By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — If a Senate candidate criticizes a plan to cut government spending, and exaggerates those cuts over a decade to make them seem massive and frightening, is that misleading and deceptive?
According to the self-described “fact-checking” organization PolitiFact, deception is not only welcomed and approved, but also deserves a nearly perfect rating.
That’s the latest finding by PolitiFact, run by the Tampa Bay Times, which tackles Sen. Bill Nelson’s claim that U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, his GOP challenger for Senate, has a deficit-reduction plan that would “absolutely eviscerate Medicare and Social Security.”
The Mack Penny Plan, which Nelson refers to, was submitted to the House by Mack in 2011 and inspired by businessman Bruce Cook’s One Cent Solution.
It aims to cut one penny out of every dollar spent by the federal government and eventually cap spending at 18 percent of GDP.
According to Mack’s campaign fliers, the plan would balance the budget by 2019.
In the only live debate to be held in Florida’s Senate race on Oct. 17, Nelson attacks the Mack Penny Plan because he said it takes “$200 billion out of Medicare, over a trillion out of Social Security … and, oh by the way, to boot $3 trillion out of defense.”
Nelson never mentions those cuts would span over 10 years, but still he receives a nearly flawless rating from his friends at PolitiFact.
“Nelson’s claim requires some explanation about the plan and its timeline, but his numbers are correct. We rate this claim Mostly True,” they wrote in their judgment.
But in PolitiFact’s own rating of Mack’s Penny Plan, they give him a “Half True” because they “don’t see evidence that the plan is gaining support.”
Why the double standard?
Total federal spending over the past decade alone amounts to more than $30 trillion. Were Mack’s plan in existence, it would have led to 0.6 percent cuts for Medicare, 3.2 percent for Social Security and 9.6 percent for defense over 10 years — the furthest thing from “massive” and “drastic” spending cuts as classified by PolitiFact.
According to PolitiFact’s own “Truth-o-meter,” the difference between these two ratings is entirely based upon context and clarification.
MOSTLY TRUE — The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
HALF TRUE — The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.
Because Nelson’s claim was completely out of context and never gave a specific timetable, why is it that he receives a higher rating than Mack, whose main fault was that he claimed it was “gaining support”?
Also included in their “Half True” rating of Mack, however, are concerns similar to those voiced by Nelson in the debate on entitlement spending.
“We’d like to hear (Mack) provide details about whether older Americans should expect lower Social Security checks and to pay more for Medicare, or if they’ll be spared and in turn other departments will face much larger cuts,” they wrote.
The PolitiFact or Faction series by Ohio Watchdog’s Jon Cassidy has called into question various errors by PolitiFact Ohio in methodology, subject selection and preferential treatment for favored candidates.
And it doesn’t seem any different in Florida.
PolitiFact holds different standards when it comes to GOP Senate candidate Connie Mack, which does no justice to the tradition of independent fact-checking and analysis. We rate them as biased.
Contact Yaël Ossowski, Watchdog.org’s Florida bureau chief, at Yael@FloridaWatchdog.org
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