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December 20, 2011 9:10 AM PolitiFact ought to be ashamed of itself

By Steve Benen

The fact-checking website PolitiFact has announced its “Lie of the Year” for 2011. It made a poor, credibility-killing choice.

Republicans muscled a budget through the House of Representatives in April that they said would take an important step toward reducing the federal deficit. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the plan kept Medicare intact for people 55 or older, but dramatically changed the program for everyone else by privatizing it and providing government subsidies.

Democrats pounced. Just four days after the party-line vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a Web ad that said seniors will have to pay $12,500 more for health care “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.” […]

PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.

Now, PolitiFact has chosen the Democrats’ claim as the 2011 Lie of the Year.

This is simply indefensible. Claims that are factually true shouldn’t be eligible for a Lie of the Year designation.

It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for this. How about this one: imagine someone owns a Ferrari. It’s expensive and drives beautifully, and the owner desperately wants to keep his car intact. Now imagine I took the car away, removed the metallic badge off the trunk that says “Ferrari,” I stuck it on a golf cart, and I handed the owner the keys.

“Where’s my Ferrari?” the owner would ask.

“It’s right here,” I’d respond. “This has four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, and it says ‘Ferrari’ right there on the back.”

By PolitiFact’s reasoning, I haven’t actually replaced the car — and if you disagree, you’re a pants-on-fire liar.

Indeed, reading through PolitiFact’s defense of its dubious honor, the explanation is effectively a semantics argument — its Lie of the Year, the editors argue, didn’t include the caveats and context that would make it more accurate. But let’s not forget, there were actual, demonstrable, unambiguous lies among the finalists for Lie of the Year. PolitiFact overlooked all of them.

When an outlet puts “fact” in its name, the standards for accuracy are especially high. When it’s selecting a Lie of the Year, standards dictate that the falsehood should be overwhelmingly obvious and offensive.

Today, PolitiFact, which relies exclusively on its credibility to affect the political discourse, ought to be ashamed of itself.

Update: I’ve seen some suggestions that Paul Ryan influenced the process by stuffing the ballot box. Here’s some additional analysis on this point.

Second Update: I didn’t realize this until later, but my friend John Cole used a similar car analogy two weeks ago. I guess great minds do think alike.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

  • zeitgeist on December 20, 2011 9:13 AM:

    even fact checkers apparently fall prey to the insidious cult of balance and false equivalence. last year the Lie of the Year was a Republican lie, so of course this year PolitiFact had to show it wasn't just a tool for Democrats by showing "balance" and calling out something Democrats said.

    maybe they were visited by the ghost of Broder past.

  • stevio on December 20, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Obviously, Politifact too has been purchased by the Murdochs of the world.

    Otherwise why would it publish such a disputed item?

    Everything/one has a price. Mine would be world peace...

  • The BPI Squirrel on December 20, 2011 9:17 AM:

    Another analogy, near and dear to my stomach. Assume Republicans vote to replace Pell Grants with packets of macadamia nuts, which college students can offer to college administrators in hope of being allowed to stay in school. (Assume for purposes of argument that the college administrators are not squirrels.) Each packet of macadamias is labeled "Pell Grant."

    Democrats: "Republicans voted to end Pell Grants!"

    PolitiFact: "Lie of the Year!"

    Good day and good nuts.

  • August Pollak on December 20, 2011 9:18 AM:

    So, this should simply be the last time you ever mention them or link to them on this site again.

    Seriously. I don't mean that as like a boycott or protest or whatever. Their entire use was in being a credible source. They no longer are. You don't link to Weekly World News articles either.

  • Michael on December 20, 2011 9:19 AM:

    The lie could be the $12,500 in new costs.

  • SadOldVet on December 20, 2011 9:28 AM:

    Claims that are factually true shouldn’t be eligible for a Lie of the Year designation. unless Politifact is an appendage of or a wholely owned subsidiary of the repuknican party.

  • Wyatt on December 20, 2011 9:29 AM:

    How tragic that the concept of "balance" is essentially the defining characteristic of modern media--of course, I'm not trying to say that balance or moderation in and of themselves are bad things; but when achieving balance between a fairly static and established group and an inversely dynamic, mobile, and unpredictable group liable to change positions and lurch to the right in the same breath... well, the consensus seems to be to throw up one's arms and ignore it, because one wouldn't want their access pass to half the field thrown away.

  • bleh on December 20, 2011 9:31 AM:

    Why on Earth should they be ashamed? They're attracting eyeballs and getting links!

    I think your mistake is in assuming that their REAL intention is to get "facts" out, to expose falsehoods, to help keep political dialogue informative and constructive, or otherwise to observe what are quaintly considered "journalistic ethics."

    They're just another bunch of hacks. August Pollak is right -- stop linking to them.

  • Montana on December 20, 2011 9:34 AM:

    The solution is obvious.

    You need to create a Political Animal lie of the year award, and award it to PolitiFact in 2011. Someone has to fact check the fact checkers.

  • Kiweagle on December 20, 2011 9:34 AM:

    I'm glad Steve addressed this after I noticed PolitiFact's posting of their "Lie of the Year" award this morning and did a very messy spit-take with my coffee.

    I'm with August Pollack on this. The entire site is totally dependent on its reputation for credibility to exist as a fact checker and they've failed enough times that this was the final nail in the coffin. One can no longer cite them as a source without being instantly rebutted by the mere mention of their abysmal record of errors.

    The ignorance of the voting public is already horrendous without idiots like PolitiFact muddying the waters even more. The site is now dead to me.

