Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Need A Facts 'Cuz I'm Goin' Down

You tell lies thinking I can't see, You can't cry 'cuz you're laughing at me
I'm down (I'm really down)
-The Beatles

It's been more than a decade since Bill Clinton put a face on the concept of obfuscation when he uttered the now infamous words "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Thankfully, PolitiFact has resurrected the is defense in their ongoing protection of ObamaCare.

Image from

PolitiFact put their Pulitzer-winning skills to the test while grappling with the difficult question of Nancy Pelosi's confusing, ambiguous statement. Is the ACA bringing the cost of health care down? Heroically, PolitiFact pores through the numbers and sorts out the truth:
It depends partly on what you mean by "down."

Ah, yes, that most complicated and mysterious of all adverbs; "down." What does it mean?

Apparently to the Fact Mongers at PolitiFact, it means up, but not as up as before. Or something:
Pelosi said "the Affordable Care Act is bringing the cost of health care in our country down." But it’s the rate of growth that’s dropped, not the actual cost of care — which is still rising.
Something going up is generally considered to be the exact opposite of something going down.

This Half True rating is pure editorial spin. Pelosi is flatly wrong. PolitiFact acknowledges that costs are rising. And even if we accept at face value their argument that costs are rising slower than they were before, there's hardly an objective way to determine the ACA's influence on that.

When your fact check stumbles over what the definition of the word "down" is, you have to wonder if you're in the right line of work.

Bryan adds:

A "Half True" is almost defensible if Pelosi truly meant to refer to health care costs rising more slowly than they would have in the absence of the ACA.

The context of her statement, however, makes that interpretation implausible (bold emphasis added):
"Many of the initiatives that he passed are what are coming to bear now, including the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act is bringing the cost of health care in our country down in both the public and private sector.

"And that is what is largely responsible for the deficit coming down."
Slowing the growth of health care spending cannot bear responsibility for "the deficit coming down." PolitiFact's evaluation of Pelosi's statement involves giving her the benefit of the doubt twice:  When she says health care costs are going down she means growing more slowly, and when she says the deficit is coming down she means it's growing more slowly.

The deficit is coming down in 2013, not growing more slowly.  The CBO released statements to that effect in February and May of this year.  It therefore makes no sense to think Pelosi was saying the deficit is growing more slowly.

It's another Olympian flub by PolitiFact. Rachel Maddow's going to explode over this incompetence.  Any day now...


  1. Err...
    Well, if we look at the amount of money we've spent in ten years with and without obamacare - Pelosi may be right. She's talking about futures - she says that health care in ten years will not be as much as it would have been without ACA. That the potential expected "deficit" is going down.

    It's a weird way to look at it: if I'm making house payments and then refinance my mortgage - then suddenly I don't have to pay as much money in the future. It's not flat wrong - the only difference is that in my analogy, I'm increasingly forced to buy more houses every year.

  2. "Well, if we look at the amount of money we've spent in ten years with and without obamacare - Pelosi may be right."

    No, in the context of the question she was asked, there is a real deficit reduction, not just a reduction in the growth of the deficit. We can make it kinda-sorta true as you say if we accept that Pelosi didn't address the question. Either way, she looks foolish. She either fails to address the question or else answers incorrectly.

    In addition, all we have for "bending the cost curve" are CBO projections, which assume reductions in provider reimbursements that Medicare's chief actuary regards as improbable (as well as likely to shrink the supply of doctors accepting Medicare) along with a soft cap on Medicare spending slated to take effect under the ACA.

    The number of ACA features that were supposed to shrink health care spending are dwindling.


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