Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The dishonesty of PolitiFact's 2011 "Lie of the Year"

The influential PolitiFact's 2011 Lie of the Year: "Republicans voted to end Medicare," a "claim" made by Democrats.

Basically, PolitiFact claims that "Democrats and liberals overreached." Had they just said that Paul Ryan's budget plan would have "privatized" Medicare, that would have been fine. But no: "They used harsh terms such as 'end' and 'kill' when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system."

Now, perhaps PolitiFact is just trying to be, oh, fair and balanced, to prove its non-partisan bona fides by giving their dubious award to the Democrats:

It's the third year in a row that a health care claim has won the dubious honor. In 2009, the winner was the Republicans' charge that the Democrats' health care plan included "death panels." In 2010, it was that the plan was a "government takeover of health care."

Republicans lied before and were called out on it. Now it's the Democrats' turn.

The problem is, this just isn't true. As Paul Krugman explains:

Republicans voted to replace Medicare with a voucher system to buy private insurance — and not just that, a voucher system in which the value of the vouchers would systematically lag the cost of health care, so that there was no guarantee that seniors would even be able to afford private insurance.

The new scheme would still be called "Medicare", but it would bear little resemblance to the current system, which guarantees essential care to all seniors.

How is this not an end to Medicare? And given all the actual, indisputable lies out there, how on earth could saying that it is be the "Lie of the year"?

So why did they do it? Just what I wrote above -- which I wrote before reading Krugman:

[T]he people at Politifact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there's a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they've bent over backwards to appear "balanced" — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant. 

PolitiFact ought to be ashamed of itself, writes Steve Benen. Indeed.

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