Patterico's Pontifications

10/13/2015

Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™: Comparing the Treatment of Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz by “Fact-Checkers”

Filed under: Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™,General — Patterico @ 7:47 am

I have decided to launch a new occasional Patterico series titled Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers.™ Here’s the problem: so-called “fact-checkers” gain an artificial credibility in political discourse, simply by invoking “fact-checking” as the name of their enterprise. But, as any sentient conservative knows, Big Media “fact-checking” is nothing more than leftist opinionating disguised in faux factual garb. We’re seeing more and more Democrats use these phony “fact checks” in their campaigns, and with 2016 just around the corner, I sense an urgent need for a fairly regular series of posts fact-checking the fact-checkers. Patterico to the rescue!

As most of you know, Ted Cruz recently slammed the head of the Sierra Club in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. If you missed the video, here it is again:

Cruz’s principal point was that there has been a “pause” in global warming, according to the satellite data, which has shown no significant warming for 17 years. There’s really no disputing that fact — yet the Sierra Club invoked Politi(cized)Fact to assert that Cruz’s claims had been “debunked.” This is how lefty organizations defuse effective attacks by conservatives: they cite an analysis by a “fact-checker” that says the conservative is lying — and the public gets the idea that the conservative must indeed be dishonest, because, after all, a “neutral” fact-checker said so!

Today, we’re going to look at the Politi(cized)Fact analysis of Cruz’s statement, and reveal how fact-checkers take true facts uttered by conservatives, and deem them “mostly false” because the conservatives didn’t give the lefty argument, but only their own. Then we’ll analyze a Politi(cized)Fact analysis of a Hillary Clinton claim, and show how the very same defects are present in Clinton’s statement — yet that one is deemed “mostly true.”

As we will see in detail below, Ted Cruz’s statement is found “mostly false.” He stands accused of “cherry-picking” because his data encompasses the years and measurements that best suit his argument, while he omits the arguments of his leftist opposition that the lefties think undercut his main point.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s statement is found “mostly true.” She bases it on a study done by two economists, at least one of whom is a rank partisan Democrat who has been an advisor to her husband and other Democrat presidential candidates, and who has donated thousands to Democrats. That study cherry-picks certain data that best suit the pro-Democrat argument, and Hillary omits the parts of the study that undercut her main point.

That, my friends, is how the “fact-checkers” do their work. The lefties can assert misleading facts and get a clean bill of health as long as the “facts” are true. Meanwhile, conservatives can state true facts, but still get accused of lying because the other side has arguments too.

Full details in the extended entry. Ready? Let’s do this!

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10/1/2015

Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™: Trump and Unemployment

Filed under: Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™,General — Patterico @ 7:48 am

Politi(cized)Fact has a piece that rates a Donald Trump claim about unemployment as “Pants on Fire.” Here’s Trump’s claim:

During the Sept. 28, 2015, media event, Trump described an unemployment rate in the range of 5 percent as “such a phony number.”

“The number isn’t reflective,” he said. “I’ve seen numbers of 24 percent — I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent.” He continued, “5.3 percent unemployment — that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s a 30, 32. And the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent.”

Note: Trump did not say unemployment was 42%. He said he has seen a number that high.

Of course, 5.3% unemployment is a joke of a number. So has Donald Trump seen a number as high as 42%? Why, it turns out he has! An analysis by David Stockman puts the real unemployment rate at near that number, as Politi(cized)Fact explains:

We asked the Trump campaign for a source of the 42 percent figure, but they didn’t respond. The Fact Checker, however, traced it back to a column by David Stockman, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s budget director.

Stockman calculated that there are currently 210 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 68 — what he calls a “plausible measure of the potential workforce.” If you assume that each of those people is able to hold down a full-time job, he wrote, they would offer a total of 420 billion potential working hours. However, during 2014, Stockman noted, only 240 billion working hours were actually recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you run the numbers, “the real unemployment rate was 42.9 percent,” Stockman wrote.

Stockman admits that this analysis cannot account for groups such as “non-working wives, students, the disabled, early retirees and coupon clippers.” The number, then, is admittedly not perfect. Politi(cized)Fact’s conclusion: Because Trump did see a 42% (really more like 43%) number, but we don’t like it because it’s not perfect . . . PANTS ON FIRE, BABY!!!!!1!!1!

Politi(cized)Fact claims: “The highest alternative unemployment-rate measure we could come up with that had any credibility was 14.8 percent.” And how do they get there? I’ll tell you.

We started with the 94 million Americans age 16 and up who are not either (1) employed, (2) unemployed, (3) in the military or (4) institutionalized. We then subtracted the number of people who have good reasons not to be working or looking for work.

Let’s look at who they subtract out:

  • Ages 16 to 19. Because being 19 years old is a good reason not to work.
  • Those receiving disability checks. This ignores that NPR did an expose about the explosion of disability claims in recent years (my post about it was here). Has there been an actual increase in disability? No, just in disability claims — because now, if you have back pain, or sleep apnea, or diabetes, or claim depression, you can collect disability — which means millions have moved off the welfare rolls and into this more lucrative form of sponging from the government. Doesn’t mean they necessarily have a good reason not to work.
  • Stay-at-home moms or dads. This might be legit or it might not, but certainly there are people who are unemployed and would prefer to be employed, but have children. Are they all “stay-at-home” moms or dads? This is not explained.

I could go on, but you get the idea: Politi(cized)Fact’s numbers are . . . not perfect.

By their standards, that makes their 14.8% number a lie.

So: Trump claims he saw a 42% number. He did. A number that high has been published by a well-known economist. His number is not perfect, but neither is Politi(cized)Fact’s substitute.

Trump’s claim was true and was nevertheless awarded a “Pants on Fire.”

Patterico’s new “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers” series hereby rates Politi(cized)Fact’s claim: “You Mother[expletive deleted]s Are Totally Dishonest.”


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