I’ve looked under chairs.
I’ve looked under tables.
I’ve tried to find the key,
To fifty million fables.
They call me The Seeker.
I’ve been searching low and high.
I won’t get to get what I’m after,
Till the day I die.
I don’t think that anyone would dispute that most of the news we read or hear is “spun” by someone with an agenda. The New York Times has a strong liberal bent; Time magazine a more conservative tone. I can watch a “news” story on Fox News and then the very same story on CNN without even knowing they are reporting on the exact same thing.
The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and Wall Street Research, brokers and even regulators may sometimes have even stronger biases. Their greatest influence: stay in business. We all know, however, that what helps business for CNBC or brokerage houses doesn’t necessarily help us make money. In fact, much of the time what’s good for ratings or revenues is bad for us.
Did CNBC send out a warning in March 2000 that stocks were overvalued and should be sold? Did your broker call you and tell you to get out of the market? (If so, your broker’s worth more than his weight in gold.) On the contrary, CNBC spent hours upon hours focusing on “Dow 36,000” and trotting out scores of bullish prognosticators. Most brokers were pushing the latest internet company to split its stock and almost every financial periodical was touting the “New Economy.” Next thing you know, the money was gone and people were looking online for how to get a car loan where before it was so easy, with money being loaned at low interest rates during the 2000s bubble. (Fortune Magazine, in November 1999, did run an interview with Warren Buffett who warned of the historic risks in stocks at the time).
The bottome line is this: the whirlwind of information that now engulfs us is like junk food. It’s fast; it’s easy; and some of it even tastes good. BUT, if we’re not careful it could very well kill us. (If you haven’t seen “Super Size Me” than you may think I’m being a bit melodramatic. I’m not.)
I started “My Back Pages” not as a rant on housing prices, conflicts on Wall Street, our economic challenges or anything else although I’ve spent a good deal of time so far on these issues. This web page is a process, the process of seeking what is true and what is important to all of us as citizens, investors and human beings. I know this process won’t be popular with many people. But I think it is necessary to question common wisdom, especially when it may not really be wise.