Fatal Fact Check #FAIL at the Kaplan Post

Fatal Fact Check #FAIL at the Kaplan Post


The Washington Kaplan Post long ago became a parody of everything wrong with the corporate media: arrogance and paternalism; rampant unethical behavior (e.g., their very business model, their frequent stealing of stories and failure to give proper credit); a craven center-right, pro-corporate viewpoint; false equivalency run amok; a delusion that they are better than “the blogs,” but with a comments section – and, often, story selection, placement, and quality – that makes this supposedly “journalistic” product no better, and often worse, than almost any blog (e.g., a huge percentage of comments to Kaplan Post articles, on almost any subject, would violate our rules against “profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements,” but apparently anything goes over there in their desperate attempt to attract “eyeballs” to their dying business model).

Today, we have another classic example of everything wrong with the Post, with Glenn Kessler’s “Fact Checker” column Does a majority of millionaires really support the Buffett Rule?

In this edition, Kessler takes on the question of support for the Buffett Rule, “to require an individual taxpayer whose adjusted gross income exceeds $1 million to pay a minimum tax rate of 30% of the excess of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.” Specifically, Kessler looks at whether President Obama’s claim that “Millionaires stand in support of the Buffett Rule” is factually accurate.

According to Kessler’s calculations, Obama’s claim isn’t accurate, and thus gets “Two Pinocchios.” The problem is, this is utter nonsense on basically every level. Where do we even start fact checking the failed “fact checker” (using the phrase VERY loosely)? How about the following?

1. Kessler’s discussion of polling is beyond laughable, into words like “pitiful,” “pathetic,” “cringe inducing,” and “mind boggling clueless.” According to Kessler – and apparently he’s serious (although I find it hard to believe that any intelligent human being could write the following sentences with a straight face):

The Washington Post has strict standards about the types of polls that we quote. We are especially wary of online polls, and a standard practice before quoting a poll in a news story is to make sure it is vetted by The Post’s polling unit.

Hahahahahaha. Seriously? “Strict standards” on polling at the Post? My god, these people are hopeless.

The reality?  

The fact is, the Post has some sort of irrational “fear and loathing” of “robopolls” like Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA, even though: a) those two polls “were ranked the second and fourth most accurate pollsters in 2010 by Nate Silver – above such traditional stalwarts as Mason-Dixon and CNN/Opinion Research;” b) the Wall Street Journal reported that “interactive voice response polls, or IVRs, were as accurate as live-interview surveys, and more thorough;” c) the Post routinely reports the wildly erroneous, methodologically flawed Roanoke College polls, which even the Post’s own polling director says are “not representative of Virginia’s racial composition, its age structure or regional population densities;” d) the Post also routinely reports polls like this one from Christopher Newport University, which had John McCain creaming Barack Obama in Virginia (note: at the same time, “a Public Policy Polling survey conducted among likely voters showed Obama up by 2 points”), probably because the “poll assumed that African Americans, who make up about 20 percent of the state’s population, would account for a little less than 10 percent of the electorate” (#FAIL #FAIL #FAIL!!!).

In other words, the worst polls in terms of performance frequently pass the Post’s rigorous (hahahaha) journalistic standards, while the best-performing polls don’t. Not only that, but the Post won’t even tell you about the best-performing polls, because apparently if their readers were to know about them, they’d turn into pumpkins or start thinking for themselves or buy another newspaper or god knows what. Did I mention #FAIL?!?

2. With regard to the specific question in this “fact check” (using the phrase loosely), whether millionaires support the Buffett Rule, the Wall Street Journal reported:

A new survey from Spectrem Group found that 68% of millionaires (those with investments of $1 million or more) support raising taxes on those with $1 million or more in income. Fully 61% of those with net worths of $5 million or more support the tax on million-plus earners.

Let’s repeat that: 61% of those with net worths of $5 million or more support the Buffett Rule. Yet the Post’s Kessler completely ignores that finding, getting all caught up instead – for whatever bizarre, incomprehensible reason – with the sentence in the Wall Street Journal article about people with $1 million in investments being “millionaires.” Fine, let’s grant Glenn Kessler that having $1 million in investments doesn’t make you a millionaire. But what about people with $5 million in investments? Kessler doesn’t touch that one with a 10-million-foot pole, and for good reason, as it completely demolishes the reasoning behind his entire “fact check” (again, using the phrase extremely loosely) column.

3. Many other polls show overwhelming support for the Buffett Rule across income groups. For instance, this recent CNN poll finds 67%-32% support among those making $50k or more. Another poll, this time by Gallup, finds “little variation in response to the Buffett Rule by income,” with a “majority (55%) of those making $100,000 or more in annual household income favor[ing] the Buffett Rule, similar to the level of support from lower-income Americans.”

Bottom line: this is a complete, utter, fatal “fact checker” #FAIL by the Kaplan Post. Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident, but a symptom of systemic, underlying, probably incurable moral, ethical, and journalistic rot at the Post in general. Frankly, at this point, we need a full-time fact checker just to check the Kaplan Post’s “fact checker,” along with the rest of that formerly fine newspaper.