Mailbag: 'I am so very disappointed'
Taxes, guns and football dominated recent emails about our work from PolitiFact readers. Here’s a sampling of emails we received, edited for clarity and length.
One reader wrote us about the Pants on Fire we gave President Donald Trump for saying that ending the estate tax would "protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer." We found that only 5,460 estates even pay the tax each year, and of those, about 80 represented small businesses or farms.
"Yes, the estate tax claim by the president is exaggerated. But as a small business owner, I have spent a lot of money and time on ways to avoid the estate tax. It is also in the minds of many small business owners that I know. Unfortunately, business decisions are made based on the implications of estate taxes, as opposed to good economic sense. I am not a supporter of President Trump. But I support tax simplification no matter from what side of the aisle it is proposed."
One reader took issue with our Mostly True rating for for Paul Ryan's statement that "we've got about $3 trillion in trapped cash overseas that basically can't come back in this country because of our tax laws."
"Once again, PolitiFact shows its conservative bias. Any company that has earnings overseas can bring the earnings back in a heartbeat -- they just have to pay the taxes owed, for less than the 35 percent U.S. statutory rate, because they get a U.S. tax credit for the foreign tax already paid on those earnings. ‘Trapped,’ according to my dictionary, means unable to escape. Not only is Speaker Ryan's comment false under this definition, it's laughable. Besides paying the tax and repatriating the funds, companies routinely access these funds by having their foreign subsidiaries lend to their U.S. parents without incurring the tax."
One reader said we missed some wrinkles in our fact-check of Trump’s statement that "we're the highest developed nation taxed in the world." We rated that False.
"I'm a huge fan of your service. On the question of us being the ‘most taxed nation in the world,’ you’re right, of course. But there are significant angles to this dynamic that your fact-check doesn't incorporate. Even though the U.S. is not the ‘highest-taxed’ nation in the world, functionally speaking, we are. In other countries, both health care and education are funded as a function of taxes. We pay out of pocket, and we do so to massive degrees. Our national health expenditure per-capita is 2-3 times other nations, and our higher education expenses may be even higher. Other nations also include amenities like child care and state-subsidized maternity leave. If these expenses were included in our tax bill, we'd be the most-taxed nation in the world by a long shot."
Two readers shared thoughts about our fact-check of Hillary Clinton’s statement that "the crowd (in Las Vegas) fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer." We rated that False.
One reader wrote, "Kudos to PolitiFact for an excellent rebuttal of Clinton’s words. However, I wish you had talked about the other side of this, too. I am 46 years old with hearing aids and should have had them since I was 40. My hearing was damaged because of the lack of suppression on our weapons. To be clear, at the time it was probably number 142 on the priority list of things to worry about during the first Gulf War. But it still took its toll on me. Soldiers in general are constantly exposed to this. Even doctors must qualify on some type of range. To cast silencers in a negative light is to force others to experience what I do -- hearing loss and tinnitus."
Another wrote, "The article was well-written, but it missed a couple of important points that may be relevant. First, the technical term for these devices is ‘suppressor,’ not ‘silencer.’ ‘Silencer’ is a misnomer and one of the reasons -- movies aside -- that people are generally under the misunderstanding that these devices ‘silence’ a firearm completely. Second, suppressors are generally rendered ineffective when using normal ammunition. Subsonic ammunition -- or bullets which are loaded specifically to not exceed the sound barrier -- are typically used in conjunction with a suppressor to maximize the effect. This also results in less ‘oomph’ behind the round, or less penetration."
One reader suggested we were misguided in fact-checking former pro football player Colin Kaepernick for saying that Winston Churchill was the source of the aphorism, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." We rated that False.
"I am a long time fan of the work you guys do, but in response to your ‘fact check’ of Colin Kaepernick's tweet, how is this possibly a good use of your time? Who benefits from this? All you've done is embarrass a man who did no harm. There was no attempt to mislead people. This was not an instance in which someone in power said something ridiculous and should know better. This is a man sending out a common quote with the common mis-attribution. To have investigated this at all reduces your journalistic credibility. It's like Walter Cronkite hosting Access Hollywood. I am so very disappointed."
One reader shared a family story in response to our article, "A short history of the national anthem, protests and the NFL."
"Many years ago, in the 1930s, my grandfather was forced to leave a Brooklyn Dodgers game when he did not -- would not -- stand for the National Anthem. He is a Native American, and he would not stand because even though American Indians had received citizenship, many states would not allow them to vote, the federal government refused to acknowledge them in service benefits for World War I. So taking a knee isn't new. Indians have been doing this for generations."
And a few readers wrote in to express their thanks for our work.
One wrote, "I wanted to say thanks for putting your fake news almanac together and online. So helpful!"
Another wrote, "Thank you for providing a beacon of truth in an era when journalism has been displaced by sensationalism and click-baiting."
And a third wrote, "At the age of 80, I'm sending you my first fan mail ever. I want to send a very big thank you for all the things you do so well. What you folks do is so far more important today than at any time in history. There, I did it -- my very first."