Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Mailbag, Facebook edition: 'PolitiFact blew it again!'

Share your thoughts on our reporting with other readers on Facebook.
Share your thoughts on our reporting with other readers on Facebook.

We post our items on Facebook and readers weigh in with their comments, criticisms, jokes and musings. Here, we're rounding up Facebook comments on some our most popular recent items. Comments are edited for style and length. You can view our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/politifact

Michele Bachmann on Obama's trip to India

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said that President Barack Obama's trip to India cost $200 million a day. But the ultimate source was an anonymous news report in India. American officials experienced with foreign travel said there was no way the trip could cost that much -- it would be wildly out of proportion with the cost of other presidential trips. We rated Bachmann's statement False. Some of the Facebook comments:

  • "When I heard that, I knew it was false. It just didn't make sense ... just like the death panels."
  • "If this report had been about George W. Bush and had aired on Air America or MSNBC, Limbaugh and his cronies would have checked the figure, then screamed about liberal media bias. This should have rated Pants on Fire."
  • "I'm sorry, but even using a Clinton era price tag, the cost seems a little hard to take in these economic times, as I sure the cost will be more than Bill Clinton's $10 million per day."
  • "You know, this sounded fishy to me when I received it, specifically because the quote was 'a top Indian Government source'. These are the kinds of things that should embarrass conservatives. I hope she's called out for this, and very publicly. Take a story like that without checking the facts and regurgitate it, then you deserve to be shown to the world what you are: An IDIOT."
  • "This is a good site that dispels rumors. He is going there to work. India is a nuclear power adjacent to Pakistan which is also a nuclear power in which we have troops in, next to Afghanistan. It would be negligent for him not to go. Yeah, it costs a lot for our Presidents to travel, always has, but not $200 million a day!"
  • "Any group, whether political, religious, economic, business will tend to believe ONLY what their own group has decided is believable, even if it is not the truth. What is sad is that both business and politics have seen this phenomenon and are exploiting it."
  • "What???? I have friends in India where he can stay for nothing!!!!"

President Obama on job losses

President Barack Obama went on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show right before the election to defend his policies. One of his claims was that he inherited a terrible economy. "Most of the jobs that we lost were lost before the economic policies we put in place had any effect," Obama said. We turned to unemployment data to fact-check that statement, and rated it True. The comments:

  • "Is there anyone around who still doesn't know this?"
  • "My right leaning friends get SO mad when the job losses prior to the Obama stimulus is mentioned. They say Obama should own those 700,000 jobs lost per month in December 2008, and January - February 2009. They hate when he says he inherited a mess. Gee, I wonder why that is? Hmm...?"
  • "Perhaps that is the case but it happened during the watch of the Democrats in Congress. That is also true, and he was in Congress so he is not off the hook as much as he would like to not take responsibility."
  • "Yes, we knew things were tanking before he was elected. The question is, why have his policies not curbed unemployment, stimulated investment or restored general faith in the government? I understand things take time, but when politicians campaign on the theme and tout their policies on the premise that they will make things better right away, they should have to answer for it, at least to the extent of saying 'I was naive or wrong.' When the jobs were lost is no longer relevant, except for classroom debates and historians."
  • "Patience. Rome wasn't built or rebuilt in a day. Can't fix problems in less than two years that took eight years to create."

The Voter Guide

The week before the 2010 midterm elections, we published several stories summarizing some of the most persistent distortions of the campaign, or the most egregious falsehoods. Facebook readers gave us their thoughts on the state of American political discourse:

  • "More people need a built-in BS detector. I'm forever mystified that everyone doesn't use the sense God gave us to search for the facts. We're sitting right in front of the computer where we can investigate nearly everything, though it does take a lot of time to sift through the myriad of propaganda, lies, and misinformation."
  • "So sad that our politicians are so blind that they can't see the damage that they've done to the credibility of both major parties and the system in general. Informed voters want to know what they will do to make this country better not worse. The e-mails I get from politicians all ask for my money, not one has asked for my opinion. I guess we know what is important to them."
  • "People will believe what they want to believe, regardless of its accuracy."
  • "It's times like this that I am so, so thankful for PolitiFact."
  • "The political party I belong to is filled with wonderful, truth-telling champions of the American citizen. The other party is all full of liars and mean people! Yay!"

