How to Read PolitiFact’s Broken ‘Truth-O-Meter’
9:45 AM, Oct 5, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
PolitiFact, however, doesn’t like Romney’s “cherry-picking” (its language) of the CBO’s highest estimate. (Perhaps, just to please PolitiFact, Romney should have said that up to 5 million — or 3 million, or 1 million— people will lose their insurance, even though the CBO says that the number is up to 20 million.) PolitiFact also didn’t like Romney’s use of the word “lose,” when some of those people might willingly drop their insurance. PolitiFact also writes that “many Americans lose their current health plan for reasons that have nothing to do with the new law.” This is irrelevant, which suggests that PolitiFact doesn’t understand that what the CBO was scoring was Obamacare’s effect on employer-based insurance.
For these reasons, PolitiFact rates Romney’s claim as “False.” But once we push the needle over two spots to the right, the rating becomes “Half True.” (This is a reasonable rating only because Romney said “next year” — although PolitiFact didn’t seem to notice — which is neither when Obamacare would go into effect nor when the number of 20 million people could be reached.)
Lastly, Obama said that Romney “would turn Medicare into a voucher program.” The CBO, however, doesn’t score such programs as voucher programs, and for good reason: They aren’t voucher programs. A voucher is something that someone is given to use to purchase something, much like a coupon. The connotation — and the reason why Obama and his allies disingenuously use the term — is that seniors would be given this voucher, would have to go shopping for private insurance on their own, and would have to give the voucher to the insurer of their choice. (One supposes that seniors who lose their voucher would be out of luck.) In truth, seniors would simply tell the government which plan they have chosen, and the government would pay the bill. No voucher or anything like it would ever be issued. Yet PolitiFact, for no reason that’s particularly apparent from its write-up, rates Obama’s claim as “Mostly True.” But once we push the needle over two spots to the left, the rating becomes what it should be: “Mostly False.”
As one can see, with the proper adjustments, PolitiFact’s broken Truth-O-Meter isn’t nearly as useless as it might originally appear.