Friday, December 14, 2012

All is once again right with the world

Recognizing as we do the subjective nature of PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" awards, the annual award itself offers little of interest.

Last year's award was better than most, however, because of the reaction it provoked on the political left.  The left reacted with outrage because, it claimed, the supposed "Lie of the Year"--that Republicans voted to end Medicare--was true.

We sympathized with that complaint.  We agreed that, read charitably, there was a shred of truth in the claim that Republicans wanted to end Medicare.  But we also noted that the complaints from the left were very similar in character to the complaints Republicans have made about PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" ever since the first award.

Every single winning "lie" has contained a substantial nugget of truth:

2009:  "Death panel"--The original remark and most subsequent versions reference the principle expressed by economist Thomas Sowell that the government regulation of health care results in rationing of services--death panel by regulation.

2010:  "Government takeover of healthcare"--The PPACA establishes government rules insurers and many employers must follow in providing healthcare.  The administration is still writing the thousands of pages of regulations that implement the law.

2011:  "Republicans voted to end Medicare."  Democrats defined "Medicare" as a single-payer plan administered by the government.  Providing subsidized care to the elderly by relying on private insurers would end that arrangement and thus "end Medicare."

For 2012 it's hard to come up with a short quotation that encapsulates the supposed lie, since PolitiFact had to infer the inaccuracy in the midst of a series of accurate statements in the Mitt Romney ad that won the award.  Watch PolitiFact staffer Angie Drobnic Holan wrestle with the presentation in the body of her story announcing the award:
PolitiFact has selected Romney's claim that Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.
Did President Obama's administration broker a deal giving control of Jeep to Fiat, an Italian company?

Yes. In its original story, PolitiFact quibbled over the notion that the company was sold to Fiat since Fiat didn't pay for the company. But I didn't pay for the company, either, yet I didn't end up owning it. Fiat was expected to assume debts and help provide capital to run Chrysler and its affiliates. It was a sale by barter if nothing else.

Are Jeep's Italian owners going to build Jeep vehicles in China?

Yes. The company has stated its intention to build Jeeps in China for the Chinese market, which currently receives over 19,000 vehicles annually shipped fully assembled in the United States by American workers.

Now we're done with with the quotations from the Romney ad, and we're down to PolitiFact's inferences.

Will Fiat's Jeep production lines in China cost American jobs?

Sending Jeep production for China to the Chinese may cost American jobs. It's hard to say how many, because duties on imports would cap Chinese demand for Jeep vehicles. That's one of the advantages of moving production for China to China. But demand in China grew in 2012 so that Jeep delivered over 30,000 Jeeps to China despite the import duty. The labor to produce those vehicles will be lost to the U.S., so it's true that the planned Chinese plant will have a cost in terms of American labor.

The Romney ad was factual, probably more so than any other "Lie of the Year" winner. That's not to say that the ad was without problems. A person could think after seeing the ad that all Jeep production would move to China, just like ads from the Democrats in 2011 could lead voters to believe Republicans were ending anything resembling Medicare, pure and simple.

But here's the thing: So far we don't see liberals complaining that PolitiFact chose the Romney ad as its "Lie of the Year" despite the fact that it's true. Apparently since it's not a claim from Democrats it doesn't matter if the "Lie of the Year" consists of true statements given a inferential twist by the journalistic judges.

But maybe I just need to let a bit more time elapse. I'll wait.

"They used to produce Jeeps in China and they were about to go broke so they had to quit," Clinton said. "You can’t make a Jeep in America and send it to China – it weighs too much, it costs too much to send over there. All they are going to do is reopen their operations there and try to sell Jeeps there too. We’re doing fine here."

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