Fact Challenged Fact Checking

Over at Instapundit:

WHY PEOPLE DON’T TRUST BIG-MEDIA “FACT-CHECKERS:” Meet MSNBC’s fact-checker: Ezra Klein?!? Update: Klein’s blog falsely claims that Janesville auto plant closed in 2008.

UPDATE: More here.

Also: Janesville: Ryan vs. Obama.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Simmons writes: “As much as it pains me, the closing of the plant did happen under Bush. The decision to close the plant was made in 2008. While I think Obamanomics has been nothing short of disastrous, it’s a stretch to pin that particular point of failure on Barry.” It’s not whether the failure is his fault — it’s that he basically promised to keep it open for 100 years.

MORE: Reader Rick Licari writes:

I wrote about this on a message board a bit earlier, but I think this is a case of the chattering class so busily getting caught up in the details of a speech (when did the plant close?!?) that they’re missing the message…and the fact that Ryan never says the plant closed under Obama.

This is what Ryan said:

“Especially in Janesville where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

Obama spoke at Janesville in February of 2008, the plant was closed down in December of 2008 (though not shuttered until June 2009).

Three things stand out about this, first, why a private company (the largest in its field, too) needs government support. Second, Ryan is right it did shut down within a year of Obama speaking. Third, GM started requesting aid from the government in 2006 for various reasons, finally getting some cash to hold off their inevitable bankruptcy in December 2008. So, what Ryan is saying isn’t “Obama failed GM at Janesville.” But “it is ludicrous to plan your success around the whims of government, you will get screwed.”

I think they’re just trying to throw out enough chaff to obscure that point.

Hot Air: 

Seems like fact checkers need to do some fact checking of their own assumptions.  Paul Ryan’s speech last night included a reference to a GM plant in Janesville that closed, which Ryan used to criticize Barack Obama for failing to meet his campaign promises.  A number of “fact” checkers jumped all over Ryan’s anecdote to claim that he lied about the circumstances of the plant’s closure.  We’ll just take one example, from the AP’s “fact’ check:

RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. “A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: `I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants – though not the Janesville facility – to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.

Actually, those “facts” aren’t quite accurate, either.  As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported in September of last year — long before Ryan got added to the ticket — the Janesville plant got shut down in 2009, after being notified of their pending closure in December 2008:

General Motors Co. has committed to reopen its idled plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and keep its shuttered assembly plant in Janesville on standby status.

The commitment to the former Saturn plant in Tennessee was part of a contract settlement reached late last week between GM and the United Auto Workers union.

Since they were shut down in 2009, both the Janesville and Tennessee plants have been on standby status, meaning they were not producing vehicles, but they were not completely shut down. …

The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium-duty trucks.

Remaining on standby means not much has changed in Janesville. Community leaders say they would be ready if the GM plant reopened, but no one seems to be counting on that.

Townhall:

The Obama campaign is lashing out at Paul Ryan, claiming that his fantastic convention speechlast night was packed with falsehoods and lies.  Here’s their hysterical response video:

To the surprise of no one, the ad’s “rebuttals” are misleading and wrong themselves.  Point by point:
(1) They begin with video of CNN reporters discussing accusations of Ryan’s “lies.” This is proof that the Obama campaign sent out a lot of angry emails, and nothing else.

(2) Medicare – Sorry, guys, but it is 100 percent true that Obamacare raided $716 Billion from Medicare to pay for itself.  It does cut benefits to current seniors.  And Paul Ryan’s plan took the president’s Medicare “savings,” and re-routed them back into Medicare to shore up the program.  Mitt Romney’s plan would undo those cuts altogether.  Obama took those cuts and used them to pay for Obamacare.  He has admitted this on camera:

(3) The GM Plant – Part of the factory Ryan mentioned was shut down under Bush, despite the initial GM bailout (which Senator Obama supported).  The plant finally fully closed in April of 2009, during Obama’s presidency, as this report clearly states.  Obama’s problem is that he showed up and made empty promises to pander for votes.  Ryan never said Obama was personally responsible for the plant’s closure, but he accurately stated that it closed down within a year of candidate Obama’s hope-filled speech and remains closed today.  Obama goes on and on about “saving” the auto industry and his economic recovery.  That boarded-up Janesville plant tells a different story.

(4) The Stimulus – Pointing out that Paul Ryan asked that his district receive a slice of a giant, wasteful pie after it was passed — and despite his opposition — is at worst an instance of hypocrisy.  It does not disprove anything that Ryan said in his speech, and it does not change the empirical fact that Barack Obama’s borrowed stimulus has utterly failed based on the metrics for success Obama himself set out for it.

(5) The debt commission – What Ryan said is absolutely correct.  The Obama ad quotes Chris Wallace, who notes that Ryan was on that commission and voted against it.  True.  He refused to abide the section maintaining Obamacare, and voted no on its final findings.  Still, he was intimately involved in the group’s deliberations and proposed solutions.  Not fully happy with the final outcome, he went on to craft two budgets of his own, with numerous elements based on the Simpson-Bowles framework.  The commission’s Democratic co-chairman (Bowles of Simpson-Bowles) has praised Ryan’s proposals to the hilt.  Barack Obama, who convened the commission in the first place after deriding commissionson the campaign trail, completely ignored its recommendations and proceeded to propose to wildly reckless, debt-busting budgets that received a total of zero votes in either house of Congress.  Correctly asserting that Ryan opposed the final Simpson-Bowles recommendations is no way absolves Obama for his demonstrable abdication of leadership on these issues.  It’s more smoke and mirrors — and more petty Obama blame, another central theme of Ryan’s address.

