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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 31-Sep. 6

This week, readers sent us comments about Social Security, the "Ground Zero mosque" and keeping the DNC honest.

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.

Social Security and Stocks

The good FactCheck article, "Democrats Misfire on Social Security — Again" [Sep. 2] would have been even better had it noted the common, question-begging assertion that private accounts would necessarily be invested in stocks.

While a diversified portfolio of common stocks beats most other investment options over the long run (vide Jeremy Siegel et al.), there is no reason that private SS accounts couldn’t be invested in bonds, real estate, or other assets. The point of private accounts would be that they are the private property of the citizen, like a 401(k) balance, and not subject to confiscation or cancellation at the whim of Congress — as the Supreme Court has twice ruled the so-called SS "accounts" are.

Clark Irwin
Alexandria, Va.

The letter from Carol Kemp [FactCheck Mailbag, Aug. 24-30] is factually incorrect. Starting with the original passage in 1935, Social Security had overwhelming support from both parties. Social Security has always had Republican support as this is a significant part of the party constituency. Where the writer is confused is the efforts to control spending and to redefine a system for seniors to receive an acceptable return on that investment. Despite the recent turmoil in the financial markets, returns over a lifetime vastly outpace the insignificant annual return from investment in Social Security of 1.23%. Although privatization of Social Security may not be the answer, burying your head in the sand and saying NO to change will only perpetuate a failed system that is going bankrupt.

Lee Henderson
Ithaca, N.Y.


More Mosque Facts

Thanks for your coverage of the Park51 issue ["Questions About the ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’" Aug. 26]. My only quibble would be that I believe there is a "fact" that gets overlooked if no attention is paid to the "sensibilities of 9/11 families" and the "advisability of locating a community center near Ground Zero." That fact is simply that "Muslims and Islam are not al Qaeda." I submit that most if not all of the upset of 9/11 families — and those who are exploiting them for political gain — derives from conflating these two things. This is classic guilt by association.

What opponents of the center say about respecting the sensibilities of 9/11 families would make sense if those promoting the center were some group like "Americans for al Qaeda." Assuming such a group was not advocating violence against the American government and was in all other respects legal, the argument would then apply that they would have a constitutional right to build a center at 51 Park Place…but would be very insensitive to do so. Otherwise this argument is factually flawed.

Again, the objections to the community center related to the sensitivities of 9/11 families are grounded in a factually mistaken and tacitly accepted contention that Muslims equal al Qaeda. As such, I submit this brings this topic under the legitimate purview of FactCheck.org.

I remain a big fan.

Craig Dunkerley
San Jose, Calif.


Holding Parties Accountable

I appreciate all that you do to keep the political facts straight.

I am a Democrat and I complain to the DNC when FactCheck.org calls the DNC on spreading untrue or twisted information. I told them I would not send any more money to them until I see that they are cleaning up their act. I expect the DNC to do their best to police other Democrats in the states who are running for office and call them on their manipulated political ads. The DNC has the same pipelines to the truth that you do and I expect them tell it straight for the good of the Democratic Party.

I understand that there is more than one side to a situation and sometimes people unintentionally misspeak. Having said that, I expect that those people set the record straight or tell their side if FactCheck.org or another reputable fact-checking organization calls them on it. I don’t want the Democrats to lower themselves to the level of conservatives; that would make them no better than conservatives.

Beth Dewey
Gilroy, Calif.


Act Less Locally

You guys are great, and I consistently cite your articles in discussion. Your articles on health care reform and the Islamic cultural center have been invaluable. However, I must admit that I am disappointed by your focus on state issues and certain political advertisements. Such things aren’t relevant to most people; stick to the national issues! For example, why don’t you take the pundits (on both sides) to task? Beck, Limbaugh, and the like distort facts on a daily basis. Don’t let them go unchecked. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to critique people who are essentially snake oil salesmen, but Beck has millions of followers. Hold these blowhards accountable for what they say, and focus on more national issues.

On the whole, however, I thank you. Keep up the good work.

Matt Denvir
Kingston, N.Y.

FactCheck.org responds: For checks on media figures, try Media Matters (which leans left) or the Media Research Center (which leans right). We check politicians and political groups — which means that during midterm election season, our focus tends to be local.