PolitiFact goes right

Most of the time us lefties think of PolitiFact as a fairly neutral site. Of course most of their Pants-on-Fire rulings have been for statements made by Republicans because that’s the way the righties swing. But recently, the folks at PolitiFact made a ruling on a DCCC ad which was about the potential results of the budget put forth by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). See the ad here

PolitiFact.com 18 April 2011

A quote from a supporter of the present-day Republican Party concerning what some folks on the left have had to say about PolitiFact’s judgment in this instance.

As we have seen, with the politifact link, the claim that the Republicans voted to end Medicare and the claim than the Ryan plan ends Medicare is a “Pants on Fire” lie.

Many have pointed out in other forums and blogs that PolitiFact ‘blew it’ on this one. The claim was made about the ad NOT about the statements made by various Democratic politicians. The professor used by Politifact to back up their claims showed his political preferences with his statement

“They voted to hopefully change it one day, when they get a chance, but they would need a Republican-dominated Senate and a Republican president, neither of which they have.”

“It’s not as if this is of no consequence. But it doesn’t change Medicare,”

Maybe it was a misquote, or maybe the professor didn’t mean it the way it reads but it sounds as if he is in favour of changing Medicare when he uses the word “hopefully”

What PolitiFact gets wrong

to say the Republicans voted to end Medicare, as the ad does, is a major exaggeration.

“exaggeration” is not a lie and certainly not one of the Pants-on-Fire level

The Republican proposal will end the aspect of Medicare that directly covers specific services, such as hospital coverage.

and that’s not ending Medicare?!? as one poster on a public forum I participate in, writes in her sig line, What’s in a name? That which we call a dead fish, By any other name would still reek. To call a completely new program by an old name does not make the new program the same as the old. The original is gone away – ended.

This sentiment was echoed in many of the notes sent to PolitiFact following their post:

— “If I replace the U.S. Postal Service with a system to distribute FedEx and UPS coupons but get rid of all the actual post offices and mail carriers, I’ve actually ended the USPS no matter if I keep the name.”

— “If I call my chicken a bald eagle, it doesn’t mean my chicken now has protected status… duh.”

— “If Congress voted to replace the Army with a voucher system for private mercenaries, it would be safe to say it was a vote to end the Army, no matter what you named the resulting force.”

— “A dog has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one. Calling the Republican voucher program ‘Medicare’ doesn’t make it Medicare.”

— “If someone takes your car but gives you a bicycle, you still have no car no matter how loudly they say you still have a vehicle.”

— “If you replace a St. Bernard with a hamster, it’s ludicrous to call it a ‘restructured’ dog.”

— “If a dictator took over a democracy, and rigged the vote so he could always win, would it be a lie to say he ended democracy? Or do I have to say, ‘he ended democracy as we know it?’”

— “A rose by any other name is still a rose, but if I take that rose and give you a thistle and say you still have a rose, I’m lying.”

— “If your pet dies, and you replace it with another with the same name, the first pet is still dead.”

More from PolitiFact

Democrats, including Obama, have said the plan would end Medicare “as we know it,” a critical qualifier. But the 30-second ad from the DCCC makes a sweeping claim without that important qualifier .

That’s what they give a Pants-on-Fire rating?!?

Another problem with the ad is that it claims that participants would have to find $12,500 to pay for Medicare. That number is based on statistics compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The ad doesn’t mention, though, that the number includes money that would go to Medicare in any case. The CBO estimates beneficiaries would contribute about $6,150 in premiums in 2022 if the program isn’t changed at all. So the extra money seniors need to pay under the Republican proposal is more like $6,350.

I don’t know if this is an example of innumeracy or simply poor writing. With no change, beneficiaries would be paying $6,150 out of their own pockets ….. With the Ryan proposal, the beneficiaries would be paying an additional $6,350, that word extra means “in addition to” …. 6,150 + 6,350 = $12,500

Still another problem with the ad involves who’s immediately affected by the Republican proposal.

No where in the ad does it say the Republican proposal would take effect immediately. It might be the intention to frighten white-haired/balding voters but as we all know the elders amongst us are very aware of legislation that affects them directly and they do have a tendency to turn out for elections. That same set of voters is now showing up in town hall meetings and ripping the Congress critters for the harm that will be done to the children and grandchildren. For some reason the Repubs thought if they catered to their elderly base, that same base wouldn’t mind that the following generations would be harmed. It appears that most of the elders aren’t fans of Ayn Rand.

And finally, the ad neglects another critical fact: The Republicans voted on a budget resolution that states policy preferences, but the vote did not actually change Medicare, much less end it.

The ad doesn’t neglect anything. The ad stated that Republicans in the House voted to end Medicare. That is a true statement. For Politifact to quibble over the fact that it wasn’t a vote on legislation but simply on a House resolution is nit-picking over words. The Republicans did vote. It was on C-Span and in the Congressional Record – there was a roll-call vote. Whether it was on a piece of legislation or simply a vote on a resolution, it was still A VOTE!

I think if PolitiFact had rated the ad



Barely True

they wouldn’t have received the rather negative feedback we have noted here.

again from the esteemed elder law expert at the University of Illinois, who agrees with PolitiFact,

“Nobody voted to end it,

who obviously agrees with the premise offered up by Politifact and the Repubs.

Or maybe not. As seems to be the case when the media is quoting actual experts, Professor Kaplan’s take on the Ryan budget proposal is far more complex than we would think after reading the sentence quoted by Politifact

Elder law expert: Ryan plan would fundamentally change Medicare

Real life is so much more complex than most people are willing to acknowledge.



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