Remember when fact-checking meant looking at the facts in an even-handed way? Over at PolitiFact, they’ve apparently forgotten and decided to outright campaign for the President. Just last week, they called Romney’s claim that the President said his stimulus would keep unemployment below eight percent “Mostly False” because of caveats… but when they recently analyzed the alleged deficit reduction impact of the President’s health care law in response to a Romney claim, they ignored such caveats.
Let’s dig down a little into this significant hypocrisy:
1. Here is how PolitiFact ranks Romney’s statement about the stimulus:
Romney told donors he could win over wavering voters by reminding them that Obama said “he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent.”
Obama didn’t say that. Rather, his Council of Economic Advisers predicted that the stimulus would hold it to that level. Their report included heavy disclaimers that the projections had “significant margins of error” and a high degree of uncertainty due to a recession that is “unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity.”
The sub-8 percent prediction did not hold true, but it’s still incorrect to characterize it as a promise or guarantee.
We rate Romney’s statement Mostly False.
2. Yet when it comes to the President’s health care law:
The CBO said this about the health care law back in 2010: It lowers the deficit, by about $124 billion over 10 years.
And in 2011, when Republicans offered a bill to repeal the health care law, the CBO said that increased the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.
Now, is the CBO infallible? Certainly not. And good questions have been raised about some of the CBO’s methods in accounting for the health care law’s effects. We reported on some those concerns in great detail in a fact-check of statement from U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. He said the law was “accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.” We rated that Mostly False.
The CBO itself acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding its estimates. Its reports regularly warn that uncertainty increases as it makes projections farther into the future.
And, the Supreme Court ruling may change certain elements of the health care law’s costs, especially as it affects Medicaid spending. Medicaid is the joint federal-state health insurance program for the very poor.
A statement on the CBO website on the day of the ruling said, “CBO is in the process of reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision related to the Affordable Care Act to assess the effect on CBO’s projections of federal spending and revenue under current law. We expect that this assessment will probably take some time.”
Still, we find no factual basis for Romney’s claim that the law “adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” We rate his statement False.
So despite major qualifiers in both analyses, PolitiFact toes the line for the Administration. This is despite the following:
- PolitiFact quotes Romney as saying Obama “told you [disappointed Obama voters] he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent. Hasn’t been below 8 percent since.” Yet PolitiFact’s analysis focuses on saying Romney claims Obama “promised” the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8 percent. Nowhere did Romney use the word promise, and it is considered normal political practice to consider an Administration’s economic council advisors as representing the Administration. Strike one against PolitiFact.
- As outlined by this Reason Foundation piece, the CBO acknowledges it is forced to double-count hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts in the law as “savings” despite their being used for more spending. Strike two.
- There is an education component to the health care law that would save billions – which CBO was legally required to include in its analysis, but has nothing to do with health care. Strike three.
So, to summarize, PolitiFact finds great validity in the qualifiers by the President Council of Economic Advisors regarding the stimulus. Fair enough. But why aren’t those same qualifiers considered important in the CBO analysis of the health care law?