Kiplinger’s Personal Finance – May 2022
English | 78 pages | pdf | 28.21 MB

Readers Talk Back

Readers—you—are the reason we are in business, and reader service is a primary tenet of Kiplinger’s mission. For a century, our editors have lived by that mantra. Our letters page is called “Reader Feedback,” and we use the feedback you freely offer to gauge how we’re doing. As a group, Kiplinger readers are highly educated and engaged in financial and economic topics. You write to us to call us on the occasional error, add a relevant point or two to the discussion, disagree with what we wrote, or give us a pat on the back.
We do our best to offer a representative sampling of your reactions to our articles. Not surprisingly, I often get letters from readers who incorporate strong political views into their comments. A recent example is the lead letter in the March “Reader Feedback” column. Referring to our rundown on causes of inflation in a previous issue, the letter writer said we missed the mark by not pinning the blame for soaring energy and gasoline prices on the “disastrous energy policies at the executive branch of government. Joe Biden could not wait to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, which was set to deliver 800,000 barrels a day from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. … prices have continued to skyrocket as more pipelines are put out of business.” His conclusion: “It does not take an MBA to figure out that high energy and associated transport costs are driving this inflation.”

A political lens?The facts in the letter were correct, to a point. But the conclusion was overly simplistic, and we should not have run the letter without context—and without editing out the anti-Biden comments. (We showed Donald Trump the same courtesy.) I heard from a number of readers who challenged the implication that soaring energy prices are a result of the Biden administration’s shutdown of Keystone XL, but more to the point, they questioned our judgment for including the politicized comments. “It is wrong to blame high gas prices on failing to complete the Keystone XL pipeline,” writes one reader. “That pipeline is a spit in the ocean in terms of the complex global dynamic of oil pricing. I’m sure you know that. However, less knowledgeable and less educated readers can be misled.”
For years, the pipeline has been a crucible of controversy between energy bulls and environmentalists, indigenous groups and ranchers, who pointed to the risk of oil spills and fought the construction of the pipeline in court. The magazine issue of the Keystone XL pipeline’s effect on U.S. supply and energy prices has recently re surfaced thanks to the pressure on prices induced
by reaction to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The energy industry is confoundingly complex, and it’s wrong to blame high prices at the pump on the cancellation of a single pipeline that wasn’t scheduled to be completed until 2023. However, Biden’s overall policies and emphasis on renewable energy have no doubt contributed to upward pressure on energy prices.
Barron’s columnist Jack Hough recently wrote about the renewed discussion about the Keystone XL pipeline, now that fallout over the Ukraine invasion has pushed oil above $100 a barrel: “I have a doctor’s note excusing me from politics,” he wrote, “so I’ll leave arguments for and against these things to others.”
I’m with Jack. However, we live in a polarized, politicized time, in which writing about certain topics or financial strategies convinces many readers that we are endorsing a “woke” agenda. Coverage of ESG investing (investing to meet environmental, social and governance challenges), the financial implications of climate change, pros and cons of electric vehicles, a commitment to diversity, or even reporting what the Federal Reserve says about inflation has led to a backlash from some readers.
Our mission continues to be educating readers on the best uses of your money, to provide you with information and advice for all stages of your financial life, and to help you achieve financial security (see our cover story, on page 44, for a road map to follow for a lifetime). The financial industry is evolving, and we will keep writing about how to employ your money for profit in a changing world, wherever that takes us. I promise to stick to the facts and leave politics to others. If you think we’ve slipped up, please send me an e-mail.
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