Michael Maiello's picture

    Facts! Lies! Facts! Lies!

    Does Paul Ryan want to permanently end Medicare, the way the program is run now?  Well, yes.  Does he want to keep the name Medicare so that people don't think he's trying to end Medicare?  Yes.  Was Politifact wrong last year when it accused Democrats of lying about Paul Ryan wanting to end Medicare?  Yes, by any reasonable measure, yes. 

    Politifact was challenged at the time and it doubled down on its claim, saying that Democrats could have avoided being labeled liars had they been ever so slightly more careful with their language.  Which actually means "using language that would have irked Rick Perry a little less."

    Over at Gawker, Jim Newell writes Politifact Is Bad For You, and I have to agree.  It's not that Politifact disagreed with me here, or even that it made a mistake that makes it bad.  It's that it claims to be an arbiter of truth and, as Newell explains, it's really just a marketing gimmick.  They care more about being equal opportunity criticizers than about the truth.  They have no sense of proportion (let's face it, even if you think that the Medicare thing qualifies as a lie, it's by no means the biggest lie told by a Democrat this year and we know that for a fact because Tim Geithner isn't the one who said it).

    The problem with Politifact is that it makes its reputation on its name.  It's important because it shows up in campaign ads and because voters and journalists use it as a shorthand way to determine who the truth tellers are.

    I'm adding it to the Huffington Post as one of those sites I will not click on or link to (I have other issues with HuffPo).  Politifact doesn't deserve to be influential.  It hasn't earned it.  It is, as Gawker said, just some blog in Florida.

    So... bye, bye, Politifact.  You have no credibility in my world. 



    I know what Krugman said about it too, and the question has to be asked right to Politifact, what are they afraid of? Could Krugman be correct? Is Politifact sticking to it's assertions and attempting to bolster said assertion merely to appear non-partisan? And if so, and they are erring on the side of presenting the issue as a black and white issue, i.e. Ryan's plan keeps the word Medicare in the bill therefore he is not trying to get rid of Medicare. 

    What a bizarre conclusion! In fact the Ryan "Rand Institute" Plan does seek to end Medicare completely in the future by phasing out the program in favor of some weird private voucher program run by insurance companies, there is no question about this, so Poltifact is not just factually wrong but they are wrong to not present the nuance of the story. The question must be asked, why did Politifact resurrect this particular controversial story?

    The motivation was likely that it was a particularly effective attack. If you combine it's with Time making Ryan a Man of the Year runner up, it's almost as if there's a "rehab Ryan" campaign. Or, Ryan is the conservative that people of all persuasions are supposed to respect because he's so earnest. No lefty equivalent of Ryan gets such treatment, of course.

    We could take Ryan at his word on this, but since the GOP sold the country into an illegal, useless, bloody war in Iraq, I don't think I would take anything a Republican says as anything but a lie.

    It's a safe assumption that in almost any situation, with any policy or proposal, the Republicans are hiding the truth and their real intentions, they are out to swindle you, scam their hapless true believers, or disenfranchise anyone they can who may vote against them. If anyone is going to pull the plug on Grandma it is the GOP, that is one fact no reasonable person could deny.

    Bullseye.  Faux objectivity at its finest.

    Shouldn't we be asking if there is ANY set of facts that the vast majority of people, regardless of ideology, can agree on?

    Sure, we have our own standards--but that's almost the problem.

    There have always been ideological fights, but I don't recall there being a situation where so many of the facts have been up for grabs.

    I've referred to Politifact as a reliable arbiter of the truth, but no more I guess.

    Science and basic philosophy (not metaphysics) should do that.  Whether or not we need to breathe oxygen isn't a Republican or Democrat issue.  But pretty much everything else is and we've only managed to define non-partisan as "attempts to gore both sides," which really doesn't cut it.


    You mean we can't show, objectively, that there's yawning and growing gap between rich and poor in this country?

    We can't show which policies are most likely to close that gap?

    We can't decide, objectively, whether and how much Social Security and Medicare will have to be reformed--if they have to be reformed at all--to remain solvent?

    Are you saying that all policy issues boil down to "we believe this; they believe that" and who's to say who has a better idea?

    I THINK the vast majority of Americans are looking for a discussion like that, as long as it doesn't get too deep into the weeds...the deep weeds of viduity.

    The deep weeds of "widowhood"? Interesting, but I am not sure what you mean by that? 

    As far as the facts go - we can show there is a yawning and growing gap between the rich and the poor, but as with all facts in the world of socio-political debate, it is what meaning and significance is derived from those facts which are important.

    We can agree that we need oxygen to breathe.  We can agree there is this many particles of this or that in the air in the form of pollution - but whether it requires action is up for debate, or how much money should be spent by the government to address it, or how much cost should be incurred by the private sector, and given those costs what will be the impact on the economy and how important is that. 

    The other day I was thinking what we need is a long discussion on how we discuss.  In part, too often we approach the problem or issue with the attitude that if only the other side (or sides) would really open their eyes and look at the facts, then we can find a solution or solutions.  Our conclusions appear self-evident when in reality they are based on priorities, values, personal experience, and a host of other variables.  We are all agree personal liberty is important. We all agree that the government has a responsibility to protect the citizens from enemies, domestic and foreign.  Which should override the other in what situation, who is considered an enemy, and so on is not an objective conclusion.

    This is true, I think.

    But many of these arguments, it seems to me, START with the other side simply denying the basics, sort of as a first line of defense.

    A good example is global warming. I'm sure others have followed the evolution of this discussion more closely, but I think the anti-side started off denying there was ANY warming at all, regardless of its cause.

    The same thing may be true with income disparity.

    So we have to argue and argue and argue until the other side abandons that trench and retreats to a more defensible position.

    The line comes from Krapp's Last Tape...I just like it.

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