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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Oct. 20-Oct. 26

This week, readers sent us comments on health systems performance, polling questions and local political races.

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.

Putting a Fine Point on Performance

Your e-mail headline today ["37th in Health Performance?," Oct. 21] tried to imply that a Wall Street Journal article debunks the WHO ranking of the U.S. as 37th in the world in health care.

However, if one reads your article, it bolsters the claim and further, indicates that on some important measurements the U.S. ranks even worse than 37th. … The only things that the U.S. excels at are extraordinary interventions, lack of accessibility and the obscene cost of "US Sick Care."

Anyway, whenever I see "editorial" or "punditry" from the WSJ – I consider the source and their motivation. WSJ is great at bald news reporting (or used to be until Rupert Murdoch bought them) but they are to the right-wing of Attila the Hun when it comes to the axe they grind.

Chet Gardiner
Tucson, Ariz.


Read this with interest; stats are always interesting but so much to take into account to actually apply them to realistic needs of families. Does it really matter to Joe Q. Public where exactly the U.S. is at in this list? We have a broken health care system. Let’s look at insurance companies, are they breaking laws, doing criminal business practices and are they practicing in collusion with each other? So let us get to the heart of the matter, not ranking stats for U.S. health care but are people getting health care, are insurance companies setting fee and manipulating costs? How much money do insurance companies make, and why are they not disclosing it?

Heather Mash
Tillamook, Ore.


While it’s true that WHO didn’t have data for all countries in all categories, this is a disingenuous straw man argument from someone [Musgrove] who most likely knows better. The countries where data were lacking were predominantly those below the U.S. in the ranking order; missing data for countries below the U.S. in the list wouldn’t have affected the U.S. ranking.

Pat Sitton
Corvallis, Ore.


Poll Semantics

Your article ("Heather Graham Teaches Us About Polls," Oct. 23) just shows that the Survey USA poll was worded in a confusing way. It is easy to imagine that many people could have quickly thought, “Yes, choice is very important to me since I don’t want to be forced into the public plan.” The wording of the question almost implies that the “public plan” is a given and appears to simply be asking how important is it that one can choose between public and private. It is a poorly crafted question and your Justin Bank should have recognized it as such. The NBC/WSJ question is very clear.

Neal Patterson
Waterville, Maine


Going Local

FactCheck does a great job of setting the record straight on many national issues. But lately, in viewing hundreds of political ads in Virginia this year, it occurred to me that local areas around the country could and should copy your model for local and statewide elections.

Everyone I meet, politicians included, says they hate negative ads, but the politicians will tell you that “they work." So it isn’t about to solve itself.

We see statements taken our of context, wild claims of 20% tax increases that would add a penny to an existing tax, transportation funding claims that never materialize, nameless “surveys” and “reports” with no sources. … The list is endless. My sense is that we can and should do more to force politicians to cut out the garbage and stick to truth about the issues.

I propose establishing a national network of local agencies to share experiences based on FactCheck’s model. We could start a pilot project in Hampton Roads, Va. At the moment, I’m not sure how it would be funded on a local basis. But hopefully, we could convince local press and TV media to actively support findings. We would encourage research through local or state colleges and universities or develop an independent agency sponsored by local foundations.

Bob MacIver
Virginia Beach, Va.

FactCheck.org responds: We’ve actually done some reporting on the contentious Virginia gubernatorial race this year. But we encourage you to do your own official or unofficial fact-checking on local politics. The fact-checking concept and model are not proprietary — on the contrary, we want everyone to get in on the game.


No Pressure!

Could your organization please do a nonstop and running fact-check on Limbaugh, most powerful Republican, and Obama and the Nobel, and Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly and in your spare time do Sarah Palin, since she will run for president.

Gilbert Thibault
Laguna Beach, Calif.