…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

Hooray for Fact Checkers!

December 22nd, 2011 . by economistmom


I’m busy with holiday preparations, and frankly, there’s not much to say of substance about the (still depressing and still unresolved) payroll tax cut issue, but I thought I’d point readers to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler’s compilation of  “the biggest Pinocchios of 2011.” Glenn has a really nice defense of fact checking as a profession which makes me feel a kinship to him; those of us who advocate for fiscal responsibility are often attacked from both sides, too.  An excerpt from his “My name is Glenn, and I’m a fact checker” introduction:

My colleague Ezra Klein even opined that “the ‘fact checker’ model is probably unsustainable,” based on the questionable belief that “half of the public leans towards one party and about half of the public leans toward the other” and thus will tune out commentary with which they disagree. That’s a pretty depressing commentary on the state of our politics. Thankfully, it bears little relationship to the reality we experience every day at The Fact Checker. 

Yes, there are always partisans who, day after day, accuse us of either being left-wing hacks or right-wing crazies. But there are also many people who, every day, write notes of thanks–for explaining a difficult subject, opening their eyes to a new idea or providing the facts to a claim that had confused them. Many Americans are asking for more information, not less, and we are happy to help fill the void.

Some people are always going to be partisan. That fine, but that’s not the role of a reporter. We value the many comments we have received from our readers, the words of encouragement and also the criticism. Every day, we seek to live up to your expectations of a true, impartial seeker of the truth.

In fact, there is this strange myth out there that fact checkers aspire to be “referees” and strain to achieve a balance between the two parties. Not so. At The Fact Checker, we take a holistic approach to every fact we check. After more than 30 years of writing about Washington institutions, we truly find there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of twisting the facts and being misleading when it suits their political purposes.

You go, Glenn!  Keep handing out those Pinocchios!

8 Responses to “Hooray for Fact Checkers!”

  1. comment number 1 by: Josh

    Fact checking is much needed in today’s news environment of misinformation or incomplete information. My major issue is when “fact checkers” try to claim that “both sides are in the wrong” and “both sides are contributing to today’s problems” when that’s not even close to true. Take the debt ceiling talks. The news reported it as partisan gridlock. However, Democrats compromised on entitlement spending (as they should have) while the Republicans did not compromise on tax (Pat Toomey did before Grover called him back). Another instance is when PolitiFact called the Dem’s claims that Paul Ryan wanted to end Medicare as we know it “Lie of the Year”. This is silly. Paul Ryan wants to change the structure of Medicare from a single payer program to a voucher system. They may both be called Medicare, they are not the same. Furthermore, Ryan’s plan shifts costs from the federal government to the private citizen.

  2. comment number 2 by: reflectionephemeral

    Josh at comment 1 is correct.

    The problem is that the media does not see its job as accurately reporting the news; it believes that its role is to provide “balance” between what Democrats and Republicans are saying. That job can be handled by a computer program that copy-and-pastes talking points from various spokesmen. Plus, if both parties are wrong, or if one group is just making things up, then reading media coverage actually makes you less informed about the news.

  3. comment number 3 by: Vivian Darkbloom

    It is truly fitting that the first two commenters here are borrowing major themes from Paul Krugman, and I’m sure that’s no accident.

    First (and Economist Mom and Mr. Kessler were very prescient about this) is Mr. Krugman’s assault on Politfact, an fact-checking organization that came to exaclty the same conclusion as FactChecker, despite Mr. Krugman’s protestations to the contrary:

    “Politifact, the project that is supposed to enforce truth in politics, has declared Democratic claims that Republicans voted to end Medicare its “Lie of the Year.” It did so even though Republicans did indeed vote to dismantle Medicare as we know it and replace it with a voucher scheme that would still be called “Medicare,” but would look nothing like the current program — and would no longer guarantee affordable care.”

    As for “balance” that’s been a major theme of Krugman and DeLong for some time. “Balance” here means that they are the only true keepers of the truth and one should report *their* version of the “truth” to the exclusion of all others:

    It is also interesting that the concept of “balance” has recently been borrowed , not as a vice, but *as a virtue* for equally partisan purposes.

    I hope that FactChecker and PolitFact keep up their good work, and that Economist Mom will draw more inspiration from their examples. I think it was Sergeant Joe Friday who said “Just the facts, Ma’am”.

  4. comment number 4 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    Everyone is for ‘ending Medicare as we know it’. Social Security too. The only question is just how to do it.

  5. comment number 5 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    I should have added that Krugman is on record as favoring ‘Medicare for all’, which would be, ‘ending Medicare as we know it’.

  6. comment number 6 by: Josh

    I can see why PolitiFact and other fact checkers might put the Dems assault on the Ryan Plan as a “Half-Truth”. But to call it lie of the year is beyond ridiculous compared to some of the other things that have been said this year. By the way, Paul K. isn’t the only one who thinks PolitiFact is wrong. Take a look around the blogosphere. Better yet, just use your mind. Again, I would agree that Republicans don’t want to completely dismantle Medicare. But to say that this isn’t a radical change to the seniors’ health care system isn’t true either.

  7. comment number 7 by: Patrick R. Sullivan

    Josh, would you be happier if we gave the honor to Harry Reid for his;

    “Millionaire job creators are like unicorns. They’re impossible to find, and they don’t exist… Only a tiny fraction of people making more than a million dollars, probably less than 1 percent, are small business owners. And only a tiny fraction of that tiny fraction are traditional job creators…Most of these businesses are hedge fund managers or wealthy lawyers. They don’t do much hiring and they don’t need tax breaks.”

    Thanks to Paul Roderick Gregory, we know the above to be laughably false:

    ‘There are 236,883 tax filers with incomes of a million dollars or more. By Harry Reid’s count, only one percent, or 2,361 of them, are business owners, and a tiny fraction of them create jobs….

    ‘Millionaire tax filers earn $221 billion – almost a quarter of a trillion — from business and professions, partnerships, and S-corporations. This is puzzling: If Harry Reid’s figure is correct (2,361 millionaire businesses), then the average millionaire-owned business earns almost a hundred million dollars, and all, except 118 of them, do this without hiring anyone. These super heroes do their own typing, selling, drafting. public relations, building, and manufacturing. They do not need employees. Remarkable!’

  8. comment number 8 by: Josh

    That would certainly be better than the current choice. At least it’s backed up by some data. Again, I’m not against fact checking; I’m just against fake balance. Thanks!