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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Nov. 9-Nov. 15

This week, readers sent us comments about fiscal discipline, Muslim homeland security officials and the separation of church and state.

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.

PAYGO and Pelosi

I think political context is important here ["Pelosi Pablum on Fiscal Discipline," Nov. 10]. The Democratic leadership did indeed restore, and then waive, PAYGO. However, the alternative proposed by [Reps. Eric] Cantor and [John] Boehner is CUTGO, where cutting taxes does NOT have to be offset with spending cuts, whereas spending increases do need corresponding taxes or spending cuts. Given the disingenuity of this proposal, the Democratic proposal is indeed more fiscally responsible, at least requiring formal action to change the budget balance.

David Huff
Eagleville, Pa.

Eugene Kiely cites several areas of increased spending, e.g. small-business tax credits, but fails to mention this was part of a historic stimulus package. It is true that the 2009 Bush budget had a $1.4 trillion deficit and that Congress passed it — that included the $750 billion TARP funding.

I raise these points because fiscal discipline is a vague term that has to take into account fiscal reality. For example, fiscal discipline doesn’t mean not raising the debt ceiling. I would call that fiscal suicide. Without raising the debt ceiling, we cannot borrow money to fund our budget. We would enter a deep recesssion. Fiscal discipline operates within certain constraints, unless one is willing to cause great economic harm to the country.

If Pelosi is guilty of not showing discipline, Bernanke is equally guilty. If we equate discipline with policies that will throw us back into deep recession and throw millions out of work, then who needs it? The fact is our national debt, as a percentage of GDP, has been much higher in our history and we’ve always paid it down.

The real bias in Eugene Kiely’s work is that the lack of historical context and understanding of the limits facing our leaders reflect a deeper ignorance of economics. People still seem to be operating from supply-side assumptions, despite the fact that theory has been completely disproved by the recent financial catastrophes brought on by rampant fraud and speculation.

I urge to have Mr. Kiely frame his article in a way which makes Americans aware of the limits of PAYGO and the consequences of radical budget cutting forced on us by not raising the debt ceiling.

Bart Stratton
La Crescenta, Calif.


Short Answer Too Short

Hi, I just got your email that had this:

Q: Has the Obama administration appointed two Muslims to serve in the Department of Homeland Security?
A: Yes, in 2009. One was a senior Justice Department aide during the Bush administration. Another is a former head of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and was appointed as a civil-rights adviser. ["Muslims Appointed to Homeland Security," Nov. 10]

and wondered why on earth you would stop there and not add what you did very well in the extended response, that Muslim does not equal terrorist. Do you really think the misinformed or misguided are going to follow the link for a more thoughtful treatment of the question?

Sorry, had to say something — please be part of the solution, I know that is your intent.

David Getzin
Weare, N.H.


‘Christian Nation’ Claims Debunked

I am sure your fact-finding team knows of this, but just in case, I found where it has been written into US law that we were not founded as a Christian nation. It is Article 11 of the U.S. Treaty with Tripoli, signed in 1797 while John Adams was president and Thomas Jefferson was vice president — two of our Founding Fathers who had different views on government and religion, but agreed that we are not, nor have we ever been, a Christian nation.

Bryan Woerner
Springfield, Va.

FactCheck.org responds: The First Amendment of the Constitution also says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," including Christianity.


The Full Gamut

I just discovered your website! Thank you so much for setting the record straight. I wish you had a 24/7 TV program!

Ellie Showers
Honey Brook, Pa.

I’m a big fan and love your work. However, I think you have become prey to the malady befalling so much of the press recently — bending so far over to appear fair and unbiased that, well, your brain ends up someplace it shouldn’t. Your "analysis" of Obama’s comments about spending on veterans warrants a name change for your website to HairSplit.org.

Michele Erickson
Redding, Calif.

After reading your comments on Snopes ["Snopes.com," April 10, 2009] I know to never trust you anymore than I would trust Snopes or Media Matters for the truth.

Thank you for exposing yourself just as the other two have exposed themselves. I love it when evil exposes itself by overreaching either out of desperation or overconfidence.

When the Democrats took the White House and Congress, they and their allies became overconfident. When they realized they were going to get creamed during the midterm election major desperation set in! LMAO!! How quickly evil dies when exposed! Light is the very best disinfectant!

Channler Drawdy
Santa Barbara, Calif.