  • low-tech cyclist on December 20, 2011 9:37 AM:

    John Cole, December 4:

    "The Politifact stuff really is amazing, especially for a group that normally does good work. Here’s what is happening:

    "America turns off the lights, goes to bed, leaving their Mercedes in the driveway. While we sleep, the Republicans sneak into the car, drive it off, and sell it, but they keep the Mercedes hood ornament. They then split the proceeds between their rich buddies, and go out and find a Ford Pinto up on cinderblocks in a field, with the grass growing through the floorboard. They place that in the driveway, cleverly glue the Mercedes ornament onto the front of the Pinto, and sneak off into the night. The next morning, America and Democrats are screaming- “What the hell happened to my car.” Republicans say- “What are you talking about, there is your Mercedes right there, we just modernized it and fixed it up a bit for long-term financial stability,” and point at the Pinto.

    "Then, the rocket scientists at Politifact drive by to take a non-partisan look at things, see the Mercedes symbol on the front of the car, and tell us all we’re lying about the Republicans stealing our Mercedes.

    "It’s crazy, really."

    Maybe an attribution is in order, Steve?

  • Christie on December 20, 2011 9:37 AM:

    Bill Adair's "reasoning" for selecting this is disgraceful. It didn't win the reader's poll by a long shot. They just, you know, felt like it. (I'm not linking to them.) I've already canceled my subscription.

  • toowearyforoutrage on December 20, 2011 9:38 AM:

    I was surprised in 2004 when Dick Cheney invited people to check Politifact to check his facts (Politifact said Cheney was deceptive).

    I will no longer be impressed because it appears that some water carrying is afoot.

    Has anyone seen anything concerning changes in funding of Politifact? Has the plutocracy decided Politifact is sufficiently inconvenient to their cause?

  • low-tech cyclist on December 20, 2011 9:38 AM:

  • stormskies on December 20, 2011 9:39 AM:

    This is yet another example of the utter corruption of a vast amount of the corporate media. Even today reading articles by the Associated Press and McClatchy about the Tea Party Pigs in the U.S.Congress blocking the agreement about the two month extension for the payroll tax they tried to 'present' this as a simple disagreement wherein the Repiglicans in Congress want an extension of one year, not just two months. There was ZERO mention by either of all the other sick conditions that the Repiglicans in the House have tried to add to this bill: NONE. Our country is now nothing more than a corporate state, a fascist state, this is defined by utter corruption at about every level of our collective reality.

  • c u n d gulag on December 20, 2011 9:39 AM:

    Maybe there was a merger, and it's now POLITICO-FACT?

    That would explain some things, wouldn't it?

  • Alex V on December 20, 2011 9:43 AM:

    You don't have to go far to find an adequate example. One made by notoriously incompetent GOP Senatorial candidate, Sue Lowden, just last year. Just switch out "guaranteed voucher" with "chickens" and "single payer" with barter, but keep the name the same! The government will give seniors chickens to go around bartering with doctors for health-care. That's still Medicare because Republican kept the name the same - at least according to PolitiFact.

  • Napoleon on December 20, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Everyone should flood them with e-mails complaining.

  • Alex V on December 20, 2011 9:47 AM:

    PolitiFact's Lie-of-the-Year award should be followed with the twitter handle #notintendedtobeafactualstatement

  • DAY on December 20, 2011 9:51 AM:

    This "polyfacts" thingie you mention upon occasion. Is it seen by Normal People? Like, in a newspaper, on the same page as the cartoons, and Jumble and the Daily Horoscope?

    Or is it just a beltway item, manufactured for those who are Terminally Irrelevant to the rest of America?

  • T2 on December 20, 2011 9:53 AM:

    seems to me that when Politi Fact began, they were much more likely to call out a lie. Once they got syndicated widely, they started getting "both sides" mentality. They seem to go to great lengths these days to find some angle in a controversial statement that allows them to put Mostly False when indeed any normal person considering the statement would say "that's a lie". The "Lie of the Year" is a perfect example of that....finding a way to parse a clearly true premise in order to change the outcome so truth becomes a lie. Why would they want to do that?

  • 38,500 on December 20, 2011 9:55 AM:

    --Everything/one has a price. Mine would be world peace...--

    Others work more cheaply.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on December 20, 2011 9:56 AM:

    By PolitiFact's reasoning, I haven't actually replaced the car, and if you disagree, you're a pants-on-fire liar.

    By Politifact's reasoning (as explained in their write-up), their quibble wouldn't be if you said "the car was replaced", but rather that you would say "the Ferrari was destroyed".

    Apparently, Paul Ryan made the effort to replace the Ferrari with "something", so to say that he's trying to "kill" the car is a bridge too far. If Democrats simply said "Republicans are trying to end Medicare as we know it", apparently that language would have been A OK with Politifact.

    The problem with Politifact's reasoning is it doesn't work the other way. Republicans' "death panel" nonsense wouldn't have been more accurate or less hyperbole if they had said, "Democrats are trying to create death panels as we know them".

    Politifact accuses the Democrats of overreaching in their attack of the Medicare privatization in the Ryan Plan. More truthfully however, Politifact is significanlty overreaching in their attempt to be "fair and balanced". The "2011 lie" is not even in the same ballpark as the "2009 lie". For that, Politifact should be ashamed of itself.

  • Orwell on December 20, 2011 9:57 AM:

    Medicare is like a Ferrari?!? That is a ridiculous comparison. It would work if all my neighbors were buying the Ferrari so I could drive it because I need something to drive. Then when they ask me to drive a Toyota instead I get violently angry because I deserve a Ferrari.

    Polifact is fine when it testifies for one side but let it say something about the other side and suddenly it is full of lies. Guess that is what happens when you sell your soul.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Sidwell on December 20, 2011 10:08 AM:

    And speaking of cars, why does Washington Monthly post BMW ads? Not exactly what the average person drives.

  • AdvChaser on December 20, 2011 10:11 AM:

    The truth is in-defensible? LOL

  • SW on December 20, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Anyone who takes them seriously aught to be ashamed of themselves.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 20, 2011 10:15 AM:

    Lie of the Year: the word "Fact" in the name "PolitiFact."

  • Ron Chusid on December 20, 2011 10:15 AM:

    I've found that the reporters at PolitiFact don't have a good understanding of health care policy, noting errors in other coverage of health care issues in addition to this one.

