Holidays prompt outbreak of truthiness
By Willoughby Mariano
Published on Sunday, December 19th, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.
Folks must be feeling goodwill toward their fellow man this holiday season.
Last week, AJC PolitiFact Georgia experienced an outbreak of truthiness.
Washington lawmakers found some accurate things to say about federal programs on the homeless and President Barack Obama's proposed tax compromise that just worked its way through Congress.
We also uncovered some truths about Georgia public higher education and our beloved Atlanta Braves.
We're shocked. And relieved.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican: "Sixteen [federal] programs exist to fight homelessness" and some of them are duplicative.
Kingston wanted to be the guy to watch your tax dollars in Washington, chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
It's one of the most powerful positions in Washington. The committee oversees the distribution of federal funds.
Kingston's bid failed, but not for want of effort. He made his case with charts and numbers and graphs and a bandaged pig to illustrate that Washington's finances are being mismanaged.
One example was that there are 16 programs to combat homelessness. Some are duplicative.
We checked it out and found more federal programs aimed at helping the homeless than Kingston did. Some of the programs do share the same goals. There are some differences in who gets the funding and how they get used.
We believe Kingston's statement is accurate, but there are some differences in about all of these programs.
Kingston lost his bid, but he did earn a pretty high mark on our rating system, Mostly True.
The Atlanta Braves: The team is "the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in America."
Most baseball fans, particularly in Atlanta, know about the Atlanta Braves' streak of 14 consecutive division championships between 1991 and 2005.
We here at AJC PolitiFact Georgia won't talk about the fact that the Braves won just one World Series during that time.
But few baseball fans are aware of another streak the Braves proudly claim: They've stayed in business longer than any team in the country.
We found the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which many people view as a predecessor of the Reds, are apparently baseball's first professional sports franchise.
But that is not what the Braves claim. Regarding their claim to the title of "oldest continuous sports franchise in America," it does appear that the team's origins began with the Boston Red Stockings, who then joined what became the National League of Major League Baseball.
The key word here is "continuous." We believe the Braves slid home safely on this one and rate their claim as True.
State Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kidd: "[State Rep. Doug McKillip"s] donors deserve a refund."
The 2010 election didn"t put an end to the growth of the Georgia Republican Party.
After the ballots were counted, six members of the state House of Representatives and one state senator who raised money, ran for office and were elected as Democrats jumped to the GOP.
They included Rep. Doug McKillip of District 115 in Athens, who switched after he was elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. That's when Kidd made the above claim.
But does anything mandate a party-switcher to reimburse the folks who gave the candidate money? After all, most of those donors probably assumed McKillip would serve the party whose banner he carried during the election.
While Democratic officials are entitled to the belief that party defectors should refund donors' campaign contributions, we talked to experts and party officials and found that the idea that a party-switcher actually owes refunds to his donors has no grounding in party rules or in state law.
We rule the claim False.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: Under the compromise tax agreement, "99.7% of American families will not pay 1 nickel in an estate tax."
Most debate over the compromise tax agreement proposed by President Barack Obama focused on whether President George W. Bush's income tax cuts ought to be extended to the nation's highest earners. But estate taxes are also a sticking point.
Under the plan, the estate tax rate would be set at 35 percent, with an effective exemption of $5 million.
Sanders, an independent from Vermont and a self-described democratic socialist, sent out a Twitter message Monday making the above claim.
"This is not a tax on the rich, this is a tax on the very, very, very rich," he added.
According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Sanders is correct.
The Tax Policy Center estimated that about 99.7 percent of estates were exempt from the estate tax in 2009 when the first $3.5 million of an estate was exempt. Even fewer people would be subject to the tax under the compromise plan.
We rate Sanders' comment True.
University System of Georgia Regent James Jolly: "Every student paying out-of-state tuition actually covers more than the cost of instruction."
As leaders of the state's public higher education system mulled over barring illegal immigrants, money was on their minds.
Is this cash-strapped state paying for illegal immigrants to go to college? they asked.
They're not, according to a State Board of Regents fact-finding committee. That's why Jolly made the above claim in a board newsletter.
We checked it out.
Illegal immigrants must pay out-of-state tuition. The board found that for every category of school, the average cost of educating a student is significantly lower than the price illegal immigrants pay.
For example, for research universities such as Georgia Tech, it's $18,310. Average out-of-state tuition and fees total $25,859.
We looked at other methods of calculating the cost of educating a student. Using those approaches, the cost was also less than out-of-state tuition and fees.
This means that if illegal immigrants pay the proper price, taxpayers are not financing their education.
Jolly's statement is True.
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