A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of April 19-26


This week, readers sent us comments about President Obama’s budget speech and more on Donald Trump’s claims about Obama’s birthplace.

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.

Critiquing Obama Analysis

I greatly appreciate the work you do and the high overall quality of your analysis. However, I have to take issue with the implied definition of “millionaires and billionaires” in your critique [“FactChecking Obama’s Budget Speech,” April 15]. When you say that Obama’s critique of making Bush’s tax cut permanent wasn’t only a giveaway to millionaires and billionaires, but to anyone making over $200,000 per year ($250,000 for couples), “not just those earning more than $1 million,” you’re implying that the terms “millionaire” and “billionaire” are describing annual income, rather than net worth — which is what those terms are generally accepted as referring to. It is not unreasonable to assume that individuals making over $200,000 per year over a sustained period would accumulate $1 million-plus in net worth over the course of their career, and thus be fairly called millionaires.

Gene Warren
Redwood City, Calif.

You could not be more wrong, Wrong, WRONG on Obama’s budget speech. What you fail to take into account are the implications of what the Ryan plan will do. By turning retirees over to the insurance market, they will be at the mercy of the insurance companies. This is bad for at least two major reasons: 1) From Medicare at approximately 3% operating costs, retirees will move to the private insurers that run approximately 30%. That includes the need to make profits for their shareholders. 2) When insurance companies have control, we will have the same kind of insurance we have today — millions without insurance, elimination of insured on the basis of conditions that will cost the insurers coverage, young people who will not be accepted on policies because of preexisting conditions, non-coverage for women’s reproductive health, etc., etc.

If you don’t see this, you are blind to the stealth policies the Republicans are pushing as a way to privatize Medicare and Social Security. Don’t you see that medical treatment for profit is morally wrong and unjustifiable? Wake up before it’s too late and issue another bulletin that tells the truth.

Anthony J. Palmer
Hudson, Mass.

First, let me say that I appreciate all the work your team does on so many subjects. They are not only interesting but very informative. However, regarding articles about tax rates between the “wealthy” and the rest of us, I find the information completely invalid for use as a comparison. Yes, the upper-income earners in America do have much higher rates, but they can not be compared to the average wage earner for the simple reason that the “wealthy” among us have numerous deductions that the average person is not even aware of.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had an oil depletion deduction since I started paying income taxes. Nor do I have tax attorneys and tax accountants playing games with my books to minimize tax liability. No, I’m just a plain old W-2 kind of guy who has no tax shelters, but simply pays that lower tax “rate.” Go through the deductions portion of the TurboTax software and you’ll have an idea of the point I’m making. When you compare tax rates, I’m afraid you’re using the old apples and oranges comparison. In practice, there just is no comparison!

Robert Dittell
Sun City, Ariz.

Obama’s Birthplace

Thanks for the information you posted on Obama’s birth certificate [“Donald, You’re Fired,” April 9]. What you have shown and validated looks to be a 2007 certified copy of his birth certificate, which does not have complete information. I’m wondering why no one, including Obama, has not just shown the original birth certificate? You know, the white-on-black style document that everyone has. To me, it is suspicious that there is such cloak and dagger around producing the actual document. After all, he is the leader of the free world and it seems relevant that this would be, and should have been, openly disclosed.

All Obama has to do is give permission to the administrators in Hawaii for the document to be revealed. Why wouldn’t he do that? Why won’t he give YOU a copy, just to clear the air? It’s hard to conclude anything other than the possibility that he is trying to hide something and his reticence about it makes it even more curious.

The hoopla is not fading because the document has not been produced, only what appear to be abbreviated, short form copies. Fine for legal purposes but, in my opinion, incomplete for a president of the United States. I hope he’s not holding it back for political purposes and will whip it out just when the time is right – pretty juvenile IMO.

Steve Chole
St. Louis, Mo.

What is remarkable is that this issue will not [go] away, despite the excellent analysis by FactCheck and many others. It strikes me as a desperate attempt by those who dislike (hate?) Obama to find some way to attack him other than relying on facts and data. They can not beat him on substance, so they resort to fantasy.

However, it is important to note that the recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that only 33% of Republicans believe Obama was born in the U.S. So, this belief is pretty widespread among Republicans (67% believe either that he was foreign-born or they do not know). At least among the general population, the number who believe he was born in the U.S. rises to 57%, but that still leaves 43% who either think he was foreign-born or do not know.

Stephen Gessner
Shelter Island, N.Y.

Appreciation of FactCheck

I would just like to recognize your organization for staying true to an endangered principle: the respect of facts. It’s through efforts like yours the American people are better informed and our politicians’ feet are held to the fire. Thank you for all that you do,

Joshua Gregg
Sacramento, Calif.