  • Objective Dem on December 20, 2011 10:16 AM:

    I went to the website and noticed that their readers voted the "Stimulus created no jobs" as the number one lie.

  • tsquared on December 20, 2011 10:20 AM:

    Re Day's comment: this nonsense award will matter in November 2012 very much. When a Democrat runs an ad highlighting their Republican opponent's vote to end Medicare, the response ad can simply say "hey, PolitiFact called this the Lie Of The Year".

  • DisgustedWithItAll on December 20, 2011 10:25 AM:

    Anybody know where Politifact came from? Who funds it? Who manages/edits it? (I don't have the time to look into it.)

  • anandine on December 20, 2011 10:27 AM:

    How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? It has four, because calling a tail a leg don't make it one.

  • JS on December 20, 2011 10:37 AM:

    Is PolitiFact credible?

    I guess that depends on what the meaning of the word "is", is.

  • Teresa on December 20, 2011 10:40 AM:

    It seems that any time one bends over backwards to defend today's republicans the cost is always destroying one's own reputation and being tainted with the same low level standards.

    Politifact ruined their own product and service. On purpose and for less than nothing. It just blows my mind how adults in this era can be so self-destructive for something like today's republicans.

  • Kim Wright on December 20, 2011 10:45 AM:

    Politifact is consistently wrong on Social Security and Medicare--they do not understand how the programs are funded, their political histories or even the differences between them. Granted, these issues are complex but they shouldn't be writing on them if they can't put in the time to learn the basics.

    Even worse, they have fallen into exactly the same "faux" journalism proffered by their main stream media colleagues. Lazy and pathetic.

  • tmack on December 20, 2011 10:51 AM:

    The lie of the year ought to be the use of the term "campaign donations" as a replacement for BRIBES.

    That's the biggest lie of all.

  • Bathrobespierre on December 20, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Perhaps santa claus can bring the Tampa Bay Times a book describing logical fallacies. Equivocation, not outright lies, is what is harming our republic. They seem to have not heard of it.

  • @the_dan on December 20, 2011 10:58 AM:

    It's really sad that Politifact resorts to calling the truth a lie in order to deny the greater truth that one side lies far, far more than the other.

  • Rick on December 20, 2011 11:01 AM:

    This is all just a simple misunderstanding. The "Lie of the Year" is Politifact calling the Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan's play a lie. And they have every right to be proud of that. It's a real whopper.

  • Mgrad92 on December 20, 2011 11:01 AM:

    I don't really care whether you're right or wrong, but your argument is disingenuous. By your logic, changing Medicare from its current state in *ANY* way is the same as ending it. That's a defensible argument the way you've parsed "the meaning of the word 'end,'" but it's hardly a practical one -- or even a fair one.

    Your Ferrari-golf cart comparison is an apt one, but in reality the former supercar owner is complaining that you've ended all access he or she has to transportation. Is it the same transportation as before? Of course not. Is it still transportation? Of course. Is the golf cart better, or worse?

    Well, now, as any politician would tell you, that depends on what you think your transportation should do.

  • Scott on December 20, 2011 11:02 AM:

    You guys are really stretching here. Vouchers wouldn't "end" Medicare, the same way Medicare Choice plans don't end Medicare. All they do is change the way Medicare is paid for, which could potentially be to the benefit of Medicare patients the way sometimes Medicare Choice plans are better for certain Medicare patients than traditional Medicare is. I'd much rather have control over the money I paid into the Medicare system and be able to buy a plan I want than have a bunch of Congressional imbeciles force a plan on me.

    Anyway, we have a 70 trillion dollar unfunded liability in Medicare and the system is already technically insolvent. What would you folks propose we do about it?

  • Roger Ailes on December 20, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Here's a better analogy:

    If my aunt had balls, Bill Adair would suck them and claim he was a heterosexual.

  • Joe Allen on December 20, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Steve Benen, stomping his feet. Always a treat.

  • Thomas Jay on December 20, 2011 11:31 AM:

    A better analogy than the Ferrari ...

    Replacing the army with a mercenary force, which would still be called the army.

    Politifact would say this would not end the army because there's still something called the army.

    In fact, they'd say the same thing about replacing the army with a posse of clowns called the army.

  • leo from chicago on December 20, 2011 11:33 AM:

    Say, I wake up one day only to find that Politifact has replaced my wife with a bunny rabbit. Now ultimately I might be better off (I mean, who knows) but is it right for Politifact to insist that the two of us (i.e. me and the bunny) are still engaged in a relationship that qualifies as marriage?

  • RalfW on December 20, 2011 11:45 AM:

    I'm pretty sure they're shameless over there at Politifact.

    It looks like the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly dominate the Poltifact, and I think they have quite an agenda.

    Add Politifact to the partisan Wirlitzer.

    The battle for truth, freedom and the American way (the real one, not the Koch-funded 1% way) just got a tad more difficult, and all the more serious.

  • Drizzle on December 20, 2011 11:50 AM:

    Their explanation for not choosing one of the many more viable Republican lies that was in the running is a frickin' joke. From their own article:

    "...Bachmann's statement that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. It’s an interesting falsehood, but it didn't become a significant issue because of widespread agreement Bachmann was incorrect."

    Am I the only one reading that as "too false to be lie of the year"? In other words, so many people agreed so overwhelmingly that it was a ridiculous lie that it wasn't even worth pointing out anymore?

    Yet because the Dems claim was disputable enough (and apparently true enough at the same time) to be heavily discussed and end up having some sort of impact, it gets the award for biggest lie? It's so lacking in sense, it makes my head hurt. I was a reliable reader, but they just showed me I'm smarter than they are. Never again.

  • Comrade Rutherford on December 20, 2011 11:52 AM:

    News anchor from 'The Simpsons', Kent Brockman:

    "Now, here are some results from our phone-in poll: 95% of people believe Homer Simpson is guilty. Of course, this is just a television poll which is not legally binding. Unless Proposition 304 passes, and we all pray it will."

