The single most frustrating aspect of the health reform debate is the tendency of journalists to report claims about the substance of this or that proposal as presumptively of equal validity, facts aside. Aside from its effect on this particular issue, “he said she said” journalism creates a general incentive to lies, gross exaggerations, and polarization, since outlandish claims will get equal time with reality-based analysis.
That’s why it’s very helpful to have people out there who are doing some serious, credible and sustained truth-squadding. As you may know, an outfit called Politifact has been conspicuously trying to play this role on health care reform, assessing arguments on a scale that ranges from “true” to “false” to “pants on fire.”
At the acadmic site Monkeycage, John Sides usefully looks at Politifact’s overall ratings of arguments for and against Democratic health reform proposals of late, and makes it clear which side has been playing fast and loose with the facts. He charts it up nicely, and then observes:
As you can see, and as Politifact editor Bill Adair has noted, the claims of Republicans and opponents of health care are much more likely to be false than true. Overall, 76% of their claims (16 of 21) are either “false ” or “pants on fire.”
They are also more likely to be false than are claims of Democrats and supporters of reform. Overall, 28% (5 of 18) of Democrats’ claims are “false.”
Finally, Obama has been more truthful than either Republicans/opponents or other Democrats/supporters: 22% of his claims have been “false” (2 of 9); more than half have been “mostly true” or “true.”
This probably comes as no surprise to progressives who have been following the debate and the increasingly crazy claims being made about “Obamacare,” but it’s good to see it validating by someone with no stake in the outcome.