Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Foundry: "PolitiFact Declares Century-Long Economic Debate Over"

Brian Riedl works as an economist for the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.  From time to time, PolitiFact uses Riedl as an expert source.

At times, expert sources come away unsatisfied with how their contribution was treated.

Enter Riedl, writing for The Foundry:
Typically, fact-checking is limited to checking, well, verifiable facts. Whether the budget deficit is rising, how much Washington spends on Social Security, and what provisions are in the latest health care bill are not open to interpretation. They can be verified factually.

Whether the economy would have performed better or worse without the President’s $862 billion stimulus is an analytical and theoretical argument. It is not a “fact” to be “checked.”

PolitiFact’s analysis displays a lack of understanding of the complexities of macroeconomic analysis. They cite as a “consensus” four studies claiming that the stimulus worked – yet those studies were all essentially Keynesian economic models, so of course they will declare that a Keynesian stimulus worked.
Riedl noted that PolitiFact essentially accepted the accuracy of estimates made by Keynesians using Keynesian models to measure the job creation effectiveness of the stimulus bill, and in turn used those numbers to rate the accuracy of a statement by President Obama.  Here's how that method appeared in PolitiFact's conclusion:
With the notable exception of conservatives, the independent economists who have produced studies agree that the stimulus has saved or created upwards of 1 million jobs, and that the bill will likely create another million or so jobs in 2010. These numbers are based on a "counterfactual" study that is an estimate subject to some professional disagreement. And within this broad range of expert opinion, Obama chose a number on the high side. The numbers could easily be less than what he suggests. So we rate his claim Half True.
 Obama may be flatly incorrect, in other words, and therefore receives a "Half True" rating from PolitiFact.

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