Friday, November 30, 2012

Michael F. Cannon: "I Have Been False*"

Health care policy expert Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute brings us yet another astonishing display of fact-check incompetence from PolitiFact.

PolitiFact Georgia is the culprit this time.
In an unconscious parody of everything that’s wrong with the “fact-checker” movement in journalism, PolitiFact Georgia (a project of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) has rated false my claim that operating an ObamaCare Exchange would violate Georgia law.
Cannon offers a devastating and conclusive rebuke of PolitiFact Georgia, and it's so elegant that putting the argument in our own words is pointless.  But to sum up, PolitiFact committed one of its traditional sins by incomprehensibly misinterpreting what the subject was saying.  PolitiFact charges Cannon with claiming that it is illegal for anyone to operate an insurance exchange in Georgia.  Cannon was talking specifically about the states setting up their own exchanges.

Here's the original context, for comparison (bold emphasis added):
State-created exchanges mean higher taxes, fewer jobs, and less protection of religious freedom. States are better off defaulting to a federal exchange. The Medicaid expansion is likewise too costly and risky a proposition. Republican Governors Association chairman Bob McDonnell (R.,Va.) agrees, and has announced that Virginia will implement neither provision.

There are many arguments against creating exchanges.
Could the context make it any clearer that Cannon refers to state-created exchanges with the arguments that follow?  The subsequent arguments augment the clarity.

PolitiFact (bold emphasis added):
[Cannon] wrote a claim we hadn’t heard before.

"[O]perating an Obamacare exchange would be illegal in 14 states," he wrote. "Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have enacted either statutes or constitutional amendments (or both) forbidding state employees to participate in an essential exchange function: implementing Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates."

Is that correct? PolitiFact Georgia decided to conduct an examination of the claim.
Does the federal government propose to operate a federal exchange in Georgia using Georgia government state employees?  How is that supposed to work?

Don't let our brief summary prevent you from reading Cannon's whole response.

It's just another example of amazing incompetence from PolitiFact.  Props to Cannon for standing up to this form of media tyranny.

Jeff adds:
Despite Bill Adair's assurance that PolitiFact "publishes a list of sources with every Truth-O-Meter item" in order to "to help readers judge for themselves whether they agree with the ruling," Cannon notes that the context of his original article "was lost on PolitiFact readers, because PolitiFact provided neither a citation nor a link to the opinion piece it was fact-checking."

As of the time we write this, there is in fact a link to Cannon's National Review article posted on the PF Georgia source list. This means either Cannon was wrong, or PF Georgia amended their article without informing readers of an update, correction, or even an editor's note to document the change.

Considering PolitiFact's long history of inconsistent application of their corrections policy, we're inclined to take Cannon's word for it.

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