Friday, September 19th, 2014

Mailbag: “You should have a Socialist-O-Meter”

Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.
Our readers tell us what they think of our recent reports.

We didn’t get many reader valentines, but we have plenty of other missives to share, edited for length and style.

First Aggie in the governor’s office?

During his January inaugural address, Gov. Rick Perry, a Gig ’em graduate of Texas A&M University,  said: "For 154 years, they kept an Aggie out of the Governor’s Office." We rated that True, but one reader — and fellow Aggie — later pointed out a kink we’d missed:

"Well, Rick Perry really is an Aggie, isn't he? He says, ‘For 154 years, they kept an Aggie out of the Governor's office.’  And PolitiFact checked that as True.  I would check it as Mostly True, because Texas A&M was founded in 1876 — a mere 135 years ago!"

Houston, we have a problem

Also during his inaugural address, Perry boasted that "the first word spoken from the moon was ‘Houston.’ We were surprised to learn that’s False: astronaut Neil Armstrong’s memorable call from moon to mission control was preceded by several other words.

One reader liked it: "I enjoyed the article on Gov. Rick Perry's speech and his incorrect comment on ‘Houston’ being the first word said from the moon."

Others thought we were petty.

"What began as a valuable tool for holding folks accountable in matters of campaigns and policy has become a kindergartner's game of gotcha. If an elected official gives a policy speech of major importance  (‘Fourscore and seven years ago…’) but first says the words ‘thank you’ to the applause of being introduced, what would you record as the first words? Seriously? PolitiFact has great potential for furthering the public discourse, but  only if it is taken seriously. You diminished it with this parlor game, but I know you are better than that."

"Perry's statement was ‘the first word spoken from the moon.’  This has a different meaning than ‘The first word spoken on the moon.’ ‘From the moon’ refers to a message transmitted to someone who is not on the moon. And per your research, the first word transmitted from the moon to someone not on the moon was indeed ‘Houston.’ Perry's statement is technically correct. Otherwise, the first word of President Obama's State of the Union address would be the first word he uttered as he entered the chamber, not the first word of his speech."

"Most astronauts with time in orbit and beyond will tell you why ‘Houston’ is correct. Emergency procedures logging and event recording would identify any abnormal incident within proximity of the moon as occurring during moon moon orbit, descent, landing, shutdown or surface. Technically speaking, the Eagle was in the process of landing on the moon and had not landed on the moon until Armstrong's declaration from the vehicle 'The Eagle has landed.'  There is a big difference between landing and landed. Talk with the astronauts. With so many important and relevant discrepancies with political statements, why would you waste your time on this meaningless assessment and then mislead your readers with an incorrect assessment you label as a statement of fact?"

And another reader was resigned: "It doesn't really matter if he is right on this one because the faithful just keep believing the rhetoric which is in full campaign mode all the time."

Medicare

Appearing on Fox News in December, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican doctor from Lewisville, said 2010 was "the worst year ever for America’s doctors who are reimbursed under the Medicare system." We rated the claim False after we found that while complicated congressional action on an anticipated big cut in Medicare rates contributed to physicians’ financial worries in 2010, reimbursement rates actually increased at mid-year. Our sense was that a worse year for Medicare doctors would have been 2002, when rates were cut.

Some readers thought we were didn’t give 2010 its due.

"After exchanging e-mail with a ‘spokesperson’ at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, PolitiFact called the doctor a liar. Dr. Burgess explained and PolitiFact documents in their article Congress's multiple short extensions of the payment schedule in 2010. These resulted in numerous delays of payments to doctors from Medicare because they didn't know from month to month what the rates were to be. Meanwhile, the doctors still have to meet payroll, pay rent  and utilities and satisfy all other financial obligations of a business. Shame."

(Editor’s note: We don’t call anyone a liar. We point out whether or not a statement is accurate.)

"I am the CEO of a company that provides insurance billing and collection services to physician offices in addition to contract negotiation and practice analysis services. I have direct access to the true impact seen in 2010. I do not believe your analysis accounts for the full financial effect that occurred last year. While you stated in 2002 there was a net cut in Medicare reimbursement, it was not as significant as the potential current cut. It was also more predictable and there was not a disruption in payments like we saw in 2010."

Uninsured residents

In January, we rated True economist Paul Krugman’s statement that Texas "leads the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance."

Some folks sounded off about Krugman:

"Health care is not a right. How do you justify having a right to someone's livelihood. Health care needs a major overhaul indeed. However, national health care is not the answer."  

"Mr. Krugman doesn’t have anything kind to say about Texas and Texans in general. He loathes our beloved state and loves to bash anything Texan. Sadly, all y’all know that and yet you let this misanthrope take jabs at us without pointing out some of his idiotic blurbs. By the way, if any of you think that Keynesian economic theories are relevant today maybe you should have ‘Socialist-O-Meter’ category as well. I bet most of your staff would qualify with ‘True.’"

Nuns

Questioning an Indiana official on whether the state’s law requiring voters show a photo ID at the polls disenfranchised voters, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said in January that 10 "retired nuns were barred from voting in the 2008 Indiana primary."

We rated that Half True: According to media reports and a convent spokeswoman, elderly nuns were barred from casting a regular ballot because they lacked proper identification. But they were not barred from voting in another way, such as casting provisional ballots.

One reader judged our rating lax.

"What we are concluding is that politicians should not rely on the media as that seems to be the source of much of their mistaken comments. Like the nun story, which apparently the media did much to make this into a ‘story’ or a media event as described. In cases like these, ruling this to be Half True gives it more status than due."

Birth certificates

In a January TV interview, state Rep. Pete Gallego said: "In Mexico, they don’t have birth certificates... They don’t have registration cards for voters. They have one national ID. We don’t have a national ID." We rated that False. Mexicans don’t have a national ID card though a pilot project is under way to issue cards to minors. And the federal government does issue birth certificates and voter IDs. The government also issues birth certificates and, according to experts, more than 90 percent of residents have one.

One reader thought we missed the forest for the trees: "If a birth certificate is required to get a voter ID and at least 10 million don’t have a birth certificate, then the odds are that there are a lot more folks who don’t have birth certificates than they’re officially admitting."

Praise

Valentines? We got a few.

"I love PolitiFact and look forward to reading it everyday."

"Thanks for all your wonderful insight and research on political facts and lies."

"We read your PolitiFact column regularly and appreciate your work... keep up the good work, maybe the column helps leaders to be more accurate."