  • Melville on December 20, 2011 12:00 PM:

    I take a more cynical view. Like Atrios, I think this represents a deliberate piece of misinformation designed as a gift to Republican House members running for re-election. One of their biggest liabilities is their vote for the Ryan budget. Now, the TV ads practically write themselves: "[my opponent's] criticism was called the Politifact "LIE OF THE YEAR"". I guess since Fox News can no longer be counted on to inject false narratives into the general conversation consistently, the Noise Machine needs a new mouthpiece. Politifact is now the go-to Fair and Balanced propaganda outlet.

  • TheLastBrainLeft on December 20, 2011 12:01 PM:

    Just when I was about to write Politifact off as a joke, it rescues it's credibility and inflicts massive butthurt on the left.

    This talking point was always BS, now it's documented. Merry Christmas.

  • dj spellchecka on December 20, 2011 12:13 PM:

    i'd suggest you also send your comments here

    http://www.politifact.com/contact/

  • bandit on December 20, 2011 12:24 PM:

    Swing and a miss! Sorry - it's hyperbole to say it was killed and they're correct to say so. Talk about no credibility - take a look in the mirror.

  • Crissa on December 20, 2011 12:25 PM:

    Medicare pays doctors.

    Ryancare pays insurance.

    If you have Ryancare, you don't have Medicare, you have insurance. Medicare is ended.

    Medicare pays doctors less than they want.

    Ryancare pays insurance less than Medicare pays doctors.

    If you have Ryancare, you don't have the same amount of health care, Medicare has ended.

    Even if everyone who has medicare now doesn't have to lose it, Medicare has ended, because they're not enrolling new seniors.

    If the bus stops picking up passengers, the bus service has ended.

    Augh.

  • oconp88 on December 20, 2011 12:45 PM:

    I have to hand it to President Obama and the Senate. They are trying to end taxes!!!!

    Right?? I mean they are changing the way we pay taxes, so taxes are no more!!!!!

    Woot!! 2012 can't get here soon enough!

  • JoyousMN on December 20, 2011 12:51 PM:

    Sent this just now to truthometer@politifact.com


    Of all the many truth stretching options for this year, you guys pick a claim that is HIGHLY controversial that you even got right, to score as the "lie of the year."

    Can you say, Bending over backwards to please the right-wing?"

    Can you say, "False equivalency?"

    Can you say, "No credibility?"

    Why yes, apparently you can say all those things with just one post. It's so discouraging when I try to pay attention to what's going on in politics; and you guys should be at the forefront of trying to help people understand what is happening, and you just throw it all away.

    The real "lie of the year" is Polifact.

    Joy Jacques

  • MsJoanne on December 20, 2011 12:58 PM:

    I think the point made above about hits or links to Politifact is the hole in one. They live or die by money. And that one whopper will bring them lots o' cashola.

    Sidwell, lemme tell ya a little story about BMW. In 2004, I was looking to get a new car. I wanted a Dodge Caliber. It was about $28k nicely equipped. I checked reliability stats and it got less than zero (seriously, how do you get less than zero, but less than zero it had). I wound up buying a 2004 BMW X3 program car (similar to a demo but not driven by the public; either a sales manager, dealership owner, etc.) I paid $29k for a previously untitled BMW (untitled='new'), very nicely appointed, that had 18k miles on it and had listed for $50k.

    I still own that car.

  • number_one on December 20, 2011 12:58 PM:

    @JoyousMN

    Only a crazy lib would claim that what is essentially a fact is instead "controversial". You don't get to rewrite the dictionary. Clinton already tried that.

    Go squirm back down your slimy hole. The reality is that all of you people upset by this are mad because Politifact is exposing to a larger number of people the semantic lie with which you attacked Ryan.

    The clear reality is that Ryan's plan is NOT GOING TO HURT THOSE WHO DEPEND ON MEDICARE. However many semantic games you play is not going to change that fact.

  • Oldyeller on December 20, 2011 12:59 PM:

    @ bandit on December 20, 2011 12:24 PM:

    "...Sorry - it's hyperbole to say it was killed..."


    Reading comprehension fail. The PolitiFact story is entitled Lie of the Year, not hyperbole of the year.
    Not a brain amongst y'all I swear.

  • The Guilty Carnivore on December 20, 2011 12:59 PM:

    The runner-up to Politifact's lie of the year was my claim that Arby's is not necessarily "Good Mood Food".

  • low-tech cyclist on December 20, 2011 1:04 PM:

    Thanks for mentioning John Cole in your update, Steve.

    I love Politifact's justifications:

    "With a few small tweaks to their attack lines, Democrats could have been factually correct...[b]ut more often, Democrats and liberals overreached:

    • They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare -- or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.

    • They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

    • They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan. The DCCC video that aired four days after the vote featured an elderly man who had to take a job as a stripper to pay his medical bills."

    1) The question of WHEN Ryan's plan would kill Medicare doesn't change the fact that it would kill it.

    2) Using harsh terms like 'end' and 'kill' though the program would still exist: see the Ferrari analogy.

    3) Awww, they used pix of people too old to be affected by the Ryan plan! That's about all they've got, really. But apparently that's all it takes.

    Politifact: rated "Pants on Fire" by people who aren't fooled by putting a Mercedes hood ornament on a Pinto on blocks.

  • smintheus on December 20, 2011 1:04 PM:

    No, no, oh no, we didn't "get rid of" the guard-dog. We replaced him with a kitten, named 'Guard-dog' in his honor.

