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View Diary: PolitiFACT openly admits FACTS are not its focus (119 comments)

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  •  Devil's Advocate Post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Bridge Master

    Gingrich said "more people have been put on food stamps by Obama than anyone else in history."

    Obama said ""businesses have created more than 3 million jobs ... they created the most jobs since 2005."

    Both were rated "half-true" initially.  Aren't they both "true" under the strict definition we think Politifact should apply? (Gingrich's might have to be tweaked a little (e.g., "more people are on foodstamps since Obama became President") to be completely true.

    In this case, what should Politifact do? Simply leave both as true?  (If you want that for Obama's statement, you should accept it for Gingrich's.)

    We here believe that Obama does deserve credit for job growth, but does not deserve blame for food stamp growth.

    But what would it take for Politifact to reach that conclusion?  They would have to undertake a detailed analysis of data that doesn't lend itself to shorthand conclusions like "half-true."  

    If they were fair, they would probably reach the same conclusion we have, but they would have to be able to parse out the effects of the stimulus versus other reasons for job growth (e.g., business cycle).  Though they should say the stimulus contributed, they would have trouble quantifying that.

    It may be easier to conclude that the food stamps comment  is misleading, e.g., by comparing the growth in food stamps in prior recessions with this one, taking into account the greater severity of this one.

    My conclusion is this:  Fact checkers should stay away from everything except clear, demonstrable falsehoods, like "Obama spent $20 million per day in India", or pretty much anything Romney says.  

    That would mean that Gingrich's food stamp comment would probably not be checked, but not to worry, Newt has a litany of very clearly demonstrated lies they can use.

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 09:37:44 AM PST

    •  I see your point, but... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AmericanAnt, Just Bob

      Gingrich's food stamp statement is factually true or factually false.

      The food stamp claim you cited would be rated false. It is not factually correct to say that President Obama has put more people on food stamps than any other president.

      If Politifact were honest, Gingrich would be forced to either continue his "pants on fire" lying or change the line to something like "there are more people on food stamps today under the Obama administration than at any time in history." That would be rated as true.

      Then it's up to pundits or politicians to interpret and explain and give context to that fact.

      At least, that's how I think Politifact should work. Obviously, they disagree.

      •  I did say that in paragraph three (0+ / 0-)

        Both were rated "half-true" initially.  Aren't they both "true" under the strict definition we think Politifact should apply? (Gingrich's might have to be tweaked a little (e.g., "more people are on foodstamps since Obama became President") to be completely true.

        The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

        by Upper West on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 12:28:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, I saw that paragraph. The line I was (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Upper West, Tonedevil

          disagreeing with was this:

          "Aren't they both "true" under the strict definition we think Politifact should apply?

          The answer to that is no. Gingrich's statement should not have been rated "half true" because it's not--it's false. And tweaking Gingrich's statement to make it true makes it a different statement.

          I agree with your conclusion that "Fact checkers should stay away from everything except clear, demonstrable falsehoods." But Gingrich's statement about President Obama putting more people on food stamps than anyone else is such a falsehood.

          •  Of course. (0+ / 0-)

            If Politifact was evaluating the "put people on food stamps" statement, it would unquestionably be false.

            My "tweaking" comment was not to credit Gingrich or Politifact with anything, but to illustrate that some true statements have inherent problems, no matter what side they are from.  Applying a strict standard, without analysis, you'd have to find that both the "more people are on food stamps" and "businesses have created more than 3 million jobs ... they created the most jobs since 2005" are true.

            The issue is whether a fact checker should evaluate causation in relation to the true statement.  Politifact is trying to do that and failing miserably, either because of its own bias or pressure to find "both sides" at fault.

            The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

            by Upper West on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 01:27:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Actually I believe that the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      caul, justmy2

      facts show that more people have gone on food stamps in Bush's administration than Obamas.  Granted he has more years under his belt to impoverish people :/

      #Occupy Wallstreet - Politicians will not support the movement until it is too big to fail.

      by Sychotic1 on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 10:51:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well actually under Bush more people were (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      caul, justmy2

      put on food stamps.

      Moreover, Obama even attributed the job creation to private businesses.  And even if he did attribute it to himself that is not necessarily incorrect as the CBO said the stimulus created millions of jobs.  

      Politifact is operating under the premise that the government can't create jobs in the private sector, which is a view that is not as widely shared by economists as Politifact suggests.  In fact Neo-Keynesians - which include the likes of Stieglitz, Roubini, and Krugman - would vehemently disagree with that premise.

      Which brings me back to my original point Politifact is operating as a pundit with a Classical economic viewpoint, rather than just checking the facts.

      •  Inherent risks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mathazar

        This is why fact checking has inherent risks.  A slight change in wording makes a statement "true" or "false" even without causal analysis.

        From the USA Today fact check:

        Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it's also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office.

        But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

        And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama's time in office than during Bush's.

        It's possible that when the figures for January 2012 are available they will show that the gain under Obama has matched or exceeded the gain under Bush. But not if the short-term trend continues. The number getting food stamps declined by 43,528 in October. And the economy has improved since then.

        Thus, if Gingrich says "Under Obama, there are more people on food stamps than ever before" that is a true statement.  But if he says "Obama has put more people on food stamps than ever before," it is false, because (as of now), Bush did put more than 400,000 people on food stamps.

        This is before you even get into the gloss Politico is now putting on this (i.e., checking causation "implied" in a factual statement) and their bias against Keynsian economics in analyzing "truth."

        I still think fact checking is a swamp unless it is limited to statements that are unquestionably true or false.

        Once you try to say something is "half-true" you have to introduce subjective criteria (e.g., which school of economics you apply)

        The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

        by Upper West on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 12:45:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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