Mar 23, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 27 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
On March 10, Senator Ted Cruz said the following: “On tax -reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible—not a one of them as good.” It’s no surprise that Republicans in Congress tend to hate taxes and love the Bible, and as Republican rhetoric goes, this is about as anodyne as it gets. The Scrapbook never thought that such a straightforward sentiment would engender controversy, but never underestimate the -media’s desire to willfully misrepresent and dispute the words of politicians they don’t like.
Behold! The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee decided to make Cruz’s words the subject of the dumbest media “fact check” ever, a prize that regular readers of The Scrapbook know is no small honor:
This is a nonsense fact, something that is technically correct but ultimately meaningless. Thus it is not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark but neither does it qualify for a Pinocchio.
Cruz makes the point that tax policies need to be drastically simplified, and many Americans likely would support that sentiment. But such a crude comparison, which provides no nuance or context, doesn’t capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers.
In a way, comparing the raw word count in the tax code to the text of the Bible diminishes the real frustration that taxpayers feel, and the real impact that can occur from improper tax filings. The consequences of not filing your taxes is of far bigger concern than not reading the Bible—legally speaking, anyway. We can’t speak to possible eternal damnation.
We don’t know about eternal damnation either, but taking a statement that you admit is literally, indisputably true and asserting that it lacks “nuance or context” is a journalistic sin. (For the record, the tax code is about five times as long as the Bible.) As for the perverse notion that Ted Cruz—of all people!—is diminishing the “real frustration that taxpayers feel” by making a plainly understood, folksy comparison to help non-CPAs understand how unwieldy the tax code is—well, that’s bizarre at best.
And since when is it Cruz’s sacred obligation to “capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers” with a throwaway line in a campaign speech? The problems of our unholy tax code are obvious enough to ordinary Americans, even if they seem to escape the Obama administration’s thoroughly corrupt IRS. It would be nice if “fact checkers” applied extra scrutiny to the government that wastes our tax money and buries citizens in red tape, instead of disingenuously nitpicking the politicians who rightly complain about it.
And if they don’t want to be held to basic journalistic standards, then they shouldn’t be taken aback when the rest of us note the irony of their complaints about “nonsense facts” and politely tell them to go to hell.
9:01 AM, Mar 11, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz said the following: “On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.”
3:08 PM, Nov 25, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Recently, Rudy Giuliani raised some eyebrows when he got in a heated discussion with Michael Eric Dyson on Meet the Press. He was discussing the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and said the following: “Ninety-three percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks. We’re talking about the exception here.”
12:25 PM, Sep 25, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican nominee in the Arkansas Senate race, is running an ad highlighting his leadership in trying to fix Washington's broken farm bill legislation. The ad isn't particularly controversial ormaking false claims, in any discernible way and yet "fact checkers" at the Washington Post and PolitiFact have pretty savagely attacked it. Once again, the fact checkers are wrong on the merits. But more than that, there's something very fishy about their Cotton critique.
You can watch the whole ad, but here's the supposedly objectionable claim Cotton makes:
“When President Obama hijacked the farm bill, turned it into a food stamp bill, with billions more in spending, I voted no. Career politicians love attaching bad ideas to good ones. Then the bad ideas become law, and you pay for it.”
As far as legislative sausage-making goes, there are few spectacles more off-putting than Capitol Hill's periodic farm bill extravaganza. The farm subsidies are bad enough on their own, but for decades the bill has also included funding for the unrelated Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps. The result is the worst kind of bipartisanship—rural Republicans compromise on bloating the cost of food stamp funding in exchange for Democratic votes to get their farm subsidies.
3:34 PM, Oct 28, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
PolitiFact has a pretty terrible and rather partisan history of Obamacare fact checks. However, there's one, in particular, about Obamacare that remains especially puzzling. It's the "half-true" rating the organization gave when President Obama promised that, If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance under Obamacare. This was not a casually tossed-off statement by the president, either.
1:42 PM, May 31, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University is out with a new study on media fact checkers, and unsurprisingly, their results suggest that PolitiFact has it out for Republicans. Dylan Byers at Politico summarized CMPA's findings:
The fact-checking organization PolitiFact has found Republicans to be less trustworthy than Democrats, according to a new study.
Fifty-two percent of Republican claims reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times fact-checking operation were rated "mostly false," “false” or “pants on fire,” versus just 24 percent of Democratic statements, according to George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs. By the same token, 54 percent of Democratic statements were rated as "mostly true" or "true," compared to just 18 percent of Republican statements.
6:38 PM, Jan 18, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Earlier today, I wrote a lengthy critique pointing out the inconvenient fact that PolitiFact's Lie of the Year -- "The Romney campaign's ad on Jeeps made in China" -- turns out to be true. It involves a lot of complicated back and forth, so I encouage you to read that post if you're not familiar with what's going on. But the thrust of the matter is that the Romney campaign ran an ad saying that Jeep, the recipient of a taxpayer bailout, was going to start producing cars in China.
12:25 PM, Jan 18, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Last month, PolitiFact selected its "Lie of the Year." Given PolitiFact's dubious record of singling out Republicans for lying far more often than Democrats, you probably could have guessed the winner of this particular sweepstakes was a Mitt Romney campaign ad:
3:00 PM, Oct 17, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
A few weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion at the National Press Club where the heads of all of the major media 'fact checking' organizations participated. (I wrote about the event here.)
Oct 8, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 04 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In these pages last week, The Scrapbook noted that a second academic survey had been done suggesting that PolitiFact—the largest of the major media “fact checking” organizations—is biased against Republicans.
Asked about evidence of partisan bias, fact checkers struggle to defend themselves.1:19 PM, Sep 27, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. the heads of all of the major media "fact checking" organizations convened for a panel discussion. On the panel were PolitiFact editor Bill Adair, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, the Associated Press's Jim Drinkard, and it was moderated by Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org.
How media fact checkers made themselves of service to the president in the welfare reform debateOct 1, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 03 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Bill Clinton’s address to the Democratic convention is widely seen as a pivotal moment in President Obama’s reelection campaign. It was an undeniably powerful speech, but particularly noteworthy were his remarks about the popular and bipartisan 1996 welfare reform Clinton himself signed into law. As a result of the law, Americans were required to work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits, and could not receive benefits indefinitely. The reform shrank welfare rolls dramatically and remains wildly popular to this day.