  • MCA on December 20, 2011 1:06 PM:

    mgrad92, Scott, LastBrain, bandit -

    You guys are straining credibility. Medicare is a government provided insurance program providing direct coverage. It's social insurance. Ryan's plan is a government run voucher program through which seniors receive cash to spend on the open market. It's a subsidy. The very essence of Medicare (you're covered by the gov't, you don't need to shop the market, you won't be subject to fluctuating prices on the open market, you won't be subject to not knowing what the hell it is you're buying and unfairly left uncovered) would be gone under the voucher plan. It's simply ridiculous to argue that taking away those most defining elements, even while retaining the name "Medicare," is not a qualitative modification that rises to the level of essential change.

    You seem to think that since theoretically senior citizens will still be able to go to the doctor under the Ryan plan, it's the same thing as Medicare. If you want to go all market all the time, just own up to the fact that you're not "reforming" Medicare, you're ending it and replacing it with something else entirely.

  • MsJoanne on December 20, 2011 1:06 PM:

    number_one, nicely couched. "Essentially a fact" and "semantic lie" is bullshit. As is your claim that those who depend on Medicare are not going to get hurt. Yeah, yeah, I know it's #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement, all you wingers are all about that.

    An $8000 voucher does nothing for seniors. I pay more than $6000 with company sponsored healthcare contributions (meaning that my healthcare is more than $9000 annually including what both myself and my employer pay) and that is before deductibles and copays. And that dollar amount goes up annually. Tell me how a senior is going to pay minimally $2000 out of pocket along with all of the copays and other stuff.

    Sorry, you are completely full of shit.

  • JoyousMN on December 20, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Love how the defenders all spew such hatred and vitriol toward people: "slimy" and "crazy lib" and the ever present I'M SHOUTING SO IT MUST BE TRUER TRUE TRUTH.

    Rather than defend their beliefs.

    How about when you want to actually talk about facts then we can discuss the issues. instead of ad hominem attacks.

    (no more troll feeding, I promise)

  • KevinH on December 20, 2011 1:15 PM:

    I wonder if the fact that the 2012 Republican National Convention is being hosted at St Pete Times Forum, just down the road from Politifact's corporate headquarters (at the St. Petersburg Times) could have anything to do with this decision?

    Just sayin'...

  • MCA on December 20, 2011 1:18 PM:

    Sorry to double-post, but I wanted to add that I thought perhaps a shorter analogy, that most non-political junkies would understand, could be used here. It's the Cleveland Browns. Arguing that what the Republicans want to do with Medicare isn't ending it is like giving Cleveland a football team that started playing half their games in Cleveland starting in 1999, naming them the Cleveland Browns, and then telling people it's the same thing as the collection of players now based in Baltimore who would go on to win the Super Bowl just a year later.

  • Nyaa Nyaa on December 20, 2011 1:23 PM:

    Liar

  • Andrew on December 20, 2011 1:49 PM:

    LOL @ Medicare being a Ferrari in your analogy

    If only PolitiFact covered analogies...

  • Geoff Milke on December 20, 2011 2:05 PM:

    It's amusing to listen to a liberal argue that the way something is currently defined is the way it should alway be defined. "Medicare is a single payer health-care system...", so changing medicare to a state run voucher system amounts to "destroying" medicare. Right! I assume then that Steve Benen, the oh-so-concerned writer of this commentary, would agree with the following; Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman, so changing marriage to include relationships other than one man/one woman amounts to destroying marriage?

    I don't really wonder, but do laugh out loud at the irony of the "facts" promoted by leftists

  • Captain Obvious on December 20, 2011 2:05 PM:

    The analogy lacks sense. But I'll help you out with an apt one:

    Last year I bought you a Ferrari 599 GTB. This year I gave you a check for the cost of a 599 GTO and told you: "This is all I can afford. If you want to upgrade to the GTB, you'll have to pay the difference... otherwise enjoy the free Ferrari." You began whining how evil I was to have stolen from you any hope you had of ever owning any car at all. That earned you the title of Liar of the Year, and put you in the running for Clueless Spoiled Brat of the Year to boot.

    Wrap your brain around the fact that "THERE IS NO MONEY". Wrap your brain around the fact that "DEFICIT means there is LESS than 0 Money". Keep taking "free" Ferrari's, and soon you'll have to pay BACK the price of TWO Ferraris for the privilege of buying yourself a used Yugo. Is that the road we really want to go down?

  • Geoff Milke on December 20, 2011 2:10 PM:

    Oh Captain Obvious....Great Post! But it's such a shame it's value will be misconstrued with another analogy..."It's not a "free" Ferrari...the 1% will pay for it"

  • Honey Badger on December 20, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Why is it that we can't just disagree anymore? Now, "conservatives" lie more? Just because you disagree doesn't mean it's a lie, just because someone believes differently doesn't mean there is no factual basis for their opinion. Screw that, people look at things differently. Politifact thought the extremely charged "voted to end Medicare," used as it was to attack Republicans repeated was untruthful. They were of that mind for many reasons, and describe their logic. You disagree based on political reasons. They are not suddenly partisan hacks because they feel this way... quite a few people NOT in these internet echo-chambers agree.

    But remember! If you disagree with the far left on ANYTHING you are a Koch-puppet one percenter!

    Merry Christmas indeed.

  • Joe Budd on December 20, 2011 2:32 PM:

    The PolitiFact guys themselves deceive and obfuscate. Recall the RW claim that Obama had unleashed a "tsunami" of new regulations upon taking office? But when actual truth squads showed that regulations had significantly decreased after Obama took office(i.e., NO tsunami), PolitiFact ignored the actual claim that a "tsunami" occurred to claim Democrats were deceptive for not using numbers from back in 2001-2002.

    So, for the feeble minds of PolitiFact, a "tsunami" can occur even when the water level drops.

  • JoyousMN on December 20, 2011 2:35 PM:

    And who bankrupted the government?

    One of the reasons we're in the mess we're in today is that George W. Bush rammed through tax cuts the benefits of which accrued for the most part to the richest people in the country. He then launched two off-the-books wars and passed a new Medicare entitlement that was paid for largely through the sale of magic beans.

    Were you screaming about the deficit then?

