Sunday, October 31, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Midterm elections are an embarrassment of riches for fact-checkers — this year more than others. With Democrats fighting desperately to keep control of the House and Senate, and a torrent of money from corporations and other undisclosed, unaccountable sources adding fuel to the Republican attack, the amount of deceit in political advertising is at least as high as we’ve ever seen.
Some candidates slung whatever mud they thought would stick, regardless of the facts. One falsely claimed his opponent had been a Vietnam draft dodger who "doesn’t love his country" — and then compared his opponent to the Taliban.
Republicans accused Democrats of favoring cuts in Medicare benefits, while Democrats claimed their opponents would cut Social Security benefits. Republicans accused Democrats of planning to unleash a huge tax increase on ordinary families and on small-business owners, while many Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to slap a 23 percent national sales tax on everything from groceries to medicine, as though that would come on top of all existing taxes. We found fault with all those claims, on both sides.
For our round-up of the campaign year’s most widely repeated misstatements — and the wildest — read on to the Analysis section.
Health Care Retreads
Misrepresentations of the new health care law have been a staple of Republican campaigns. Some ads go so far as to claim (falsely) that the law would cause Medicare patients to lose their doctors, or (also falsely) that Democrats favored giving Viagra to sex offenders, or (false again) that typical families will pay $2,100 more in premiums.
A common theme is that the law contains a $500 billion Medicare "cut" that will translate into less benefits, but that’s misleading. The law calls for reducing the future growth of Medicare spending over the next 10 years by about 7 percent. Plus, the law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals. Those seniors on Medicare Advantage plans (one out of four beneficiaries), however, will likely see their extra benefits reduced. These private insurance plans currently receive higher payments from the government than traditional Medicare, and the law decreases those payments over time. In addition, the law calls for reducing the future growth in payments to hospitals and other providers. While experts say some hospitals will have trouble coping with the new spending restraints, ads go too far in claiming that the law will "gut Medicare" or "hurt the quality of our care."
Misleading Onslaught by 60 Plus, Sept. 17
Misdirection from Crossroads GPS, Aug. 30
Pataki’s Bogus Health Care Claims, Oct. 6
Angle’s Shocking — and Misleading — Viagra Claim, Oct. 8
Benton’s Bogus Viagra Ad, May 11
Social Security Hyperbole
A number of Democratic candidates — in Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Colorado and other states — have claimed that their opponents want to abolish or "privatize" Social Security. In most cases that’s a serious overstatement. At one point, the president himself claimed that Republican leaders were as eager to "privatize" Social Security as they were to repeal his health care law, which isn’t true.
Some Republican candidates and incumbents do favor allowing younger workers to invest some portion of their payroll taxes in the stock market, but few if any have supported replacing the current system entirely with a fully privatized system, like the one in Chile. And even voluntary, partial privatization is far from the top of the GOP agenda. The idea died for lack of GOP support when President Bush tried to push it through a Republican-controlled Congress in 2005.
Obama’s (Latest) Social Security Whopper, Aug. 16
Toss-Ups: Nevada, Sept. 23
Social Security: (Mostly) in Their Own Words, Sept. 21
Democrats Misfire on Social Security — Again, Sept. 2
AFSCME’s Big, Brazen Attack, Sept. 1
Taxing the Truth, Part I
Another misleading Republican theme is that Democrats are about to unleash a huge tax increase on the typical family, or on small-business owners. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said "Democrats are poised now to cause this largest tax increase in U.S. history." Similar claims have been spread by Republican TV ads, by widely forwarded chain e-mails, in interviews and even by "tweets" and other social media.
It’s true that the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of this year, under terms set in law by a Republican Congress and President George W. Bush. But Democrats have said all along that they don’t intend to let all of the tax cuts expire, or even most of them. President Obama and most House and Senate Democrats favor keeping all the cuts that apply to taxpayers who earn less than $250,000 as a couple, or $200,000 as single filers. In addition, a number of conservative Democrats (or those nervous about reelection) even say they favor extending the cuts for everybody — including those at the top — at least for another year or two. A lame-duck Congress will decide, after the election.
As for the claim that Democrats favor "a huge tax hike on small business," in the words of one ad, that’s also wrong for the vast majority of small-business owners. Only about 3 percent of those with any business income showing on their personal returns would see a tax increase. Republicans retreated to claiming that half the small-business "income" — as opposed to business owners — would see an increase. But that’s wrong, too. Much of the "small"-business income they are counting comes from businesses with yearly income of $50 million or more — which is big business income in just about anybody’s book.
