Saturday, November 1st, 2014

PolitiFact Florida Mailbag: Marco Rubio, Allen West and the University of Florida

U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., speaks at a town hall meeting on April 10, 2012.

As we do from time to time, we’ll now share some reactions from readers to our recent fact-checks. You can share your thoughts, too. Email us at florida@politifact.com, tweet us @PolitiFactFL or visit the PolitiFact Florida Facebook page. Comments are edited for length and style.

Marco Rubio and student loan interest rates

Congress has been wrestling with legislation to stop student loan interest rates from automatically increasing this summer. That would increase the deficit though, and Democrats wanted to prevent that by tightening tax rules on S-corporations.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the Democratic plan raised taxes "on small businesses, very small businesses … the kinds of small businesses that give jobs to graduates." We examined the proposal in detail and concluded it beefed up enforcement for taxes that were supposed to be paid anyway. We rated Rubio’s statement False.

We heard from readers who said we were off base, including a small business owner:

"As I thought about my business, at what point would I consider expanding my small business into areas that would involve hiring a college graduate? I'm not talking about a minimum wage receptionist, or a janitor, I'm talking about a college graduate who I'm providing benefits and some degree of future job security. I won't be doing that until I feel comfortable about my own income. If I can only pay myself $100,000 a year, what leeway do I have if a have a slump in my growth plan? ... Trust me, in today’s market, $200,000 to $250,000 is not a high wealth bracket. Families at this level are spending a huge amount in our market place, which is helping our economy. It’s not a rate at which you are stuffing loads of cash into the mattress."

Another reader felt the same:

"Should individuals seek out jobs working for companies with less successful owners in order to avoid the risk of the tax impacting the business, and ultimately their jobs? Or should the government stop vilifying successful small businessmen, and should the Times find a way to at least fake a little journalistic integrity? Anyone who pays more in taxes than the law requires is an absolute fool. If the Times and its employees don't like the current tax code, seek to change it. But don't hide behind the banner of impartiality to mislead the public about a politician who is... *gasp*... telling the truth. You know, the truth that Politi"Fact" finds so elusive."

An Obama detractor weighs in

One reader wrote in to say we don’t fact-check President Barack Obama enough. Actually, Obama is the most fact-checked individual on the PolitiFact website. (See Obama’s ratings vs. the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.)

"You spent considerable time on Mitt Romney, followed by various Republicans. At what point are you going to show all the negative and just plain wrong things that Obama has said? They are legion, but you choose innocuous items that you can say are wrong, but never Pants on Fire. Funny, the Washington Post, no conservative fan themselves, can find plenty of Four Pinocchios for him. … You can't protect him this time, he is the most divisive President in history and he now has to deal with it, and he will, in a negative, divisive, blame-assigning manner that no president has ever in history used before. But since he has done nothing and proposed no solutions, people will see it this time, an empty suit who is just a slick politician. We are watching....and accumulating facts, such as how many AP stories that you strip of any negative to Obama statement that is made before you publish, and those stats will come out at the right time, just before the election, so people can understand how hard you are working to pull the wool over people's eyes where this egotistical charlatan is concerned."

University of Florida and computer science

A blog post on Forbes spread like wildfire back in April among fans of the University of Florida. The blog post said this: "The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department ... Meanwhile, the athletic budget for the current year is $97.7 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year." We rated that Half True. The university is considering consolidating programs, not eliminating computer science entirely. And the funds for academics and athletics aren’t easily moved around.

One Gator said we didn’t weigh the statement carefully enough.

"While you are correct that Computer & Information Science and Engineering is not wholly being eliminated it is also NOT a merger. Did you bother reading the proposal or discussing with anyone other than the dean herself who has been trying to do this for years? There is very little overlap between Electrical and Computer Engineering  (ECE) and Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE), and other professors are being moved to other departments as well. Only 50 percent of the tenured professors will be staying with the computer science department. When you eliminate half the staff and the research component, the curriculum certainly will change. Read the proposal and read the misrepresentations, then tell me it is a merger. At this point it is restructuring at best, which is not a merger. A merger would require changes to be made to ECE, a merger wouldn't require other computer science faculty to not end up in biomedical engineering or industrial systems, which are also not related to computer science!"


Allen West’s comments on communists in Congress

At a town hall in Jensen Beach, Fla., Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, made these comments: "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. ... It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus."

We rated that statement Pants on Fire. The Communist Party has spoken positively about the Progressive Caucus, but that does not make members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus communists. West was using guilt by association.

Several readers disagreed with that reasoning.

"The ‘investigation’ of Allen West's comments was pathetic and breathtakingly naive. I do think West went too far in his original comment, but his Facebook clarification was accurate. It is laughable, truly laughable, that you called the Communist Party USA and asked if they would reveal who was a member. Astounding. Stunningly ignorant. It's that easy, right? CPUSA said no, so West must be a paranoid liar, of course. Simply amazing. I suppose that this what passes for journalism these days."

"As their hero and mentor, Karl Marx said, ‘From each according to his ablity; to each according to their needs.’ The goal of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is identical to that of Marxism … However, your article did remind me to email another $50 donation to the re-election campaign of Congressman Allen West, a REAL American."

"If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck. Those House Democrats vote like communists and continue to destroy this nation."

At last, a fan

Finally, we close with this bit of succinct praise:

"I salute you. You guys rock. Keep doing what you're doing. That is all."