  • Captain Obvious on December 20, 2011 2:38 PM:

    Thanks Geoff,

    The real sad thing is how people really don't understand how supply and demand works. I see a lot of whining that "no one will be able to afford medical care if they only get a voucher for $X!" Uh right, all medical practitioners will stop practicing and starve rather than lower their prices to $X to meet what people can pay. Look at average medical costs adjusted for inflation over the years. Notice how they skyrocket after 1965? "Free" medical care is EXACTLY what made it expensive. "Free" college tuition did the same thing. Hmm, students can only afford $100, but the government will pay $X... so let's raise tuition to $100 + X! Then all these head scratchers wonder why college is unaffordable and demand the government needs to pay more. Rinse and repeat. Spend MORE federal money on healthcare, and then wonder why it's so expensive. It's sad that actually learning from past mistakes is too much to ask from some people...

  • Donald Tripp on December 20, 2011 2:38 PM:

    When you end something and replace it by something else, what you had before is ended. You cannot parse the verb to end. The word is too simple and only and idiot or a crooked lawyer would try. Just because you use the same word doesn't make it the same thing. Private for profit insurance which always ends up costing more and providing less is not the same as a single player plan.

  • MCA on December 20, 2011 2:41 PM:

    @Geoff Milke - For the vast majority of people, Medicare = something I've been paying into my entire adult life so that I get free, government-provided health care insurance that I can trust will (generally) adequately cover me in my dotage, without me having to worry about it or make more than minimal decisions. That's quintessentially not what would prevail under a voucher system. That's all that is meant by saying "end Medicare" - it means Medicare as we know it would be fundamentally changed in the way it affects our lives. And that's obviously true.

    Also, the marriage analogy is a poor one. Marriage is and always has been fundamentally a union of two people (not just a "relationship" - it's the type of relationship that is the essential thing here). Defining which types of people are involved or offered recognition through that special status relationship is not a fundamental component of the thing itself. This is why semantics do, in fact, matter in debate. Also, there's an obvious distinction between expansion of a system and removal of fundamental components of a system that you've apparently missed.

    @Cap'n Obvious - you're so wrapped up in your righteous (and factually challenged) indignation over deficits and your belief that Medicare needs to be on the chopping block that you've completely missed the point. We're not arguing substantive merits here. You're wrong not only on your understanding of the policy issue, but you're even wrong on identifying the topic of discussion here. No balls, two strikes.

  • Marshall on December 20, 2011 2:41 PM:

    What a horrible analogy! It doesn't even come close to approximating the Medicare system. How did you get the Farrari? Did the government give it to you? You conjured up a Farrari out of thin air? You start the analogy with a false premise. “Imagine someone owns a Farrari.” Is that analogous to imagine someone owns Medicare? Do I own it or does the government give it to me? Sure I make payments into the program via my paycheck, but I don’t own it!

    You seem to lack basic critical thinking, logic and reasoning skills. But your analogy speaks volumes about what you think the government owes you.

  • Captain Obvious on December 20, 2011 2:52 PM:

    JoyousMN,

    I would suggest you take a look at Federal Gross Revenue after the tax cuts which "bankrupted us" took effect. Notice how it went UP not DOWN. The class warfare demagoguery makes a nice sound bite, but has no basis in reality. You are right that excessive spending is what caused the deficit to ramp up, and yes I was screaming about the deficit when part D passed. So I can take it you agree that continuing entitlements "as-is" is stupid, and altering them is a laudable exercise that should not be turned into a lie about ending them in order to scare granny? Oh, and since defecits REALLY exploded from ~$160 billion 4 years ago to ~$1.5 trillion this year, are you screaming about spending NOW?

  • Bobzaguy on December 20, 2011 2:59 PM:

    I have removed the link to their site from my blog, editorialbbq.blogspot.com.

    They are seriously compromised now.

  • MCA on December 20, 2011 3:00 PM:

    @Captain Obvious again (at 2:38) - actually, the sad thing is the inability of some to recognize that faith in "supply and demand" does not always provide the optimal outcome in some markets. You're right, though: clearly the reason the cost of providing basic health care services in the United States is significantly higher than it is in any other industrialized nation on the planet is too MUCH governmental involvement. And it's obvious that the reason we've been more able to control costs of health care to veterans than to the private sector is because the private insurance market does a better job of cost containment. /sarcasm

  • Captain Obvious on December 20, 2011 3:01 PM:

    MCA,

    *Slow golf clap* We're always impressed when trolls make the "factually challenged" accusation... without mentioning a single fact to back it up. To appreciate your ignorance, go back to 2:05 p.m to realize you missed the first half of the conversation which covers the "issue at hand" you think was missed. Consider it a voucher to buy a clue. Have a nice day!

  • Captain Obvious on December 20, 2011 3:19 PM:

    @MCA again (at 3:00)

    You need to learn the difference between "cost" and "price". The cost of "private" insurance is high BECAUSE of price controls. You walk into a car dealership and plunk down your government order for a $5 priced Ferrari and wonder why the dealership has to make up cost on other saps by charging 6 figures for a moped. And yeah, when "private insurance" is forced by law to pay the full cost of everything from checkups to sex changes, it ceases being "private" or "insurance", but a publicly regulated payment plan. Want a low cost plan that will only cover hospitalization emergencies? Too bad, those are illegal. But keep telling yourself we're under-regulated.

  • Jason on December 20, 2011 3:52 PM:

    If Ferrari decided to build a golf cart, it would still be a Ferrari. Just because it's not identical to other Ferraris and doesn't meet your expectations does not make it any less a Ferrari. Problem is you have associated Ferrari with a level of performance, when really it is only a brand name.

    It's like saying Windows Vista isn't Windows because it's different than Windows XP. That's absurd, of course it's still Windows, it's just changed and not as good as it was before.

    Same thing with Medicare, it's not ending, it's just Medicare 2.0 and it's different than the previous version. Some things have changed, but at it's heart it's still Medicare: a federal system of health insurance for people over 65 years of age. Just because it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the old version does not make it any less Medicare.

