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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 21-July 27

This week, readers sent us comments on social networking, health care and birth-certificate doubters.

In the FactCheck Mailbag we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

FactCheck on Facebook

I was hoping that at the very least FactCheck.org could register as an org on Facebook, allowing people to be a Fan. They could even then get updated rulings that way.

I hope you can make this happen!


Kenneth Patricio
Normal, Ill.

FactCheck.org responds: We do have a Facebook page! Not only that, but we’re on Twitter, too. You can find both in the "Be Our Friend" box at the bottom of the sidebar.


Life Expectancy and Health Care

First, thanks for your work. I appreciate your effort to verify facts in an age of careless spin.

You said the following [See "Obama’s Health Care Claims," June 18]:

"On other points we found the president’s facts checked out. For example, many countries that spend much less on health care nevertheless have higher life expectancy than the U.S."

I don’t dispute the fact, but it needs some qualification. If one corrects for higher murder rates and higher rates of automobile accidents in the U.S. (clearly factors outside the control of health care per se), I am told that the life expectancy in the U.S. rises above many of the European countries that Obama had in mind. Would it be possible for you to investigate this and put out a FactCheck on the president’s claim here?

Mt. Airy, Md.

FactCheck.org responds: A book called "The Business of Health," published by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, does indeed make this claim. We’re not sure why accidental death would be deemed irrelevant in a discussion of health care quality, especially in light of claims about emergency care in Canada versus the U.S. At any rate, the analysis has been criticized for being oversimplified.

Stuck in Campaign Mode?

What your organization is doing is extremely important to our democracy, especially in a time when so much “journalism” (both “liberal” and “conservative”) has devolved into entertainment and it’s so hard to learn the facts behind an issue. But the importance of your work puts enormous pressure on you to get it right.

Unfortunately, your piece on Pres. Obama’s health plan ["Obama’s Health Care News Conference," July 23] is very weak. It’s true that the president has oversimplified some of the issues (and has probably even gotten some of the “facts & figures” wrong) regarding the most complex and constantly changing issue facing the country. But if you are going to give us the facts, you must be careful to get your story straight; otherwise, you only complicate matters instead of shedding light on the issue.

Rather than go line by line, let me just say that there is no agreed-upon health plan at the moment. What the president was obviously referring to in his press conference is what he is willing to sign (not necessarily what he referred to in the campaign). I refer here to your “analysis” that “He said the plan that I put forward would cover at least 97 percent of all Americans. Actually, the plan he campaigned on would cover far less than that, and only one of the bills now being considered in Congress would do that.” This sounds to me like a better deal for Americans than what he thought possible during the campaign. So your implied gotcha is hardly appropriate.

Again, I applaud your mandate, but I urge you to be more careful in your reporting.

O.J. Sikes
Leonia, N.J.


Weighing Averages

"The president said that the United States spends $6,000 more on average than other countries on health care. Actually, U.S. per capita spending is about $2,500 more than the next highest-spending country. Obama’s figure was a White House-calculated per-family estimate." ["Obama’s Health Care News Conference," July 23.]

You may want to phrase that differently, because as it stands, it is not clear that Obama made an error.

He said $6,000 more on average than other countries, the $2,500 is more than the next highest-spending country. It is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Shripathi Kamath
Mission Viejo, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: Good eye, but that doesn’t make the math work out. The average per capita spending for non-U.S. OECD countries in 2006 was $2,777. That’s about $4,000 less per capita than the U.S., or about $13,000 less using the OMB’s "per family" calculation. Obama’s claim of $6,000 is still nowhere to be seen.


Obama’s Birth Certificate (Again)

Contrary to the many misrepresentations about birthers, most honestly do not know if Barack Obama meets the Constitutional eligibility requirement to be president or not. The most compelling reason for this is that Barack Obama has so far refused and persists in refusing to produce conclusive evidence which would resolve this issue one way or the other. … Most birthers are anxious to put this issue to rest and accept Barack Obama as president except on a leap of blind faith.

Michael J. Marsalek
Bel Air, Md.

Although President Obama’s qualifications to be president seem well-established in most peoples’ minds at this point, there has been a resurgence of the "birthers" who continue to claim the president was not born in America and that he is therefore not a legitimate president. Is there any fact-based dispute about whether President Obama is a legitimate president based on the origin of his birth?

L. Dennison Reed
Boca Raton, Florida

I live in a very anti-Obama section of the country (Northern Kentucky) and am tired of hearing "No one can locate Obama’s birth certificate." What is the truth in this admittedly non-important issue? I suspect it is a lame attempt to propose he is not American or a disguised racist attitude.

Thanks so much. I appreciate your efforts.

Karl Lietzenmayer
Covington, Ky.

FactCheck.org responds: So far, we’ve seen zero credible evidence that Obama was born anywhere but the United States. One e-mail rumor was even based on an April Fools’ Day hoax ["Was Obama Born in the U.S.A.?," May 7]. For more, see our article "Born in the U.S.A." and our Wire posts "Obama’s Citizenship and Survival of the Fittest," "Berg Gets Sunk," "It’s Official: Obama ‘Born in the U.S.A.’," "More Citizenship Quibbles" and "More ‘Birther’ Nonsense: Obama’s 1981 Pakistan Trip."


Health Care Bias

I think the health care war is between those who have excellent health care insurance that they can really use if they’re injured or get terribly sick, those that have fake insurance that takes your money but cancels your policy if you ever need to use the coverage, and those who have no insurance. I have no insurance because I can’t afford it.

Just wondered how many of you at FactCheck.org have good health insurance that they can actually use without having their policy canceled or their deductible raised quite a bit? Your attacks on the Obama health care plan with a public option, which is actually my only chance to get some tests to see if I have serious prostate problems, seem biased to me. I’m also biased. I want to live too.

So I’ll check my facts elsewhere, thanks.

Lee Harrison
Tulia, Texas


Praise for FactCheck

Your articles are the best I know in existence covering politics, true or false concepts. I look to your site as my political bible. My friends have thanked me for guiding them to your site also. They thank you through me and I am extending this message to you and your staff. I found you during the political debates when I could not decide what was true or false sometimes. When I put into a Google search "debates true or false," your site came up, and I will forever thank you from time to time. I know for a fact others appreciate you and your staff too, as they tell me.

Sandra Boletchek
Manassas, Va.