Paul Krugman on deficit reduction

As part of our ongoing partnership with ABC News, we fact-checked New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for comments he made about an initial report on deficit reduction from a special presidential commission. Krugman said the report was "completely empty" on controlling health care costs, but we found the report actually had several ideas. We rated this False. Again, readers had mixed reactions.

  • "Sorry, I usually agree with your meter, but this one I do not. First off it is in HIS opinion, How can an opinion be false? Secondly, as to the matter of health care, this commission added NOTHING, and everybody should know that health care IS the main issue. So for this post...I say you get a big FALSE!"
  • "If Krugman vs. PolitiFact, I go with Krugman."
  • "He said the report was 'empty,' and its not. Not all the plans are completely fleshed out, but this also isn't the final report. Some ideas are spelled out more than others. So strictly speaking what he said was false. It doesn't matter if his opinions of said ideas is negative, they do have plans, and the report is not empty... what are you people smoking?"

Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme?

PolitiFact Texas fact-checked Gov. Rick Perry's statement that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, rating it False, primarily because Social Security is not a fraudulent get-rich-quick scheme. The item drew almost 200 comments on the PolitiFact Facebook page. Here's a sampling:

  • "The only thing criminal is Republicans wanting to give it to the private sector. For the good of the people, of course."
  • "It is -- to steal from one group to pay another group. Social Security, welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid are all plunder. They take from one to pay another, even if that group paying does not use the service. To me these should all be shut down. They would alleviate a huge percentage of the national debt."
  • "It makes some sense: It looks like a Ponzi scheme because if all non-retirees suddenly died today or just stopped paying Social Security taxes then retirees wouldn't have all their benefits ... but that isn't going to happen. What's more is that Social Security is much better than Wall Street since it's a no-brainer, you pay in and get a moderate amount at retirement until you die. Much better than seeing all your money get wasted by Wall Street mortgage fraudsters! Medicare and Social Security work, and because of that they hated the health care bill! One more program to prove their 'government is a bad' dogma wrong!"
  • "PolitiFact blew it again with the Social Security/Ponzi comparison. Many (most?) of Social Security's participants do not know how the program operates, and economists do not consider fraud a necessary component of Ponzi-style financing."
  • "Everyone who pays into Social Security eventually, unless they die, collects from Social Security. Everyone who pays into a Ponzi scheme, not so much. Also, paying taxes in a representational democracy to fund programs we may not agree with is not stealing. If that were the case then a significant portion of military spending is also stealing, as well as anything else the government funds. Kinda sounds silly when you think about it. It may be onerous, it may not make you happy, but it is what it is and we can vote to change what we don't like. Just curious, but is this 'stealing' thing a Glenn Beck talking point?"
  • "Social Security is accountable to Congress and the American people, while a Ponzi scheme is a crime."
  • "Social security IS a Ponzi scheme. Ever since Social Security funds were rolled into the general fund, the government has been funding their liability to the previous generation with the contributions from the current worker generation. If that is not the definition of 'Ponzi scheme,' I don't know what is."
  • "Saying Social Security is 'unsustainable' because the trust fund shrinks a little is like saying buying a home, a car, or clothing is 'unsustainable' because it shrinks your bank account. We pay for what's worthwhile, and keeping older people alive IS worthwhile, in my opinion and theirs. They vote, so if you're planning to scrap their retirements, Katie bar the door! The party that does it will never be heard from again."

A few notes of praise

We like to end on a positive note. Here's what readers had to say about us gaining 25,000 followers on Facebook.

  • "I think that your work is the first step in renewing investigative journalism. Thank you for what you do."
  • "So many people ask me, 'Where can i sift through the crap? Who's telling the truth? How are people supposed to know who's done what and why?' I always point them to you. Thank you for your work and please, don't stop."
  • "I recently recommended you to some of my more political friends (from both sides of the political spectrum) because of your non-bias. Thank you!"
  • "I always refer people to nonpartisan sites, and this one is at the top of my list. It is so easy to stay in the world of reality, I don't understand why more don't. Thanks for your work."
  • "Your site is a tremendous service to our nation's voters. I wish everyone read it. Keep up the good work! Thank you."