We Do Personal Finance Advice, Not Politics
I started working for Kiplinger during the 1980 presidential campaign, when a Democrat incumbent was running against a telegenic, smaller-government Republican. Sound familiar? Federal power versus states’ rights is a political divide that goes back to the founding fathers. And, as evidenced by our 44 presidents, the U.S. electorate’s sympathies have ricocheted back and forth ever since.
That divide is dramatically explored in the musical Hamilton. My wife and I finally saw the show a couple of months ago, and we were smitten by the story, the music, the acting—and the clear message that it is a love story to America, where a talented, smart, ambitious immigrant could help lay the foundation of a great country.
Hamilton is also the hottest ticket in theater today, with stratospheric prices and long waits to see the performances. The cover story in our last issue, “Great Ideas for $1,000,” included an item with strategies on how to see the show, which is now touring the U.S., without breaking the bank. So I was flabbergasted when I got an e-mail from a reader who said he was considering canceling his subscription because we were recommending this musical. He went on to say that “only loony leftists or violent antifa members would waste their money to go see a racist musical like Hamilton.”
As Washington, D.C., journalists, many on our staff are probably more liberal-leaning than conservative. But we do not identify with extreme leftists (or the alt-right), and we certainly don’t support violence or intimidation to promote a political cause. In fact, our code of ethics at Kiplinger prevents us from campaigning, demonstrating or in any way expressing a political viewpoint in public. Likewise, when it comes to recommendations for your finances, we strive to be staunchly nonpartisan.
Something has shifted in America. Many people have taken sides and dug in. They see the enemy even where it doesn’t exist. The divisiveness has accelerated since the last presidential election, and it occurs on both sides of the political spectrum. Our January 2017 issue included the cover line “How to Ride Trump’s Coattails,” and we heard from a reader who claimed we were unethical for suggesting that investors profit from the Trump camp’s propaganda. On the other hand, after we published a column in the November issue mentioning that the stock market has soared despite “political bickering, congressional investigations, neo-Nazi marches, devastating hurricanes and the threat of nuclear war,” we heard from a reader taking issue with our “highly prejudicial, stereotyping, left-wing opinion.” Our staff talked about why our words hit a raw nerve and how we might avoid that in the future.
Political differences in a democracy are something to cherish. What saddens me is when civil conversation and a desire to understand opposing opinions—and the truth—is sacrificed. Most of you who have written to complain about a perceived bias have been courteous and noninflammatory, and for that I thank you. I want all of you to know that our mission at Kiplinger is to give you the best and most trustworthy financial advice we can, without any spin. If you think we are letting our biases show, send me an e-mail. I promise to respond politely.