A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of March 9-March 15

This week, readers sent us comments about the Congressional Budget Office, Alaskan oil production and the cost of the health care bill.

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.

CBO No-Go?

I enjoy your research findings very much, even when they don’t support my negative thoughts about the opposition. However, I think you may rely too much on the [Congressional Budget Office] as impartial without pointing out that their impartiality can be compromised by the limitations imposed on them.

Clifford Weisner
Concord, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: The chief limitation on CBO is that it is required to base its forecasts of spending and revenues on current law, rather than what it likely to happen. When this skews results, we do try to point that out. But we have not found CBO’s impartiality to be "compromised." On the contrary, it has a well-deserved reputation for being both nonpartisan and highly professional.


Palin’s Puffery

With regards to “Tea Party Fact-Checking” by Viveca Novak and Brooks Jackson [Feb. 8] and their review of Palin and the “millions,” the response comes across speculative rather than fact. [The article questioned Palin’s claim that the state spent "millions" dealing with ethics complaints against her. "Her own tally is less than $2 million, and an Anchorage newspaper said most of that was salaries of state workers who would have been paid whether or not Palin was being investigated," Novak and Jackson wrote.]

Agreed that the state will have spent money for wages, but aren’t we splitting hairs? If the employees are working primarily on ethics issues and not on normal responsibilities on behalf of the state, then that should be included in the cost. I would however agree that probably not every single hour of each employee’s day was spent on the ethics issue, but certainly substantially more time was "invested" in the ethics issues, which was part of the intended purpose, than would have been prior to the barrage of albeit untrue complaints. I would also be curious if overtime or compensatory hours were accrued as a result of the uptick of those complaints.

I am also curious as to why oil would not be included in the energy production. You cannot get petroleum fuel without the crude oil. Do refineries also fall off the energy production grid? I guess a clarification of "energy production" is in order. Palin in her book “Going Rogue” clearly seems to in her mind include oil in energy production.

While the observation about Palin’s obvious re-use of old data is accurate, let us assume for a moment that oil is really part of the figures, than the figures you pointed out in your original argument were 2.9, and 14.3 (2007 figures) respectively, than the total would be 17.2, so perhaps she should have said something like, in excess of 15%; but really, rounding to 20 doesn’t seem that far off base.

William Redfield
East Wenatchee, Wash.

FactCheck.org responds: Palin said: "20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy [comes] from our state." The figure is actually less than 2.9 percent. Oil production is a subset of energy production and is included in these figures. But oil is not the only energy source produced in the U.S. Alaska is responsible for a relatively high percentage of the oil produced by the United States (14.3 percent), but a much smaller share of total energy production.


Health Cost Hijinks?

I listened to a recent FactCheck Radio podcast, which stated that the health care plan would save money over a 10-year period. Is this the first 10 years or any 10 years? I believe taxing would start first for about 4 years before any benefits were paid. That means in the first 10 years there would be 10 years of income and only 6 years of service.  I could make a plan like that work!

Jim Bilger
Arlington, Texas

FactCheck.org responds: The CBO’s estimate is for 2010-2019. The small business tax credit would begin immediately, and fees on certain manufacturers and insurers would start bringing in revenues in 2010. The Senate bill’s excise tax on high-premium plans would start bringing in money in 2013, according to the CBO. The mandate for coverage would not begin until 2014, so tax penalty payments would not come in until that year.


Keep Your Shirt On

Why are you so slow to update the page?

Richard Aleksy
Chicago, Ill.

FactCheck.org responds: We recommend that readers who need a regular fix subscribe to our RSS feed or our mailing list, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. If you’re just refreshing the homepage, you may be overlooking Ask FactChecks or posts from the FactCheck Wire, which are quicker to move off the front page.