Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bernie Sanders, PolitiMath and the price of water in Flint

In our PolitiMath series we look at how numerical errors correlate to PolitiFact's ratings.

PolitiFact's March 7, 2016 rating of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suits our purposes well, with Sanders claiming Flint residents pay three times for water what Sanders pays in Burlington, Vt.

PolitiFact found Sanders was right if it used outdated water rates:
When we look at average annual bills from January 2015, Sanders’ 3-to-1 comparison is pretty close. But after August, Flint customers were paying a little more than twice as much as Burlington residents.
A judge's order in August 2015 rolled back water rates. Therefore, as PolitiFact notes, Flint residents now pay about twice what Burlington residents pay, counting Flint's charges for the home water meter. Burlington doesn't charge for the water meter.

To us, it's okay if Sanders wants to round up to get to his "three times" figure. So for PolitiMath purposes, we'll calculate how much 2.5 exaggerates the difference in water rates between Flint and Burlington.

Going by PolitiFact's chart, "a little more than twice as much" turned out to be about 2.4, leading to a very modest exaggeration on Sanders' part: about 4 percent. Yes, allowing for rounding up helped Sanders immensely. That's okay. We'd handle this the same way for a conservative.

PolitiFact gave Sanders a "Mostly True" rating, by the way, for a claim that was literally false.  

Deja vu.

2 comments:

  1. Hilarious. Perhaps you haven't read how the Truth-O-Meter works?

    "Context matters – We examine the claim in the full context, the comments made before and after it, the question that prompted it, and the point the person was trying to make."

    If the points he was trying to make were that his water was clean, theirs wasn't, and he pays way less for his than theirs, the only difference being the multiple being slightly off only due to a relatively recent change, why wouldn't he be rated Mostly True for this statement?

    And if they were merely trying to always show liberals in the best light possible, then why wouldn't Rubio's statement here be less than True?

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/mar/11/marco-rubio/marco-rubio-says-foreign-aid-less-1-percent-federa/

    He clearly says that foreign aid spending is less than 1% of the budget. Not around 1%. Not about 1%. Not somewhere in the neighborhood of 1%. And yet when 2 out of the 4 estimates available were at or above 1%, they still gave it a True rating, because the difference was negligible and the intention of his point still stands. Why would this slip through their "bias" undetected?

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    1. James Oakes asked

      **Perhaps you haven't read how the Truth-O-Meter works?**

      No, there's no chance of that. We're aware of both PolitiFact's statements of principles and the myriad ways they ignore their principle and apply them inconsistently. We often quote from PolitiFact's principles in our posts criticizing PolitiFact.

      **If the points he was trying to make were that his water was clean, theirs wasn't, and he pays way less for his than theirs, the only difference being the multiple being slightly off only due to a relatively recent change, why wouldn't he be rated Mostly True for this statement?**

      Visit PolitiFact's principle pointing out the sin of cherry picking. Then think about it.

      **[Rubio] clearly says that foreign aid spending is less than 1% of the budget. Not around 1%. Not about 1%. Not somewhere in the neighborhood of 1%. And yet when 2 out of the 4 estimates available were at or above 1%, they still gave it a True rating, because the difference was negligible and the intention of his point still stands. Why would this slip through their "bias" undetected?**

      Is cutting foreign aid a big priority with liberals? Other than military aid?

      We've never taken the position that everything PolitiFact publishes manifests a clear bias against Republicans. Maybe you should review our "About/FAQ" page to see what types of arguments are appropriate to use against us.

      Has PolitiFact led you to believe that a specific amount of budget authority equates with budget outlays? How would you otherwise conclude what Rubio said wasn't accurate?

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