Sunday, October 8, 2017

A mainstream media fact-checking scandal continues

Somewhere along the line, mainstream fact-checkers like PolitiFact had an epiphany about cutting funds from future baseline projections.

In the days of yore, when it was trendy for Republicans to decry the Affordable Care Act for cutting Medicare, PolitiFact said a cut from a budget baseline wasn't really a cut.

PolitiFact Virginia, June 2012 (bold emphasis added):
American Crossroads says (Sen. Tim) Kaine promoted a $500 billion cut to Medicare.
The Affordable Care Act contains about $564 billion in cost-savings measures for Medicare over 10 years. But the definition of a cut means there would be a reduction in spending. That’s not the case here. Medicare spending will continue to expand. The law will slow the projected rate of growth.
Now in the age of science and science-y fact-checking, PolitiFact has discovered that cutting funds from a future spending baseline is, in fact, a cut.

PolitiFact, October 2017 (bold emphasis added):
The Senate Budget Committee has a point that Medicare spending will be going up, just not as fast as it would under the status quo. It also has a point that more modest cuts sooner could stave off bigger cuts later. (Experts have often told us that it’s presumptuous to assume significant economic growth impacts before they materialize.)
But we don’t find it unreasonable for Schumer to call cumulative reductions to Medicare and Medicaid spending in the hundreds of billions of dollars "cuts."
That, friends and neighbors, is a major-league flip-flop. Zebra Fact Check documented it more extensively with a post on July 20, 2017. I pointed out the discrepancy on Twitter to the guilty parties, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker. If they took note of the criticism, apparently each has decided that there is nothing amiss with the inconsistency.

Don't miss this tree on account of the forest

We would draw attention back to one detail in PolitiFact's rating of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY):
(W)e don’t find it unreasonable for Schumer to call cumulative reductions to Medicare and Medicaid spending in the hundreds of billions of dollars "cuts."
Why did PolitiFact put "cuts" in quotes? If it was a word Schumer had used, then okay, no problem. But PolitiFact says it has no problem with Schumer using "cuts" to describe decreases to projected spending when Schumer used the term "guts," not "cuts."

When Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson said the Affordable Care Act gutted Medicare, PolitiFact Wisconsin had a big problem with him using "gut" instead of "cut":
The health care law slows Medicare’s growth but spending would still rise significantly, and some new services are added.

The changes do not promise to hold seniors harmless, but Medicare is not being gutted.

We rate the claim False.
See PolitiFact Wisconsin's fact check to appreciate the degree to which it emphasized a distinction between "guts" and "cuts."

For fact-checking Schumer in 2017, the words are merely synonyms.

The inconsistency on cuts from a baseline occurs routinely from the mainstream fact checkers.
It's a scandal. And we shouldn't be the only ones emphasizing that point.




Correction Oct. 9, 2017: Changed "put 'cuts' in parentheses" to "put 'cuts' in quotes."

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