Thursday, September 22, 2022

PolitiSpin: Biden says he cut the debt by $1.5 trillion? Half True!

We kiddeth not when we call PolitiFact a collection of liberal bloggers posing as non-partisan fact checkers.

U.S. debt hasn't gone down at all under Biden, as PolitiFact admits. PolitiFact cited a September 2022 estimate saying the deficit, not the debt, would decrease by about $1.7 trillion compared to FY2021, but that leaves a deficit of almost $1 trillion that will increase the debt by that same amount.

So, how does a left-leaning fact checker go about making a false statement seem like a partially true statement that leaves out important details or takes things out of context?

Watch and learn, wannabe liberal bloggers who covet the "fact checker" label:

"We’ve also reduced the debt and reduced the debt by $350 billion my first year," Biden said. "This year, it's going to be over $1.5 trillion (that we’ve) reduced the debt."

Biden has a point that his administration has presided over smaller deficits than were seen under the Trump administration, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates. But Biden’s remark leaves out important context. The debt had risen because of a temporary phase of unusual federal spending.

No Reduction of U.S. Debt

It's simple. Declare that when Biden says he reduced the debt by $1.5 trillion he's actually making a valid point about reducing the deficit and therefore reducing the growth of the debt. Then imply that the problem with Biden's claim isn't using "debt" instead of "deficit" but that he has left out the fact that most of the deficit reduction happened as old COVID programs stopped shelling out so much federal money.

We're probably not supposed to point out that PolitiFact omits all mention of Mr. Biden's student loan forgiveness program. The CBO said, on the page PolitiFact cited for its deficit figure, loan forgiveness actions in September 2022 could substantially affect deficit figures for FY2022.

That's what a liberal blogger will leave out that a nonpartisan fact checker will mention.

What About Biden's Underlying Point?

PolitiFact has reliably (?) informed us that the most important aspect of a numbers claim comes from the speaker's underlying point. If the numbers are off but the main point stands, a favorable "Truth-O-Meter" rating may result.


(W)e realized we were ducking the underlying point of blame or credit, which was the crucial message. So we began rating those types of claims as compound statements. We not only checked whether the numbers were accurate, we checked whether economists believed an office holder's policies were much of a factor in the increase or decrease.

It turns out in the Biden fact check PolitiFact found Mr. Biden was taking credit for the non-existent debt reduction:

During a Sept. 18 interview with CBS’ "60 Minutes," President Joe Biden touted his administration’s efforts to rein in federal debt.

We judge that if PolitiFact believed Biden was touting "his administration's efforts to rein in federal debt" then it regards his debt reduction claim was an effort to take credit for that supposed reduction.

So, was it a Biden administration effort that reduced the deficit (not the debt) by $1.5 trillion compared to FY2021?

PolitiFact (bold emphasis added):

Spending programs passed earlier in the pandemic began expiring this year, meaning federal outlays have declined. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonprofit public policy group, has estimated that more than 80% of the $1.7 trillion reduction in the deficit can be explained by expiring or shrinking COVID-19 relief.
We calculate that as $1.35 trillion out of the $1.7 trillion, leaving Biden with the potential to claim credit for as much as $350 billion of the deficit reduction. Giving the president credit for the entire amount results in an estimated exaggeration (minimum) of 329 percent (($1.5 trillion-$.35 trillion)/$.35 trillion).

So Biden claimed debt reduction that was not debt reduction and exaggerated his administration's share of the deficit reduction by over three times its actual amount. Therefore, according to PolitiFact, what he said was half true.

The 'Slowing the Rate of Growth' Excuse

PolitiFact cleverly, or perhaps stupidly, excuses Biden's use of "debt" instead of "deficit" by interpreting the claim to mean slowing the growth of the debt. PolitiFact could argue precedent for that approach, for claims about "cutting Medicare" or "cutting Medicaid" tend to receive "Half True" ratings or worse (worse tends to happen if Republican).

The problem? Biden got the "Half True" while exaggerating the numbers in his favor for purposes of claiming credit. And that's with PolitiFact helping out by not mentioning the potential cost of his student loan bailout proposal. The Penn Wharton budget model (University of Pennsylvania) estimated costs of over $500 billion for 2022.

That figure would wipe out the administration's potential share of $350 billion of deficit reduction.

The "slowing the rate of growth" excuse doesn't come close to justifying a "Half True" rating.

We have here another strong entry from PolitiFact for the Worst Fact Check of 2022.

Friday, September 9, 2022

PolitiFact vs Your Lyin' Eyes on the immigration invasion

On Sept. 6, 2022 PolitiFact published an item titled "A surprising number of Americans believe these false claims about immigrants. Here are the facts."

We have a favorite among the supposedly false claims believed by a surprising number of Americans.

"There is no invasion at the southern border"

No invasion at the southern border? Tell us more, PolitiFact.
More than half of Americans surveyed by NPR/Ipsos believe it is completely or somewhat true that the "U.S. is experiencing an invasion at the southern border."

But many immigrants crossing the border illegally turn themselves into Border Patrol agents on purpose, to ask for asylum, Brown said. 

"That is not behavior that you would really attribute to an invader," Brown said. She said that usually, the term invasion is used to describe a concerted effort by a country to forcibly enter another country to take it over.

Such reasoning does not belong in fact-checking. On the contrary, the logic PolitiFact accepts belongs as far from fact-checking as possible.

Here's PolitiFact's supposed logic: If the expert says "invasion" usually means one country making a concerted effort to forcibly enter another to take it over, then "invasion" means one country making a concerted effort to forcibly enter another country to take it over. For PolitiFact, it then follows that Americans viewing a tide of illegal immigration at the southern border incorrectly see it as an invasion.

At least PolitiFact declined to follow the lead of its source, NPR/Ipsos, in calling the term "invasion" racist.

Hopefully the definition from Webster's New World College Dictionary, supposedly a standard for U.S. journalists (we're using the fourth edition) can help clear things up:

in-va-sion ... n. ... an invading or being invaded; specif., a) an entering or being entered by an attacking military force b) an intrusion or infringement

Is there any valid reason to suppose that illegal entry to the United States does not count as intrusion? Of course not. And any fact-checker unable to figure that out cannot be worthy of the name.

Regarding the invasion at the southern border, you can believe PolitiFact or your lyin' eyes.