    Saying Medicare is ending IS a lie. It's not ending, its only changing. It would only be ending if the government completely stopped providing any health insurance for people over 65 years of age.

  • I vote and I organize on December 20, 2011 4:41 PM:

    Politifact should also be ashamed of the way they labeled Obama's quotes as "lies", for several reasons. One is, something said during a contentious interview on FOX cannot be put into the same category as a statement in a campaign ad. Obama's statements belong in a "error" or "out-of-context" category, not in the "lie" category and definitely not "pants on fire". Shame on Politifact for twisting things for a phony balance.

  • Southern Beale on December 20, 2011 4:53 PM:

    But let’s not forget, there were actual, demonstrable, unambiguous lies among the finalists for Lie of the Year. PolitiFact overlooked all of them.

    No, they didn't. The poll was freeped by Paul Ryan's PAC. The entire concept of "Lie Of The Year" is completely meaningless when it's basically an online poll.


    Dave Weigel called it back in the beginning of December. What's hilarious is seeing the media tripping over themselves reporting on this as if it were a real "thing" when it's obviously not.

    Media FAIL.

  • smintheus on December 20, 2011 5:18 PM:

    @Jason: "It's not ending, its only changing. It would only be ending if the government completely stopped providing any health insurance for people over 65 years of age."

    You seem to have missed an important point. Under the Ryan plan, the government would in fact stop providing health insurance. Instead it would subsidize a part of the cost of insurance people would now have to find and obtain elsewhere.

    One way of 'changing' Medicare is to end it, which is what the Ryan plan does. It replaces Medicare with something substantially different. Even if the different thing addresses similar issues, it is not the same thing any longer. It's like taking down your perfectly good rooftop TV antenna and instead buying cable. You may decide that the cable has just as good results, but it definitely does away with the system you had before and, no surprise, you end up paying considerably more money for it.

    What's lost in this ridiculous debate is the question of why Ryan and his acolytes are so eager to discredit anybody who says they are ending Medicare. The reason, obviously, is that Medicare has always been hugely popular on the basis of the very qualities that Ryan is seeking to put an end to.

  • sub on December 20, 2011 6:11 PM:

    if you, krugman, and chait think it's wrong it MUST be right. three pathetic tools of the left, shrill idiocy your stock in trade, complaining about an independent organizations conclusion because it doesn't fit your tired old hackneyed narrative. you clowns are toast, in the eyes of most americans. keep preaching to your acolyte choir, won't matter one bit, benen, you joke.

  • John Sodrel on December 20, 2011 6:44 PM:

    I'm not going to "end" hamburgers, I'm just going to "change" them so that they're actually made out of ham, have candy bars instead of buns, and only people under 12 are allowed to eat them....BUT they're still hamburgers because I say so! Sheesh....

    The idiocy of Right-wingers never ends, and PolitiFact's credibility has taken a major hit with this asinine ruling.

  • labman57 on December 20, 2011 7:32 PM:

    Ryan and his fellow health insurance lobby lackeys in the Republican Party took a "General MacArthur" approach to destroying our nation's Medicare system. His plan would not have made it immediately die -- he simply wanted it to slowly fade away.

    ... and with it the ability of future senior citizens to obtain affordable chronic condition treatment and preventative health care.

    Bottom line -- most Congressional Republicans do not have the best interests of the vast majority of Americans at heart ... and every day, more and more Americans are coming to this realization.

  • Kiweagle on December 20, 2011 7:36 PM:

    My e-mail to PolitiFact:

    Your own list of justifications provided the best reasons for NOT choosing the claim that medicare will end:
    1. The voters were lobbied by both sides to support a PolitiFact rating for partisan reasons only - "Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who authored the Medicare plan, emailed his supporters and posted a video on YouTube urging people to vote for the Medicare claim as the Lie of the Year."
    2. The winning choice of the readers became the Lie of the Year in 2009 and 2010, but this time you chose the one that not only came in third place, but received 8% fewer votes than the winner - 1st place, 24%; 3rd place 16%.
    3. You quoted Norm Ornstein who said "With a few small tweaks to their attack lines, Democrats could have been factually correct..." and said that the "...Democrats and liberals Overreached". And yet this qualifies as Lie of the Year?
    4. You described the first and second place finishers as "clearly falsehoods", but deemed them unworthy of the award despite the fact that those claims are still being made on the campaign trail to this day.
    5. Ryan's plan takes a social insurance plan with a fixed premium that guarantees payment OF ANY AMOUNT and puts those 55 or younger at the mercy of private insurers who can not only change the premiums at any time (you obviously haven't noticed how they've skyrocketed over the last decade) and punishes those who make a claim, but reserve the right to deny coverage of claims that interfere with their profit margin. Furthermore, the voucher program provides a fixed amount of money that will NOT increase with inflation or ever-growing premiums.

    Your entire premise is based on the difference between saying "Medicare will end as we know it" and "Medicare will end" as justification for making it the Lie of the Year.

    We desperately need a fact-checking service like yours, but doing so requires the credibility you have now squandered and ruined. Congratulations on providing the victory Rep. Paul Ryan so desperately fought for, despite his direct involvement in previous claims that won the Lie of the Year Award over the previous two years. Irony is truly dead, as is your worth to the political discourse.

  • David L on December 20, 2011 8:37 PM:

    So let me get this straight. When Politifact publishes a left leaning pants on fire, it's a fact. But when it's a right leaning pants on fire, they are in bed with the GOP. Did I get that right. I can hear your pathetic crying way over here!!!!!!!!

  • Doug on December 20, 2011 9:16 PM:

    "But when it's a right leaning pants on fire, they are in bed with the GOP." David L @ 8:37 PM

    Correct. Possibly it's something that's rubbed off from all that contact with the Republican lies they've reported. Perhaps what's needed is to socially ostracize Republicans for their serial dishonesty. You know, something along the lines of Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", only have it be a big red "L" on their suits instead of an "A"?
    At least we'd know who NOT to buy a used car from...

