A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of April 20-April 26

This week, readers sent us comments about sales taxes on home profits and the Webby awards.

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.

No Means Yes?

I find I must occasionally remind you of your self-chosen role, as you too often slip into sounding like an apologist for the current administration, rather than a fact-checking organization. Please don’t do that — in today’s environment, we need legitimate fact checkers more than ever.

Consider this item from the weekly note you sent out today ["A 3.8 Percent “Sales Tax” on Your Home?," April 22]:

Q: Does the new health care law impose a 3.8 percent tax on profits from selling your home?
A: No, with very few exceptions. The first $250,000 in profit from the sale of a personal residence won’t be taxed, or the first $500,000 in the case of a married couple. The tax falls on relatively few — those with high incomes from other sources.

From your explanation, it is quite clear that the answer is “Yes,” not “No”! You might wish to qualify it — “Yes, it does, though only on relatively few people…” But to ask that yes/no question, then begin your answer with “No” is simply incorrect! And it sounds too much like what a politician or political spokesperson would say in spinning mode, not sufficiently like what a competent, neutral fact-checking organization would and should say to help us understand what is actually happening.

Tom Altman
Houston, Texas

I have a problem with your analysis of this Q & A. Shouldn’t the answer actually be "yes," since some people will have to pay? If you cut off the answer at "no" and did not expound further you would actually be lying, because yes, some people will have to pay this 3.8 percent tax. If I had a glass and I asked you if there were water in it and you said no, there is no water in the glass, then I turn it upside down and alas, a tablespoon of water poured out, you would have lied to me. A more correct answer would have been "yes, but only a few will have to pay the 3.8 capital gains tax," although even that answer might be misleading.

I would urge you to rethink your assessment of this answer and your whole health care analysis at that. I think that you would have a difficult time defending your previous position on the health care issue after reading the newest CBO analyses and the fact that there will be no deficit reduction as was touted during the period leading up to the passage of the health care bill. It seems as though Factcheck.org is simply another cheerleader for the current administration and not a nonpartisan organization as it would like us to believe.

Deanna Converse
Pasadena, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: The most recent CBO analysis of the health care legislation projected a deficit reduction of $143 billion over 10 years.


Webby Leanings

I did as you suggested and voted for you ["Support FactCheck in the 2010 Webby Awards," April 21]. I really do appreciate your lack of bias! This country means a lot to me – at 85 I’ve seen too much of power- and money-hungry politicians trying to fill their unquenchable appetites on the backs of responsible and hard-working citizens.

I was surprised at the lack of any conservative or moderate TV stations or networks – in fact I didn’t find any such in my cursory look. I am one of many that I know who are moderate to conservative, and who nevertheless read and listen to all levels of news & comment. I believe that if I say I lean a certain way, I must explore ALL ways in order to make a reasoned choice. I listen to all the news programs, and read many different editorials, etc. But if there are only liberal entities to pursue, it seems awfully unfair to all Americans. And I’d feel exactly the same if the major (and majority) of news offerings were “conservative.”

Thanks again for material helpful to those who choose to think for themselves and reach conclusions based on facts!

Marian Cranford
Birmingham, Ala.


Thanks, FactCheck

Thank you so much for your site.

It gives me hope for this nation to know that there is a media organization out there that isn’t biased and tied down with partisanism.

Preston Cowley
Provo, Utah