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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 16-22

This week, readers sent us comments about the meaning of "on par," regulations proposed by the Environmetal Protection Agency and past letters about payroll taxes.

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.

What Does 'On Par' Mean?

While the author clearly shows that Obama exaggerated his claim of teachers' pay on a par with doctors ["Teachers Paid ‘On Par with Doctors’?" Aug. 19], he twice criticizes Obama for saying teachers made more than doctors. He said no such thing, and Kiely clearly has exaggerated the exaggeration.

What does emerge is the fact that high test scores and high teachers' pay and training are correlated … and that teachers in many countries with top students have teachers' pay close to that of engineers.

Please monitor the misrepresentations your authors make in checking facts. Otherwise, you lose credibility. 

Dale Ruff
Felton, Calif.


Quotes from your article:

1.Obama, Aug. 15: And in most countries that are doing well right now educationally, their teachers are revered. They get paid on par with doctors and engineers, because there is an understanding that this is a critical profession for the future of the nation.

2.That piqued our interest: What countries pay teachers better than doctors? We first went to the OECD, an international organization …

3. None of the 16 countries paid teachers more than doctors, and 10 had higher test scores than the U.S. in one or more subject areas.

Where did Obama say "more than" or better than??????

Dictionary definitions of 'on a par'

1. An amount or level considered to be average; a standard: performing up to par; did not yet feel up to par.
2. An equality of status, level, or value; equal footing: a local product on a par with the best foreign makes.
3. The established value of a monetary unit expressed in terms of a monetary unit of another country using the same metal standard.
4. The face value of a stock, bond, or other negotiable instrument: sold the bond at par.
5. Sports The number of golf strokes considered necessary to complete a hole or course in expert play.

My argument with your article concerning teachers in other countries was based on two things: 1) Nowhere did Obama say that teachers were paid "better than" or "more than" doctors in other countries, and 2) according to the definition of 'on a par' it can mean "an equality of status, level or value; equal footing: Nowhere did I find that it meant MORE or BETTER THAN.

We citizens depend on your CAREFUL evaluation of statements made and I have always valued the role you are playing in national politics. It is a very difficult role. I have had little argument with your evaluations and only suggest that you don't overplay words or try to make a comment seem worse than it was. I do believe this was the result in the above article. No more fuel to the fire, please!

Sue Petrovski
Denver, Colo.

FactCheck.org responds: The American College Dictionary defines "par" as "an equality in value or standing; a level of equality." That's not the case in any of these countries. As our story also said: "The average teacher pay in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools was lower than general practitioner pay in all 16 member countries."


Ad Attacking the EPA

You have two huge problems with your story ["Front Group Claims EPA Threatens 7 Million Jobs," Aug. 18]. These problems indicate a clear bias which you claim you do not have.

First of all, as any reasonable person can tell you, the source of a claim does not make it untrue. It is your job to determine the truth of the story, regardless of the source. By using the term 'front group' you immediately raise skepticism of the story. I note that upon reading your story, you do not claim that what the front groups say is untrue.  But the entire tone of the story expresses skepticism.

Your other huge problem is the EPA quote that the law would save between 4,000 and 12,000 premature deaths. That quote has been very thoroughly debunked as pure fiction. By many sources. But not you evidently. Your publication of this story makes it very clear that despite your claims, FactCheck has a massive and clear liberal bias.

Andrew W. Kerber
Blue Springs, Mo.

FactCheck.org responds: We agree that the source of a statement doesn't determine its accuracy. However, the true identity of the source is information that a reasonable person takes into consideration when gauging a statement's truth and fairness, and we think it's accurate to describe an organization as a "front group," when it holds itself out as a "jobs" coalition while actually representing the interests of the oil and chemical industries. Our story laid out other grounds for being skeptical of the ad's central claim, including the fact that a university-based professor said the industry-sponsored study was "fundamentally flawed" and "scientifically unsound."  


Payroll Tax Pushback

You published two letters that criticized your analysis of Mitt Romney's statements regarding the Social Security payroll tax ["FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 9-15"]. You correctly pointed out that self-employed workers pay a 15.3% tax, while those who work for an employer pay half that rate with the employer paying the other half (7.65% each).

The letter writers made a bold assumption: that employers would gladly fork over 7.65% of employees salaries to the employees if the tax were not in place. That might take place in a world where employers and employees have equal power at the negotiating table, but I suspect that many employers would be happy to quietly add that 7.65% to their top line, if not the bottom line.

Mike Ratrie
Mount Dora, Fla.


Thanks, FactCheck

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have relied on your information. As a former newspaper owner, checking facts was always the most important part of any writers' story.

In these multi-media source days … I receive an enormous amount of emails that claim true information. Even though I doubt much of the information — or, at least, suspect articles to be only partially true — I have used your service to set the stories straight …and provide truth to my friends.

And as I say to my email group …

"If you are a dyed in the wool Democrat …. or a dyed in the wool Republican….most of the time you get the wool pulled over your eyes! "

Keep up the great work … it really helps!

Robert Cardinal
St. Paul, Minn.