2013/06/05

How seriously should we take Politifact?


So, a sort-of, kind-of liberalish columnist publishes this. Gets lots and LOTS of comments. A liberal commenter (Comments are deleted after a few days, so these won't be up for the long term) stated the following:

Almost two and a half years ago, John Boehner and the flood of new Tea Party winners in the 2010 election promised that House Republicans would be the ‘jobs creators’, since President Obama and the Democrats were doing such a slow job at it.
So where are the jobs? Since then:

• Number of Republican-introduced jobs-creation bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives – ZERO.

• Number of Democrat-introduced jobs-creation bills allowed to come to a vote in the GOP controlled House of Representatives - ZERO.

And of course, not one of those GOP members mentions that they blocked an increase in funds for embassy security. But you'd never know if this if you watch Fox religiously.

A conservative commenter responded that Politifact had “ruled” that Republicans had indeed created lots of “jobs bills.” They get this assertion by counting up the number of bills that are labeled as having something to do with creating jobs. Politifact makes an extremely important observation near the end, though:

"Job creation" means different things to different parties.

Most conservatives today are dead-set against traditional forms of government-based economic stimulus known as Keynesian economics, primarily spending initiatives. So if "job creation" is defined to primarily include Keynesian initiatives, then Republicans aren’t going to be sponsoring any "job creation" bills. Instead, Republicans argue that tax cuts and budget cutting will help the economy prosper.

Frankly, if I were the editor of Politifact, I would have started with this undisputed fact (That the parties disagree on what constitutes “job creation”) and would have then explored just what Republicans mean by labeling bills as “jobs bills.” In 100% of the cases where I've seen the term “jobs bill,” it's referred to a bill that's specifically about Keynesian stimulus. I've never seen a bill referred to as a “jobs bill” when the creation of jobs is merely a by-product. Sure enough, the liberal digs into the data and spells out just what these alleged Republican “jobs bills” are all about:

18 of these so-called "jobs bills" reduce or eliminate government regulations in nearly every business sector, especially of energy and pollution


6 give more tax breaks to the same big businesses that are sitting on record profits and not hiring people right now.

One is an anti-union bill.

Another makes it even easier to bring foreign high tech workers into the country to replace American workers at lower wages.

One eliminates imaginary regulations against "farm dust".

And one is the Paul Ryan budget that lays out a 'Path to Prosperity' that includes massive layoffs and gutting social programs.

In other words - not a single job created, but plenty of reduced wages and lost jobs. 

In other words, Politifact's research doesn't go anywhere near deep enough to be meaningful. Labels are affixed to bills by political parties for all sorts of reasons, not merely to be factually descriptive. As a body that “rules” on the truth of political rhetoric, they don't put enough research into the questions they look at to have any serious credibility.

I “rule” that Politifact is a moderately useful source, to be cited when they agree with you, but otherwise to be ignored.

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