Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders, PolitiFact, PolitiMath

We do a "PolitiMath" evaluation of PolitiFact's fact checks where numerical errors ought to have a powerful bearing on PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" ratings. We're interested in how percentage error impacts the differences between "Pants on Fire," "False," "Mostly False" and so on.

An older item on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) caught our eye in the midst of one of PolitiFact's bogus "report card" stories. Sanders said the United States spends twice as much per capita on health care than any other nation on earth.

PolitiFact found Sanders was off:
According to the 2009 edition of WHO's World Health Statistics report, which uses figures from 2006, health care spending in the United States — both public- and private-sector — amounted to $6,719 per capita. Ranking next were Luxembourg and Monaco at $6,506 and $6,353 per capita, respectively. All told, either 11 or 15 countries told the WHO they spent more than $3,360 per capita, the point at which the United States no longer doubles their spending. (We provide two possible figures here because the WHO offers both raw figures and statistics adjusted for currency valuations.) The other nations that rank near the top with the United States include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, in addition to tiny Malta and San Marino.
We'd have gone to bat for Sanders if only OECD nations were counted. The United States spends more per capita than its nearest rival by over 50 percent, which is the reasonable floor for rounding up to a "twice as much" claim. But the United States only spends 3.3 percent more per capita than Luxembourg, which is a pretty far cry from 50 percent.

Sanders exaggerated the truth by at least 1,400 percent, using the figures from Luxembourg as the counterexample to his claim.

PolitiFact's rating of Sanders? "False."

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