too intellectually lazy to think about whether it makes sense and too lazy to take two minutes to research something before proclaiming it to all your friends.
According to a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, many of these memes, on both the left and the right, are crafted by the Russian Internet Research Agency. Everyone making, posting, and sharing malicious memes is inadvertently doing Russia’s job for them.
The goal of the memebuster series is:
- Expose the lies and misrepresentations of a given meme.
- Encourage independent thinking and research.
- Discourage sharing false, misleading, illogical, and hateful memes whether they come from the far left or the far right.
We’ll begin the series with a relatively simple meme:
Whoever made this meme should have said GDP growth rather than GDP. Beyond that, there are three important things that must be said:
- This Meme is Out of Date
I found this meme being passed around on social media in November 2019. The story on GDP growth was based on initial estimates for 2nd Quarter 2018 and made the news in late July 2018. Sixteen months later, it’s still being touted on the Internet as if it was just released. The latest quarter’s initial numbers put GDP growth at 1.9%. Though those are initial numbers accurate as of this writing but could easily change.
2. Quotes are Taken Out of Context or Just Wrong
The meme itself discloses one statement that was taken out of context. Obama did say something involving Trump and a magic wand, but it wasn’t about a GDP growth number, it was about Trump’s promise to bring back manufacturing jobs. While bringing back manufacturing jobs might help GDP growth, they aren’t the same thing. Even there, Obama’s point wasn’t that growth in the manufacturing sector or bringing back manufacturing job was impossible, but rather that Trump was being vague on how he was going to achieve results.
The quotes about 1% economic growth being the new normal and 2.5% Growth being unattainable are invented. The second is silly as Obama had two years exceeding 2.5% GDP growth. Obama’s Administration did state that economic growth would be “permanently slower than it was in earlier eras.” That’s reflected in the fact Obama’s administration didn’t have a single year with growth over 3%, and neither has President Trump.
3. Confusing the Issue
While Trump had a quarter with 4.1% growth, that was an initial report of a quarterly number, not an annual number. Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times provided some important context:
…on the campaign trail, Trump promised growth of 3.5% a year, and sometimes even 4%. That’s sustained, annual growth, not annualized growth for a single quarter. He still hasn’t delivered on that promise…
In any case, a 4.1% annualized growth rate isn’t only not “amazing,” it’s not even particularly remarkable. The Obama administration reached it in four quarters, including one with an annualized rate of 5.1%.LA Times
It’s worth noting Trump’s Contract with the American People promised 4% growth per year. By focusing on numbers from a single quarter, Trump makes it look like he achieved a goal when he’s still falling short of what was promised with 2.86% in GDP Growth in 2018 and lower growth is expected this year based on the numbers so far.
The question of GDP growth is a complex one. Economists not only debate what level is attainable, but growth numbers for given years and quarters are revised up and down for months, multiple times based on new data.
As such, Facebook memes are not a serious way to discuss this issue. It doesn’t help that this particular meme is unclear as to what it’s talking about, is out of date, makes up quotes or rips them out of context, and distracts from President Trump’s campaign promise, which remains unfulfilled as of this writing.