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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 7-13

This week, readers sent us comments about Mitt Romney's misery index, Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, energy-efficient light bulbs and a time-saver request.

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.

Much Ado About Romney's Misery Index

FactCheck does a wonderful job of verifying the truth behind political statements. However, I had to hold back a chuckle when I read your 6/3 article checking ["Romney's 'Rhetorical' Misery Index," June 3]. The article starts with great research showing the rhetorical nature of Romney's comments. But after that it seemed that FactCheck was unable to comprehend the use of opinion rather than scientific analysis in political speech.

It seemed obvious to me in seeing Romney's comments that he was speaking of his individual assessment of the conditions in America. I mean, an "index" that only applies when Obama is president can't be very scientific, can it? He even specifies that this is his made-up name for our current state of affairs. I'm not sure why FactCheck had such a hard time with this. While you have certainly caught plenty of Romney's errors, I don't see this one as being particularly misleading. It strikes me simply as an attempt to attach Obama's name to our current economic troubles (similar to "Bush's Recession" or "Bush's War"). Isn't that acceptable for a competitive candidate?

I'm not alleging any bias, as do many who write you. I think you do a fine job on both sides. I am certainly glad you checked Romney's statement out, but I'm not sure why you got so stuffy about it toward the end of your article. Keep up the good work and don't take everything quite so seriously. I'd rather be laughing at the politicians than at FactCheck.

Eric Rigdon
Birmingham, Ala.


More on Medicare Proposal

Actually, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is right and your factchecker is getting it wrong ["DNC Chair Throws Truth to 'Wolves,' " May 31]. Current seniors will be affected.

In the Ryan plan, Obamacare (Affordable Health Care) is also repealed, which means that: 1. The donut hole would not be eliminated and the extra cost for prescription drugs would be borne by current seniors, thus changing their current benefits 2. Free annual checkups are also eliminated (part of Affordable Health Care) and current senior benefits would be affected 3. If the Affordable Health Care act is eliminated, then the part [about] preexisting conditions is also eliminated.

Although Ryan says that a senior cannot be denied, he gave no indication that there would be premium caps so those with preexisting conditions would be able to afford the insurance (no matter what the voucher is). Not being denied does not mean one can afford health care coverage regardless of voucher support.

New people as they age to 65 will obviously be affected. It seems everyone has forgotten why Medicare was started. The inability for seniors to get affordable health insurance as they age. To assume someone who is now in their 30s will be healthy in their 60s is too big a gamble to give up a guarantee of Medicare health care. It would throw us back to a time that as you age you go bankrupt to get health care.

Marjory Silverberg
West Palm Beach, Fla.

I couldn't agree more when letter writer David Johnson (FactCheck Mailbag, May 31-June 6) asks why you don't call out "weasel words" when they're used. He was pointing to Democrats' assertion that the GOP budget plan "would essentially end Medicare" as an example. And I agree.

Democrats should simply tell it straight. The GOP plan doesn't "essentially end Medicare." It ends Medicare. Period.

Medicare is government single-payer guaranteed health care. The GOP plan provides vouchers for the purchase of private insurance. That's not Medicare. It could not be more crystal clear.

David Kalman
San Mateo, Calif.


No Savings on Light Bulbs

While I do enjoy your site and its efforts at getting to the truth of things, I am increasingly frustrated at your refusal to consider the history of reactions of businesses, agencies and organizations when you try to make claims about predicted costs and savings to the public with the actions of our government. A perfect example of this is your analysis (and the analysis of the Department of Energy) about the new light bulbs. You of course correctly stated that the new bulbs would be more expensive up front. You then went on to tell us that it would save the public money in the long run. I submit to you that the public won't save anything, and that we will left paying more both ways. 

Here in California, we are subject to rate hikes by the electric companies for anything and everything under the sun. One of the excuses that the energy companies have used to justify these rate hikes is less revenue due to less usage by the public. That's right!!!! Here in California, we cut back on energy just like we are supposed to do, and we are rewarded with a rate hike!!!! And the state agency that is tasked with reviewing and approving the rate hikes almost always says yes!!!!! PG&E's latest rate request was just made this month (May 2011) and its proposal specifically targets customers who are trying to conserve electricity!!! So, HISTORY shows that even if we do buy these light bulbs and use less power, the power companies and the government agencies that are supposed to be monitoring them will ensure that we don't save any money on our electric bills. As usual, the public is just being lied to and screwed over …. Again!!

Bill Walker
Fresno, Calif.


Shorter Analysis, Please

I've been making it a point of late to e-mail or write to journals, web pages and occasionally individuals whom I appreciate and to some extent at least depend on. You are among them.

In these days of being awash in electronic, instant assertion and spin and all that goes with it, I find your site a welcome place to look for somewhat factual analysis when I have not the knowledge or the time to deduce the factual from the merely assertive. (And that is putting it kindly.) So, thank you very much!

I have one comment/mild criticism. Sometimes you bend over backward in your analysis to distinguish between exaggeration, distortion and downright fabrication. Laboriously, and I like that.

I just wonder why it is that you do not have a location that cuts more directly to the chase and either rates the overall factual content of a proposal, speech, doctrine in the context it is offered or appears, or do not more readily identify that which is substantially honestly offered but rhetorically encumbered from that which is at its heart fundamentally dishonest.

If the reason is that doing so would cause you to dance too close to partisanship in some instances and value judgments in others, I understand. Still I think that sometimes a more 'basic' analysis, even a checklist as it were, might be useful to us all. There is only so much time available, even to those whose involvement in analysis and writing about public affairs is their work, to read and evaluate and many of us are benefited by reliable sources and, in the digital age, at least occasionally, shortcuts and shorthand.

John Matthews
Anchorage, Alaska