(6) Chris Matthews called the speech “nasty.”  Stop the presses!

If this is all they’ve got, it’s no wonder they’re freaking out.  Paul Ryan told the truth about Barack Obama, and the president’s campaign can’t handle it.

5 thoughts on “Fact Challenged Fact Checking

  1. I don’t blame either side for seizing on the promises made by candidates, and holding them to their words. What I don’t get is why candidates make promises in the first place? I can see promising to “do everything possible…”, or to look into ‘a grave problem facing America…’, but if say you can fix it, and ‘it’ remains broken, then you just handed your opponent a loaded weapon.

  2. Oh, boy. I can see I shall be having some fun tonight with my arch nemesis from the other site, He shall spew forth this garbage, and I shall merely link folks to reality. I thank you. 😉

  3. Ok, let’s see… (in no particular order)

    Obamacare/Medicare: Medicares chief actuary, in the most recent report, (here: http://goo.gl/QgQTY ) says: “[Obama’s] Affordable Care Act makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook …”
    It does NOT cut benefit to current seniors- it cuts increases in payments to hospitals- increasing that portions of medicaires solvency by 8 years.

    Obama is not stealing $716 Billion- he is proposing the same cuts in payments that Paul Ryan has largely included in his “Path to Prosperity”.

    the deficit commision? The affordable care act was not even an issue despite your claim. what Ryan opposed were cuts to the military and an increase in revenues (specifically plans to tax capital gains more like regular income). Dems mostly opposed the raise in retirement age for ssocial security. To their credit- both Obama and Boehner tried to work out a deal man to man (if memory serves the press called it “the grand bargain” – with Obama largely willing to cave on both social security and cuts to numerous social programs. But it was Boehner who walked away after his Grover Norquist led allies refused to budge on any new taxes. And there is no denying that Ryans position, refusing to allow this to come to a vote, played a strong role in many republicans opposition.

    The stimulus: I’m not even going to bother to factcheck exactly when Ryan made his money grab. The fact remains he claimed the american people were cut out of the stimulus entirely- despite the fact that over 25% of the stimulus dollars went to american workers directly in tax relief. More then $230 Billion dollars…

    Janesville: Really, “he didn’t even mention Obama”?! Then why was the first lines of the quote: “My own state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.” And considerring that just a few months ago the right was gleefully, and dishonestly blaming Obama for the rise in gas prices (cherrypicking the crashed price after the world economy had collapsed, and after Bush had lost the election, while ignoring the simple fact that gas prices had tripled under Bush, and had dropped from the final 2 year average under Bush under Obama? Does this have nothing to do with the closing of the plant in Janesville? OR the fact that actions under 8 years of republican leadership caused a situation where gas guzzling SUV’s such as those made at Janesville were no longer attractive to the American public?

    Some good, non-partisan fact checkers that have wighed in:
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/aug/30/ryan-and-simpson-bowles-commission-full-story/
    http://factcheck.org/2012/08/ryans-vp-spin/
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/30/in-ryan-critique-of-obama-omissions-help-make-the-case/?hp

  4. So, you will be voting for Obama then?

    The points stand – the links support the claims through the sources cited.

    Tax cuts? The 230 billion sure sounds like a fantastic number – until you realize that was in slices of $400 for individual tax filers and $800 per family – PER YEAR. I addressed that at the time here:https://therionorteline.com/2012/02/28/the-wishcasting-of-juan-williams/

    “Progressives” think that they are massive cuts because they “cost” the government so much – but when measured at an individual level, CNN/Money said in 2009 that they amounted to an average of $15.00 per week ($781 per year) for the bracket that includes the median American income of roughly $46,000 a year. If you assume a family of four, that is a whopping $3.75 each of extra jingle in the pocket of each family member.

    I would also point out that the rise in gas prices at the pump from $1.84 to $3.65 since Obama took office has doubled that cost the American driver has to pay no matter how much they consume, thereby wiping out any net effect of these “cuts” to the economy. The Daily Mail points out that:

    Rising oil prices weigh on the economy, pushing leisure and business travel costs higher. Every 1-cent increase in the price of gasoline costs the economy $1.4 billion, analysts say.

    If accepted as true, the $1.81 increase since the Age of Obama began had cost the economy 2.54 trillion dollars.

    That $15/4 gallons of gas a week tax “cut” isn’t looking so good now, is it?

    This “tax cut” argument is ridiculous on its face. I could give every taxpayer a one cent cut and say accurately that I gave 100% of American taxpayers a cut – but in this case, as in the case of the “stimulus, this percentage is a meaningless talking point. For all of its assumed “stimulative” effect, the better play would have been to just not borrow the money, which would have had more net effect on the economy because the cost to borrow was greater than the realized worth of the “cut” – but as with all “progressive” policies, it isn’t about whether it worked our not, simply doing it is enough. Intent equals success.

    To continue your factless assault on the truth, I love the reference to SUV that nobody wanted when SUV’s and light trucks were the highest selling and most profitable vehicles over the period you mention.

    The gist is that Obama’s policies have failed – that’s pretty easy to fact-check.

    Look out the window.

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