Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

`Pants on Fire' and other greetings from readers

"I'd like to think politicians are being more honest with you looking over their shoulders," one reader told us.
"I'd like to think politicians are being more honest with you looking over their shoulders," one reader told us.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, PolitiFact Virginia has creased brows on both sides of the political aisle this month.

Here’s some of the feedback we’ve received in emails from our readers and bloggers.

Several people disagreed with a Pants of Fire rating we gave to the liberal Campaign for America’s Future for claiming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wants to eliminate Social Security. We cited a number of Cantor quotes saying he would protect current benefits for those 55 and older and supports changing -- but not eliminating -- the program for those 54 and younger.

Cantor has been short of specifics about how he would change Social Security.

Brennan Mahoney told us we deserve a Pants on Fire, not the Campaign for America’s Future.

"Social Security may need to look at means testing, but Cantor wants to talk about cutting back on benefits to those who really need them," he wrote. "His idea of social security would, in effect, end it as we know it. Give him an opportunity, and he will push for private retirement and the stock market as a partial solution. You know it, and most of us who pay attention know it."

A reader from Floyd also questioned our Cantor ruling. "It sure looks like he’s saying if you’re not a senior now, you won’t get Social Security if he (Cantor) gets his way," the man from Floyd wrote. "He hasn’t proposed legislation to that effect YET, but we have his own words indicate he wants to eliminate it."

Two people emailed that we are unfair to Republicans.

"Enough of the Truth-o-Meter!!!" one wrote. "We get it already. If it's a bad thing said by or about a Republican, then it's the truth. If it's a bad thing said about a Democrat then it's a lie. We get it already … What an unholy liberal rag of a newspaper!!!"

The other reader e-mailed: "Setting yourself up as all knowing is a bit of a stretch. Point of fact: anyone who quotes CBO (Congressional Budget Office) numbers is a joke.

"One other point: I have noted when you quote a Republican, it’s a half truth or worse. On the other hand, when it’s a Democrat you’re quoting, it seems to be just the opposite."

Conversely, the liberal blog Blue Virginia accused us of going easy on Republicans, although it did allow that overall "PolitiFact Virginia does a pretty good job in sorting out the lies."

The blog criticized as "extremely generous" two Barely True ratings we recently gave Republicans. One went to Gov. Bob McDonnell for claiming he cut spending by $6 billion to balance the state budget. We found that about $2.3 billion in has been cut since late 2008. Lawmakers approved another $3.7 billion in bookkeeping -- that did not reduce spending -- to balance the budget.

Blue Virginia also took exception to our look into U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt’s claim that cap-and-trade legislation would cost Virginia 50,000 jobs. We pointed out Hurt based his claim on a report by the National Association of Manufacturers, which has lobbied against the bill. Many economists, we noted, are dismissive of the study.

"Apparently, in PolitiFact Virginia’s world, as long as you attribute something to a `study,’ even a biased and phony one by opponents of the very thing they’re supposedly `studying," Blue Virginia wrote.

A local attorney, who asked that his name not be used, also was disappointed in our Hurt ruling.

"Regarding your rating of this story, I respectfully suggest that you do a great deal of damage to your own credibility (which, you know, we are also measuring), by rating a story such as this one at all -- irrespective of the rating that you give it," he wrote.

"Economics is an inexact science, and no one knows what the effect of the cap-and-trade bill would be on the economy.  There are people of good will who think that it will destroy 50,000 jobs in Virginia, and there are people of good will who think otherwise. People who espouse those positions are not "lying" when they make their statements -- they are voicing their opinions.

"For you to treat such statements as a "true/false" exercises is, in my judgment, far more misleading than anything that any of the politicians who weigh in on the subject might say... You would be far better served - and you would far better serve the public -- if you stopped rating these kinds of stories and limited yourself to truly factual matters."