Politifact vs. Weekly Standard

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on April 24, 2009

I've mentioned before that Pulitzer Prize-winning Web site Politifact.com isn't as unbiased as they would have you believe -- they're just not as far to the left as, say, The New York Times.

Late last month, Politifact.com determined the House GOP conference was telling a "Pants on fire" lie about President Barack Obama's cap-and-trade proposal's effect on the average household. The GOP took the amount of money Obama has said cap-and-trade will raise for the government in new taxes ($366 billion) and divided that by the number of households (117 million) and determined that the average per household would be $3,128.

The Weekly Standard's John McCormack has done some more reporting, and it turns out that the House GOP conference was wrong; the real number is more than $3,900 per year. Amid the excitement of winning a Pulitzer, Politifact.com is being a little slow in responding to McCormack's challenge.

I encourage you to read the entire Politifact article along with McCormack's and think critically as you do it. If you read it carefully, there's one thing that really jumps out at you, which McCormack mentions in his blog post.

[MIT professor John] Reilly believes that because the government will be 'returning' that $3,100 per household to the economy--whether through rebates or government programs, it matters not--it doesn't 'cost' the average household anything. Politifact apparently accepts this odd reasoning.

Why on earth would one make this assumption? Set aside for a moment that right now all that there is is an assurance from President "All my statements come with an expiration date" Obama that he will find a way to return this money to the poor and middle class so as not to break his "no tax hikes on 95 percent of Americans" promise.

While this assurance is probably necessary to sell his program, if your goal is to reduce the use of CO2-producing fuels, why would you make it a zero-sum game for consumers? This would do nothing to reduce demand. And how would you get all that money back to consumers? Surely you're going to have to hire people to figure out who to send the rebate checks to.

It's certainly possible that the effect of the cap-and-trade program will be less than $3,900 per household, but it's probably much closer to that figure than it is to the $200 (now $800) that Reilly and Politifact are counting on.

While Politifact can be a useful resource, you've got to watch it closely. When it comes to the Obama administration, Politifact's default position is to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's like that old line about men and women communicating. If a guy says something that can be taken two ways, and one of them offends you, he meant the other.


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April 2009



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