  • Harris Meyer on December 20, 2011 11:20 PM:

    Classic piece of media cowardice and false equivalence by PolitiFact. Here's a piece I wrote about the Ryan Medicare plan that shows it would end Medicare as we know it. It likely would leave many seniors uninsured. I sent this to the editor of PolitiFact before he made this bad decision but got no response.
    http://managedhealthcareexecutive.modernmedicine.com/mhe/News+Analysis/Ryan-pushes-defined-contribution-for-Medicare/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/724487

  • Cal on December 20, 2011 11:32 PM:

    Once you've discarded your credibility and good name, you can never win them back. Politifact will now forever be considered untrustworthy, and rightly so.

  • chi res on December 20, 2011 11:33 PM:

    At least we'd know who NOT to buy a used car from...

    Pretty sure that ALL used car salesmen are rethuglicans.

  • VOR on December 21, 2011 12:34 AM:

    Did anybody read the actual article?

    "They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system"

    The example with the Ferrari wouldn't be replacing a Ferrari with a golf cart but rather replacing a Ferrari Enzo engine with a Testarossa engine and calling it a modified Enzo. Debatable to be sure but not a complete destruction of the original Ferrari. Aren't words like "end" and "kill" reserved for when a program is really being ended or killed and not changed from a public to privatized system?

  • VOR on December 21, 2011 12:36 AM:

    Did anybody read the actual article?

    "They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system"

    The example with the Ferrari wouldn't be replacing a Ferrari with a golf cart but rather replacing a Ferrari Enzo engine with a Testarossa engine and calling it a modified Enzo. Debatable to be sure but not a complete destruction of the original Ferrari. Aren't words like "end" and "kill" reserved for when a program is really being ended or killed and not changed from a public to privatized system?

  • Rwandrall on December 21, 2011 5:07 AM:

    Riiiight so when Politifact says something against republicans, it's an independant fact-checking democratic God, but when it's against Democrats, it's a sell out. People in this comment section have a HUGE case of confirmation bias, it's really pitiful...And this article itself is so utterly biased that it attacking Politifact by saying it is is incredibly hypocritical.

  • Analogist on December 21, 2011 8:32 AM:

    Your analogy actually breaks down in favor of the Republicans.

    Here's why:

    In your analogy, you say that YOU took someone's car away and offered them an alternative. However, if Ferrari were to completely redesign their car into something resembling a golf cart and tell you it's the new version of Ferrari, well, you get the point. In the case of this analogy, Congress is Ferrari and they're telling you that they are redesigning their car. It's not some arbitrary entity just switching nameplates. It's the very administrators of the program as we've always known it telling us they've redesigned the way it works.

  • Nice Try on December 21, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Really? Medicare is a "Ferrari" that is expensive but "drives beautifully"?

    Let's complete your analogy by explaining that the owners of this Ferrari only make the equivalent of $20,000 a year and they still owe ten times the original sticker price.

    Something's got to give. There's simply not enough money to give everyone everything.

  • Big Ern on December 21, 2011 12:01 PM:

    So the GOP talking points crew just got in eh?

    If you want to trot your BS out on Fox "News" type outlets, so your enlarged-amygdala ilk can lap up the propoganda uncritically, go right ahead. But we know better.

    When the same group that previously attempted to abolish an institution, whether it be public schools, medicare, or social security, later tries to "privative" or "start a voucher program" you can argue that the approach of the group has changed, but not the goals. They still want to destroy it.

    You can trick the retarded followers of Fox News, but not us.

  • David on December 21, 2011 4:22 PM:

    This article would provide excellent research into the psychological phenomenon known as "confirmation bias". Look it up.

  • Bojangles on December 21, 2011 5:31 PM:


    Speaking purely in strict technical terms, the Path to Prosperity ends the Medicare program. The bureaucracy, the personnel, the budget....none of it will exist 40 years from now under this proposal. You really have to do quite a bit of parsing to conclude otherwise.


    However, the Orwellians here are still going to insist that so long as they create an entirely new bureaucracy manned by entirely different personnel pursuing an entirely different function but give it the same name that somehow this isn't ending Medicare.


    It is technically correct to state the the proposal calls for the end of Medicare. It is technically incorrect to state that the bill 'reforms Medicare' because it does not reform the Medicare program, but rather phases it out altogether.

  • Boo on December 21, 2011 6:02 PM:

    "This article would provide excellent research into the psychological phenomenon known as "confirmation bias". Look it up."


    You would have a good point if the Ryan Plan didn't explicitly call for phasing out the Medicare program beginning in 2022. It is simply an objective reality that the Ryan Plan calls for killing the Medicare program and inventing an entirely different voucher-for-insurance market.


    The only reason you are confused about the black-and-white point-blank fact that the Ryan Plan kills the Medicare program and replaces it with a new VoucherCare program is because Ryan in an Orwellian moment chose the confusing name 'Medicare' for the new program despite the fact that it's everything Medicare was invented to protect people from in the first place.


    PolitiFacts Math: You shoot an Englishman named Bob in the face. You then adopt a Cambodian orphan and name him Bob also. How many corpses are there? (Answer: Zero apparently)

  • nick howard on December 21, 2011 11:05 PM:

    No matter what they do in the future I see no reason why anybody would place any value on anything Politifact has to say. They have clearly intentionally misrepresented a very important issue for the sole purpose of making the real liars(GOP) happy.

    I've watched how they achieved that balance for years...pick only one of 20 crazy and untrue statements by somebody like Bachman and then scour the internet to counter it with some obsure Democrat who got a date from 20 years ago wrong. Always equal "lies" by both sides....even though they have to ignore 90% of the right's lies and make huge stretches to make them equal out. See, both equal liars; nothing to see here. Run along.

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