Taxing the Truth, Part II
In dozens of TV ads, Democrats or Democratic-leaning groups accused Republicans of favoring a 23 percent national sales tax, as though such a thing would come in addition to existing taxes. The attacks (which were also made in fancy mail pieces) amounted to a misrepresentation of the "FairTax" proposal. The claims failed to mention that the sales tax would replace — not add to — existing federal income and payroll taxes. Democrats also left out any mention of offsetting rebates designed to mitigate the increased cost of essentials like food and medicine — a main feature of the FairTax proposal.
In the past, we’ve written about the FairTax from the other side: In 2007, we pointed out misleading claims by FairTax proponents. We noted that a bipartisan panel of tax experts — put together by President George W. Bush — had rejected the idea and said the tax would have to amount to at least 34 percent (not 23 percent) of the sales price of goods and services to raise enough revenue to replace other federal taxes. But that’s no excuse for misrepresenting the proposal, so this year our darts are pointed the other way.
Sales Tax Spin, Oct. 20
AFSCME’s Misleading Tax Attack, Aug. 12
Another False Tax Attack (And One That’s Just Deceptive), April 21
Ads by Republicans in Connecticut, Florida, Washington, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have claimed that the economic stimulus has failed to create jobs. We heard the same claims on talk shows and in speeches. House Minority Leader John Boehner even said in an address that the stimulus had harmed the job situation, since "America’s employers are afraid to invest in an economy stalled by ‘stimulus’ spending and hamstrung by uncertainty."
In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the stimulus increased employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million people, compared with what employment would have been otherwise. Observers may differ on whether that’s a reasonable return on investment, but it’s not accurate to say that the stimulus harmed employment or that it didn’t help.
Far Out on Bailout
Everybody took the Wall Street bailout’s name in vain this campaign season. Democratic House incumbents in nine states claimed that they voted against "the bailout" — meaning the Troubled Asset Relief Program — when in fact they weren’t yet in office when it was enacted. (They voted against a later bill to allow release of the second half of TARP funds, a purely symbolic and futile vote. The Senate had already approved release and only disapproval by both houses could freeze the funds under terms set by the original bailout legislation.)
Meanwhile, some Republican ads accused Democratic House members of voting to give huge bonuses to Wall Street employees. That’s a misleading reference to the stimulus bill — its final version contained looser restrictions on bonuses than the version originally passed in the Senate. But the actual funds used by companies for those bonuses came from TARP, not the stimulus, and nothing in the bill the Democrats supported called for or supported bonuses. The enacted bill simply failed to prevent as many of them as the Senate version might have.
Some of the ads we saw stood out for their egregiously false claims:
- Whopper: Daniel Webster is un-American. Webster’s opponent for the House seat in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, Democrat Alan Grayson, falsely claimed that Webster was a draft dodger who "doesn’t love his country." In fact, Webster dutifully reported for the draft after finishing his undergraduate degree, but was rejected for medical reasons. Grayson then launched an ad calling his opponent "Taliban Dan" and misrepresenting a quote in which Webster talked about a woman’s role in marriage. The ad’s misleading editing changed "don’t pick the [Bible verses] that say, ‘She should submit to me’ " into "she should submit to me."
- Whopper: Rick Scott loves prisoners. And pornography. An outside group in Florida ran an ad claiming that gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, a Republican, had a plan to close prisons that would "release tens of thousands of prisoners early." In fact, Scott proposed cutting prison spending per prisoner. That led a state official to speculate that "you would have to close prisons," but that’s not what Scott proposed. Another group accused Scott of "profiting from porn." The weak backup? Scott has an investment in a Latin American social networking site that has partnered with Playboy Mexico to find the Playmate of the Year.
- Whopper: Mark Kirk single-handedly stopped the bridges to nowhere. The Illinois Senate race between Republican Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias has given rise to a number of false accusations, but for our money the most eyebrow-raising was Kirk’s claim on "Meet the Press" that an amendment he wrote put a stop to the "bridges to nowhere," long a symbol of government pork. In fact, one of the bridges is being built even now. The other wasn’t felled by Kirk’s amendment either — the earmark for the bridges had been stripped from a transportation appropriations bill a year earlier. The Kirk amendment never even made it into the final version of the legislation to which it was briefly attached.
Outside groups have proliferated in Campaign 2010, many raising tens of millions from undisclosed sources, including business corporations, and funding ads that mostly attack Democrats. These front groups adopt names that — while not exactly whoppers themselves — seldom give any inkling of the groups’ highly partisan missions. In our 2010 Players Guide we report on who’s really behind groups such as the Committee for Truth in Politics, Revere America and American Crossroads. Labor unions are spending heavily, too, defending Democrats. Our guide covers such big union players as the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, which together pledged to spend $100 million.
Ads by outside groups have often been misleading, and we’ve already covered some examples above. In addition, we note some whoppers told about these groups, on both sides.
