UPDATE: The Facebook diabetes scam

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On Monday, Popular Information reported on the machinations of the Rowdy Republican Facebook page, which combined incendiary right-wing memes with dangerous misinformation about diabetes. The reach of the Rowdy Republican page on Facebook was extraordinary — exceeding large national publications like USA Today — and, according to a leading diabetes expert, the scam it was pushing on Facebook users put their health in danger.

Less than 24 hours later, all the links to the diabetes scam have been removed from the Rowdy Republican page. Facebook is finally enforcing its own rules. 

The persistent threat of misinformation on Facebook

While the Rowdy Republican page is no longer allowed to push dangerous misinformation about diabetes, the threat of misinformation on Facebook continues. There are many unanswered questions:

1. Why is a company with vast resources not able to do a better job of rooting out obvious scams and misinformation? This was not a case of a single random link. This was a systematic campaign, over many months, by a page with an enormous reach to push dangerous health misinformation to Facebook users. 

2. Why is The Daily Caller, a right-wing site with a history of false reports, still an official Facebook fact-checking partner? The Daily Caller reviewed a post from Rowdy Republican that included the diabetes scam and rated the post "true." The Daily Caller cannot be part of a legitimate effort to root out disinformation. It is actively making things worse. 

3. Will Facebook commit itself to transparency and accountability? Despite taking action after the Popular Information report, Facebook has not responded to multiple inquiries about the Rowdy Republican page. Facebook says that it wants to earn the trust of the public, but it's hard to take that effort seriously if the company doesn't explain how it enforces its rules.


The real Trump economy: Numbers don't lie

Donald Trump repeatedly claims that he is presiding over "the greatest Economy in U.S. history."

And yet, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll, more Trump's approval on the economy is now underwater. What gives? Do people not realize how good things are going for them?

New economic data released by the Census reveals the truth. Overall, working Americans are treading water or worse. Trump is telling them that things have never been better, but that doesn't match up with reality. 


My friend Walt Hickey writes an excellent newsletter called Numlock that focuses on the numbers in the news. It's a quick read, and I learn something new from it every time. You can subscribe HERE.


Median income hasn't budged

When the Trump administration was pitching its massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich, officials promised "average U.S. household income would increase at least $4,000 a year but could rise as much as $9,000 annually."

That hasn't happened. The Census Bureau reports "[m]edian household income was $63,179 in 2018, not statistically different from the 2017 median, following three consecutive years of annual increases." In other words, median income was growing somewhat and, after the passage of Trump's tax cuts, it stopped. 

Working-class Americans don't think the economy is the greatest ever because, while the economy is growing, it is not improving their lives.  

If you take a broader view, things get even bleaker. Overall, real median income has barely budged for the last two decades. This is a problem that transcends Trump. Regardless of what party has been in control, the average income has not meaningfully improved in twenty years. 

This reality prompted some impressive spin by the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Instead of recognizing the fact real median income has not budged in 20 years for as a massive policy failure, it touted the new numbers as an accomplishment. 

Millions of Americans have lost insurance coverage

Another group of people who are probably not feeling great about the economy: the 1.9 million who lost their health insurance over the last year. The Census data revealed that for the first time in nearly a decade the number of uninsured increased -- from 25.6 million in 2017 to 27.5 million in 2018. The uninsured are just one serious illness away from economic catastrophe. 

The rise in the uninsured is directly attributable to the actions of the Trump administration. The administration has drastically cut funding for "programs designed to provide outreach, education, and enrollment assistance" in the Obamacare marketplace. For example, the administration "cut the outreach advertising budget for Open Enrollment by 90 percent, from $100 million to just $10 million – which resulted in as many as 1.1 million fewer people getting covered." The Trump administration has also encouraged states to impose onerous requirements on Medicaid enrollment, denying millions more coverage. 

Income inequality hit all-time record

The economy has been growing, but most of the benefits have been flowing to the very top. The Gini Index, a statistical measure of inequality, has reached an all-time high since the Census started measuring it in 1967.

The top 20% of Americans collected 52% of total household income last year. Meanwhile, the bottom 20% received just 3.1%. 

These figures actually understate the reality of economic inequality because they focus on income and not accumulated wealth, where the distribution is even more stark. 

The silver lining

The Census report wasn't all bad news. The number of Americans living in poverty is down. Specifically, the "official poverty rate in 2018 was 11.8 percent, down 0.5 percentage points from 12.3 percent in 2017." The percentage of Americans living in poverty is finally lower than in 2007, which was the start of the last recession. 

The reduction in poverty can largely be attributed to the steady growth in employment. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 107 straight months, and the unemployment rate stands at 3.7%. Still, job growth under Trump has slowed. In the last 30 months of the Obama administration, the economy 6.61 million jobs, significantly more than the 5.74 million jobs added in the first 30 months of the Trump administration. 


Thanks for reading!