Democrats And Facts Together On The Floor, But Not Always Dancing

Following the Democratic National Convention, it has struck me how far both US political parties have evolved in opposite directions.  Other than a few small prerequisite platitudes, they agree on very, very little.

One thing I wonder if they might agree on though, is if facts are not something to be admired, but something to be feared.  Are facts are an inconvenience to be dealt with in a way that furthers your own cause, while damaging that of your opponent? And if so, how do they with this potential political problem.

My thoughts on the Republican’s relationship with facts is well documented, so let’s assess how the Democratic Party fared by comparison.


Early Speakers:

  • There were a variety of early week speakers who claimed Mitt Romney would raise taxes on the middle class.

Mitt Romney has unequivocally stated that he “will not…”

The problem for Romney is that the Tax Policy Center has concluded that “a revenue-neutral individual income tax change that  incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed – including  reducing marginal tax rates substantially, eliminating the individual  alternative minimum tax (AMT) and maintaining all tax breaks for saving  and investment – would provide large tax cuts to high-income households,  and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.”

So, Democrats are not factually accurate when they say Romney will raise taxes on the middle class, but Romney’s plan is not possible to implement. Democrats are therefore assuming what part of his plan will be sacrificed. Assuming is not fact, it is guessing.

  • Also interesting is to note that Fox News decided to “fact-check” Michelle Obama.  I say interesting because Mrs. Obama did not talk specific policy, but offered her opinion on all things Barack.  Here is one example of what Michelle Obama said:  “I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as “us” and “them” – he doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above … he knows that we all love our country … and he’s always ready to listen to good ideas.”

And this is how Fox News “fact-checked” her opinion of her husband:

“That’s something we’ve repeatedly heard the president say over last couple of years as well. Republican leaders, as you would imagine, take issue with that. They point out when it comes to the really big issues , like the jobs bill, like the deficit deal, which affected our credit rating, like the health care law, which changed our entire health care system as we know it in this country—that they were rebuffed. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both talk about a number of times that they’ve reached out to the White House, their phone calls were not returned, they couldn’t get a meeting. And that in those pieces of legislation that were passed, ultimately they claim none of their ideas were included.”

Good lord – conjecture is not fact-checking.  Interpretation is not fact-checking.  Mind reading is not fact-checking.  Facts are not open to interpretation, only an opinion is.  And Mrs. Obama is offering her opinion of her husband, her assessment of him after years together. But no matter, read Mrs. Obama’s passage again and please tell me what “fact” is there to be “checked”. It is absurd, and I find it troubling.

By “fact-checking” an opinion (which is impossible to do by the way), they belittle the entire process of seeking truth by assessing fact.  They offer an opinion about an opinion, pass it off as fact-checking and as a result, cloud and confuse the whole fact checking process.

And perhaps that would be better for Fox Nation.


Former President Clinton:

Bill Clinton spent about 50 minutes on stage with a speech that was full of statistics and claims of fact.  So how did he do?  For the most part, Clinton’s facts were indeed fact and his statistics were accurate.  In a few cases however, one can nitpick.

  • Mr. Clinton said that “for the last two years, health care costs (increases) have been under 4 percent in both years for the first time in 50 years.” And then he asked: “Are we better off because President Obama fought for health care reform? You bet we are.”

According the the journal Health Affairs, cost increases have indeed been under 4 percent for the first time in 50 years.  However, it is difficult to conclusively state that President Obama can take the credit for this, because the major provisions of his health care reform have yet to take effect.

One can note however, that the impending law has already had an impact of the health care industry, who have begun to comply with many of the reforms in advance, thus having an impact on costs.

  • Mr. Clinton said that “last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs.”

Two independent economists, Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics and Joel Prakken of Macroeconomics Advisers agree.  Zandi claimed it would add 1.9 million jobs and Prakken said 1.3 million.

Senate Republicans blocked the $447 billion measure, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell denounced it as “a charade that’s meant to give Democrats a political edge” in 2012.


President Obama:

  • President Obama claimed that independent experts say his deficit-reduction plan would reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.

The plan does claim to offer a 4 trillion dollar reduction, but includes savings from reducing the armed forces commitment in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as 1 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act.  It is fair to wonder about the inclusion of both figures, as the money for both has already been agreed upon and thus is not part of a  new plan. And in the case of the war savings, those costs are already funded by deficit spending. Reducing deficit spending is more like not needing to take out a new loan, rather than paying old loans back.

  • President Obama  said he would return the tax rate for upper income individuals to “the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs.”

This refers to his wish to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for families with over $250,000 annual income, or for individuals who earn more than $200,000. The top marginal income tax rate would return to 39.6 percent, where it was set by Clinton’s 1993 tax increase, up from 35 percent, where it has been since 2003.

The quibble from others here is that he has already added tax increases to these same people to pay for the Affordable Care Act and with changes to taxation on investment income. This means that the actual tax rate on income above 200,000 and 250,000 will be higher than under Clinton.

But, they will still be paying lower taxes on their income below 200,000 and 250,000 because President Obama is not raising the marginal tax rate on that tax bracket to its previous level.

So, it may end up to be factually accurate – or – that in a number of these cases, less tax will be paid.


Lessons learned:

While there were distortions and stretches and assumptions on display nightly in Charlotte, there was very little outright “lying”.  Unlike the fact-free week the GOP gave us in Tampa, it was very hard to find the same outright lies and puffy pandering that Republicans shared with us this year.

And that in itself creates a problem for a person like me.

This post was supposed to be up late last week, right after the closing of the Democratic convention – just as my assessment of the GOP in Tampa was. But it was not.   I delayed it, because I was trying to be sure I didn’t miss something.  I was, in effect, looking for things I could point to and say “Ah Ha!”. I was trying to be fair to the GOP and assumed perhaps that Democrats would be equally robust in their misrepresentations.

But they were not.

It is similar to the climate change debate, where, despite there being no doubt as to what the majority of scientists think, a news outlet always has one believer scientist and one denier scientist debating the issue, in an effort to show balance.  But in that case, it gives the very inaccurate impression that the scientific community is equally divided.

In this case, I was trying to find a way to show that the Democrats were equal to the GOP in their falsity.  And I could not.

So, I am now asking myself this question – why did the GOP need to resort to falsehoods and fluffy rhetoric, instead of allowing truth and fact to speak for themselves?

This is one question worth answering.

But some are not likely going to like the answer…