Friday, July 8, 2011

Media Trackers: "Politifact’s Rating of ‘Half-True’ Only Tells Half The Story"

Conservative website Media Trackers recently took a look at a PolitiFact Wisconsin rating dealing with Gov. Scott Walker's budget. A liberal group, One Wisconsin Now, made the claim that Walker’s budget "includes tax breaks for corporations and the rich that will cost the state of Wisconsin taxpayers $2.3 billion over the next decade."

Media Trackers explains:
In typical fashion, Politifact rates the claim “half-true,” beating up One Wisconsin Now on some technicalities while just grazing the surface of the larger issues.
The larger issue is PolitiFact simply accepts a standard liberal talking point as an obvious fact. See if you can spot it in PolitiFact's summary:
[One Wisconsin Now's] larger point -- that the tax breaks benefit corporations and wealthier residents, rather than average taxpayers -- is generally on target, given that the largest amounts of the tax breaks go to businesses and to individuals with higher incomes.
Fret not if you missed the subtle sleight. Media Trackers tracked it down:
No benefit to the average taxpayer?

The average taxpayer would not benefit from corporations having more capital to innovate? The average taxpayer would not benefit from entrepreneurs who might relocate to Wisconsin? The average taxpayer would not benefit from the potential for more jobs in Wisconsin?

One doesn’t expect One Wisconsin Now to grasp the reasons why tax breaks for businesses and corporations are beneficial to Wisconsin as a whole. But the writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ought to recognize that it is beneficial to average taxpayers if Wisconsin’s business climate improves, that we shun the policies that gave Wisconsin the 4th highest tax burden while ranking 40th in business climate.
This is an excellent point, and exposes a flaw in PolitiFact's methods. The Wall Street Journal made this exact assertion in an article we've previously reviewed:
PolitiFact's decree is part of a larger journalistic trend that seeks to recast all political debates as matters of lies, misinformation and "facts," rather than differences of world view or principles. PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a "fact," though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute.
Reasonable people can disagree on how specific economic policies will affect various citizens. Those effects are not confined within the realm of quantifiable facts and it would be nearly impossible to objectively measure them. But PolitiFact did exactly that when they determined the average taxpayer wouldn't benefit from the tax cuts in Walkers budget. This acceptance of liberal axioms blemishes PolitiFact's implicit claim to non-partisan objectivity.

Read the entire piece here. Readers can find another review of a Media Trackers critique here.

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