FactCheck.org Unfairly Targets President Obama, Again

While I am loath to let the right-wing media have their way, I give up. They’ve so successfully terrorized journalists by calling them “biased” for so long that they will take any opportunity to prove otherwise. FactCheck.org is just the latest to succumb to the urge to criticize President Obama just to be able to say they were “fair and balanced.”

FactCheck decided to check out President Obama’s reelection short film, The Road We’ve Traveled.” And while they have a technical point (barely) about the GM car loan not being paid in full as the film claims, the rest is splitting hairs to an absurd degree.

The GM loan:

On the auto bailout, the video says automakers have “repaid their loans.” But taxpayers are still on the hook for half of the $80 billion in federal aid.

As I said, FactCheck is technically correct that the entire loan was not paid back. $1.3 billion was written off when the company went through its bankruptcy and GM was no longer liable for that amount. GM did, however, pay off the rest of the loan ($8 billion or so) and did it five years ahead of schedule. That was in 2010. GM continued to post in the black in 2011 and, had it still been obligated to pay back that $1.3 billion, would have easily been able to repay it. According to FactCheck, if GM were to become the Apple of car manufactures and make hundreds of billions in profit, Obama would never be able to claim the loans were paid back so he’s not telling the truth.

In the film, Hanks notes the financial comeback of the industry and says, “With business booming, they repaid their loans.” But the U.S. has not recovered all of its loans and investments. About half of the $80 billion in federal aid from the Bush and Obama administrations remains unpaid. (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that little sleight of hand? The movie only makes the claim that the loans were paid back. FactCheck went ahead and added in the investments. Why? Who knows? To add weight to their thin claim that Obama was not being truthful? Also notice FC depicts the investments in GM as being “on the hook.” I’m not a stockbroker but I can’t ever recall hearing owning stock in a profitable company as “on the hook.” It’s a very interesting characterization.

Health Care Costs:

It also implies that Obama has reined in the costs of health care premiums — which “had been rising three times the rate of inflation,” as the film says. But the law hasn’t reined in premiums, which still rose three times more than inflation last year.

Yet, the film shows health care costs running at triple all the way through 2011. This, alone, would undercut the point that FC is trying to make. FC has decided that Obama has made the claim that his health care reform immediately curtailed rising costs. To my knowledge, I don’t believe a single person on the face of the Earth has made that claim. The reform is a long-term (imperfect) systemic change that will lower costs over time. That was the plan and that’s always been the plan since the bill was crafted in its final form.

FC goes on to point out that the law even caused a spike in costs. Yes, yes it did. Why? Because the insurance companies had to gouge their customers now before they lost the ability to do so when the full provision of the law came into effect. FC leaves that part out.


No Compromise On Health Care Reform:

This one actually is open to interpretation but not by much. There was a ton of horsetrading to get that bill passed so it’s not reasonable to say there was no compromise. What I took away from the film was that there was pressure on President Obama to pass anything, even a token bill, and call it a victory. Instead he fought for, and got, real reform and set the foundation for future reforms much in the same way the original Medicare bill paved the way for what we have now. FC, obviously, has taken the opposite view; that Obama is claiming he made no compromises at all. I suppose it depends on whether you’re looking for fault or looking for context. Guess which one FC is looking for?

The Word “Could”:

The film says “17 million kids could no longer be denied for preexisting conditions,” implying all of them were being denied care before the federal health care law was passed. But that’s the total number of kids who could potentially be denied coverage or charged higher premiums if they sought coverage on the individual market. (emphasis mostly mine)

Definition of the word “could”: Past tense of can. Used to indicate ability or permission in the past. Example:”I could have ignored FactCheck.org making asses of themselves, but didn’t.”

“Could” denotes the possibility of an action, not its inevitability. Inevitability would be the word “would.” So if the film had said, “17 million kids would no longer be denied for preexisting conditions,” then that would (see?) have meant that the film was claiming that 17 million kids had actually been denied.

I’m not normally a grammar Nazi, but if you’re going to base your entire argument on a single word you should understand that word and its usage. FactCheck.org appears to be traveling down that sad road to forced “balance” by holding the president to a higher standard of “truth.” A generous person might call it being rigorous. A less than generous person might call it bullshit nitpicking and I’m not in a generous mood.


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