I have a sort of like-dislike relationship with Politifact. I think they are useful for gathering facts and providing background. I actually find their long-form articles, where they hash out the details of claims and allow both sides to make their case, much more illuminating than their offhand ratings, which are a bit arbitrary. They are certainly superior to, say, Media Matters, which unabashedly touts the liberal line. But I do occasionally find they get tangled in minutiae, missing the forest for the trees.
However, liberals love Politifact. They especially loved Politifact when they branded — incorrectly in my view — the claim that Obamacare was a government takeover of healthcare as their “Lie of the Year” for 2010.
Well, they just got a lot less popular:
Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.
Democrats pounced. Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a Web ad that said seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
After two years of being pounded by Republicans with often false charges about the 2010 health care law, the Democrats were turning the tables.
PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.
Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.
My view? Well, the Republicans kind of did try to end “Medicare as we know it”, replacing a single-payer system with something similar to Obamacare. But Politifact’s point is a little more nuanced, as they point out the large number of lies that were told in support of the claim that the GOP was ending Medicare. Go to their page and read the claims they include under the “end Medicare” umbrella. Many of them were ridiculously bad lies. Many of them were clearly designed to terrify seniors. Politifact was responding to a campaign, not a specific statement. As with all Politifact articles, you have to read it to know what they’re actually saying.
(A new version of Ryan’s plan is emerging now in cooperation with Ron Wyden. Suderman discusses it here. Klein’s take here. Imagine a continuum of plans that goes from a total free market to socalism. The spectrum might look like this.
1. Free market; no government interference
2. Mostly free market; some government support to poor people
3. Regulated market; government support to the poor.
4. Managed market with price supports.
5. Managed market with price supports and government option.
6. Single payer.
7. Socialized system (i.e., docs are government employees).
The NHS would be (7). Medicare is currently (6). Obamacare started as (5) and became (4). The system before that was (3). Ryan’s plan would have moved Medicare from (6) to (4). The Ryan-Wyden plan would move Medicare from (6) to (5). I’m ridiculously oversimplifying things but … you kind of have to sometimes to get the point: the Democrats are trying to increment up that scale; the Republicans are trying to increment down it.)
Anyway, Politifact has now hit he Democrats. And as you can imagine, the liberals — who have spent years praising Politifact to the skies — are apoplectic. Paul Krugman washes his hands of them here. Charles Johnson blasts them here. Daily Kos tries to blame the WSJ here.
It’s hilarious. When PF bashed Republicans, it was a bastion of integrity. Now that it’s bashed the Democrats’ latest Mediscare campaign, it’s a useless Right-wing tool.
And they say we live in an epistemic bubble.