Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Mailbag: ‘You reminded me of my English teacher’

Cactus fruit near an Austin mailbox.
Cactus fruit near an Austin mailbox.

We’re shaking out our mailbag, sharing messages from readers edited here solely for style and length.

One reader reacted to our look at a claim about the cost of living in Austin by saying it’s an issue that guided her vote in a City Council runoff. "Randi Shade was ousted because of her support for the HUGE future costs and liabilities. Water Plant No. 4 alone is going to cost every man, woman and child in greater Austin $4,000 by the time it's done. And this is a completely unnecessary boondoggle -- we could have accommodated the city's needs just by conserving the water we have. All you need to do to convince yourself of this is drive through Austin just before dawn to see businesses and private citizens watering acres of thirsty non-native lawns -- and the adjacent streets."

PolitiFact National rated Half True a claim by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain that Galveston employees on an alternate plan to Social Security "retire with a whole lot more money" than they would under Social Security. Reader writes: "I call Bravo Sierra on Politifact’s call. The lengthy analysis... is a useless comparison of apples and oranges. The true test would be to compare two recently retired persons, one from Galveston County and one from a neighboring county with roughly the same career incomes. See which one has a larger check.   Also the employee from Galveston County can receive the entire amount upon retirement – ask Social Security for a lump sum payout and see what they give you. I would gladly trade my total Social Security ‘contribution’ to date to withdraw from the system.  It’s a Ponzi scheme – a scheme that our government would never allow another financial institution to form."

We rated Mostly True a July statement by a spokesman for the Texas PoIicy Foundation that recent polls showed Americans agreeing with Republicans that the federal debt ceiling should not be raised and the debt and deficit should be dealt with mostly by cutting spending.

One reader found our analysis short of comprehensive: "I understand that your job is simply to verify the truth  behind public statements and not take sides, but in the case of Josh Treviño and the Gallup poll on taxes and spending, you missed a big opportunity. While his statement about taxes may be correct (or Mostly True, as you rated it), it is also true that polls show voters' aversion to cutting programs such as Medicare, Defense and Social Security. The problem is, we can't have both. Voters don't want their taxes raised, but they also don't want cuts to the biggest cost programs. These two positions are contradictory to reducing the debt. By taking his statement in isolation and calling it Mostly True, in a sense you are validating the political position he is taking, and in the sense have done a disservice to the readers."

After we identified flaws in U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s claim that the only growth sector in the last two years has been government, a reader commented: "Do you realize how you sound as you pick this woman's verbiage to pieces? You reminded me of my 8th grade English teacher as she broke down sentences on the board. First you say: ‘During the interview, Hutchison didn't specify what kind of growth she was talking about. Her office told us later that she was referring to employment.’ Huh? What other kind of government growth, besides employment, could she possibly be talking about? Growth in government control over your life and mine, maybe. Or growth in the number of government agencies, for sure. Or, how about growth in the number of sociopathic people employed by the IRS. That growth is exponential.

"I won't pick your piece apart word for word, as you did hers, but I will say that when someone makes the statement, ‘the last two years,’ you don't hold them to precisely May 2009 to May 2011. I don't know what world you are living in, but the one I inhabit has had dismal private sector growth -- employment or otherwise -- during the last two to three years, including now, as we speak.

"Take a look at your own industry, bro, and tell me this economy is anything other than lousy...
No offense, but I rate your analysis as: Pants on Fire!"

Reacting to a PolitiFact check of Sarah Palin’s statement about the changing price of beef jerky, a reader implored: "Please use your editors. They should know to delete such baseless and misleading stories. Your column would be worthwhile and good journalism if it was unbiased without obvious political agendas. I do see good examples at times. Each day I get closer to canceling my subscription and getting the Dallas or Houston papers to keep me informed of Texas and national news."

Finally, a salute: "I really appreciate the work you do in fact-checking some of the crazy quotes we encounter daily."

Please keep your notes about quotes coming, either by email at politifact@statesman.com or by posting on our Facebook page, where you’re free to comment after hitting the "like" button. We’d love to see you on Twitter too.