Home Media WAPO’s “The Fact Checker” Needs a Fact Check

WAPO’s “The Fact Checker” Needs a Fact Check


Spare us the so-called fact-checkers!  Lowkell wrote of one suspect fact-checker.  I have another to tell you about. And I do not believe it is an accident that WAPO and other media outlets all chant the same lines and scapegoat AARP. Indeed, Robert Greenwald’s video shows, the elaborate and expensive war against Americans’ best interests waged by billionaires and the politicians who love them.  Add to that the corporate media who love them.  

This past weekend, the entire national press corps was a-twitter purporting the AARP had changed its position in opposing cuts to Medicare as part fo the budget process–this following a WSJ “revelation,” which, under Rupert Murdoch’s Propaganda-R-Us, is about as credible as it’s sister outlet, FAUX News. For days the WSJ, along with countless other outlets have been fanning the mythology about the AARP position on Social Security. But the AARP has not changed its position on Social Security. WAPO offered no Pinocchios to WSJ or the fawning media who lapped up it’s drivel. Instead, it targeted the  AARP in another matter, an ad it ran concerning budget priorities. And like so many Americans for Prosperity minions, the drumbeat against seniors and the AARP marches on.

As Washington continues its war against older AND younger, Americans, Kaplan Post’s (WAPO’s) Glenn Kessler gave Four Pinocchios to the AARP, but deserves the four long noses himself. Here’s the article. What the AARP put in the ad (among other things, that the federal government funds research of shrimp on “treadmills”) was factual. The ad attempted to use humor and metaphor, which was lost on Kessler, who goes on to distort the truth in other aspects of his “story.”  The ad’s overall point is that America’s politicians do not have their priorities straight, which is true.  Kessler makes sure to include irate researchers protesting the AARP over its characterization of their research, but had nothing to say about throwing generations of old people (and their children and grandchildren) under the bus.

However, in negligence of a far greater nature,  WAPO’s so-called fact-checker gives credence to a Bigger Lie.  It claims Social security, Medicare and Medicaid take up 40% of the federal budget, while conveniently omitting the fact that Social Security is paid for by incoming revenues and that, by law, the program can not contribute to the deficit. Furthermore, Social Security is legally constrained against contributing one cent to the deficit. Thus, the program costs nothing from other revenue streams apart from those raised by employees and their employers via payroll deduction (separate from regular withholding).  In the future the program will depend on those two things (employers’ inputs and employees’ part), plus the the Social Security surplus. Decades from now, the program will require tweaking, but just making all earned income subject to Social Security taxes would solve that problem.

Mr. Fact Checker says he doesn’t weigh in on the value of the program.  Oh, really?  It’s implied in everything he wrote. “Fact-Checker” Kessler purports further, that by suggesting Social Security is on the table at all, the AARP is disingenuous.  This would be laughable if it weren’t so patently false.  He claims all sides have agreed to take Social security off the table until later. Not true. Even now, Republicans, like Kay Bailey Hutchison, and some Dems, call for inclusion of Social Security in the current budget negotiations. Our very own Mark Warner and his Gang think it is on the table.

Similarly, an ongoing revenue stream (payroll taxes and premiums) for Medicare aren’t mentioned by the “Fact-Checker.”  There are multiple parts to Medicare, not all of which are as self sufficient as the others.  We contribute from our paychecks for Medicare Part A for our whole working lives.  We pay premiums (based upon income level) for Part B.  We also pay for Medicare Part D.  However, Medicare Part D has retroactively legislated that medication prices cannot be negotiated by the federal government for either Parts A or D.  This means strikingly higher prices for everyone.  Think hundreds of dollars a month in some cases for a single prescription.  We all know of cases, such as the important cancer drug, Herceptin, which can cost much, much more. Some patients pay tens of thousands of dollar a year out of pocket for it.  And we pay for any Medigap coverage because there are substantial gaps, leaving patients with possibly huge and devastating out-of-pocket expenses. It all adds up to huge out of pocket costs for seniors and no free ride.

So, as indicated above, WAPO’s “fact checker” and others take the total expended by Social Security and Medicare in benefits and forget to mention they have their own revenue streams. Its “how to lie with statistics.”  Then they throw Medicaid into the mix, falsely conflating that program with Social Security and Medicare to give the impression that they are all welfare programs.

The crux of “The Fact Checker’s” criticism seems to be that AARP’s examples don’t add up to enough budget reductions.  That wasn’t the point.  AARP points out with irony nonsensical things the government spends money on.  And across the entire federal budget, especially defense, it is not trivial. Still, some big ticket items will need to be addressed.  Let’s start by focusing on what brought us the deficit.  

1) fix the economy (that’s one of the biggest reasons for the deficit).

2) Stop the Bush tax cuts, except perhaps tweaking the AMT. In particular stop catering to the rich and corporations at the expense of most Americans.  The top 2% have had enough money thrown at them for the past 10 years, indeed that past 30 years.

3) Stop all handouts to corporations, except real small businesses (not pretend ones like the huge corporations like the Koch Brothers invent to qualify for small business monies).  No ethanol subsidies.  No dairy price supports.  No write- offs.  

4) Bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and

5) Stop the incessant privatization of infrastructure and essential services, which ultimately costs us more, sometimes twice as much or more. It should be criminal for those who swear an oath to fulfill their duties as stewards of this country give away our assets. Regarding the latter, layer upon layer of hands in the trough (middlemen) and excessive executive compensation assure that privatization will never be the answer to infrastructure and essential services such as defense, police, teaching, and more. But pols on both sides of the aisle are hell-bent on going down that road to our detriment.

So, to Lowkell’s example, I add this blog.  Given the pathetic state of the American media, the bottom line is that we have to do our own fact-checking.  The extant self-proclaimed ones aren’t doing their job.  


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