- Embattled Democrats strained to discredit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with an unproven allegation, claiming that it was "stealing our democracy" by funneling secret, illegal contributions from foreign corporations. The truth is that the chamber gets only a tiny fraction of its money from foreign corporations, and has more than enough from domestic companies to legally fund its planned $75 million election spending.
- Republican strategist Karl Rove, who helped set up one of the largest corporate-funded, Republican-leaning groups, falsely claimed that labor unions aren’t disclosing where they get the millions they are spending. The truth is that their money comes overwhelmingly from dues collected from members, as their annual reports to the U.S. Department of Labor clearly show.
The claims we’re asked about most often don’t always come from the mouths of politicians, or even their TV ads. Maybe because these claims are pure bohonkey. The falsehoods circulate widely by e-mail, forwarded by people who either don’t know or don’t care that they are spreading misinformation the way a virus spreads disease.
- Whopper: The health care law puts a 3.8 percent tax on all home sales. Actually, the new health care law’s tax only applies to the sale of a primary residence in rare cases. For individuals, it falls on profit that exceeds $250,000, if the individual’s income exceeds $200,000. For couples, the tax falls only on profits exceeding $500,000, if joint income is more than $250,000.
- Whopper: Obama plans a 1 percent tax on all bank transactions. That’s based on a single House member’s bill that isn’t supported by the White House, has no cosponsors, and has never even gotten a hearing in committee.
- Whopper: Congress voted itself a pay raise at the expense of the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment. It’s true that there has been no COLA for 2010 and 2011, but the COLA is calculated automatically based on inflation rates. And Congress voted to freeze its pay for 2010 and 2011.
– by Jess Henig, Viveca Novak and Brooks Jackson
German electric car sets world recordPublished: Oct. 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM
By STEFAN NICOLA
UPI Europe Correspondent
BERLIN, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- An electric car developed by a German company Tuesday set what organizers said is a world record when it drove 375 miles without recharging its battery.
Mirko Hannemann, 27, drove the yellow and purple all-electric Audi A2 in seven hours from Munich to Berlin, where he arrived Tuesday morning.
German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, who jumped inside for a quick drive in the courtyard of his ministry, called Hannemann's trip a technological quantum leap.
"No other electric car has gone to such a distance," he said.
Japanese scientists drove a 1-person electric car more than 600 miles around a track, but that was at 25 miles per hour and with a vehicle that was basically all battery.
"Today, we have shown what everyday cars can do," said Hannemann, the chief brain behind DBM Energy, a startup from Berlin that developed the powerful battery pack that made the long trip possible.
Consumers have so far been put off by the short driving range of electric cars, usually at between 60 and 100 miles, and by the cost and size of the batteries.
The four-seat Audi A2, funded by German utility lekker Energie and the German Economy Ministry, has all features of a regular car, including a fully usable trunk.
Hannemann drove the 375 miles at 55 miles per hour on average, had the heat on and was able to whisk around a few more miles in the city.
The battery, based on what DBM Energy calls the KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer Technology, comes with 97 percent efficiency and can be charged at virtually every socket. Plugged into a high-voltage direct-current source, the battery can be fully loaded within 6 minutes, Hannemann said.
"This is a great success," said Andreas Goerdeler of the German Economy Ministry. "We are in a fierce global competition and this proves that we're technological leaders."
Eager to reduce the dependency on imported oil and cut carbon dioxide emissions from road traffic, the German government last year said it wants to have 1 million electric cars cruise its highways by 2020.
Germany's powerful car industry has been criticized for being a tad late to the electric car game, with rivals from France and mainly Asia one to two years ahead when it comes to launching serial production.
To speed up this process, the German government has earmarked around $700 million for sustainable mobility research and development, including programs to develop the charging station infrastructure and boost battery technology, an area of expertise that has long belonged to Asia. Berlin supported Hannemann's record project with $380,000.
The young inventor hopes that his battery pack can challenge the Asian dominance. Key will be if it's affordable.
Hannemann couldn't give an exact price for his battery -- he said that was dependent on scaling effects -- but vowed it wouldn't just be more powerful, but in the end also cheaper than conventional lithium ion batteries.
A logistics company has put the DBM Energy battery packs into their forklifts, which are now running 28-hour shifts without recharging.
Hannemann hopes that the world record attracts more industry investors to launch mass-scale production of batteries to be put in future German-made electric cars.
"We are open for talks with the car sector," he said.
Asked when his company would be able to launch large-scale production, Hannemann replied: "Optimistically? Now."
© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Color Blindness Myths and Misunderstandings
Filed under Accessibility on October 25, 2010
I’ve always believed that web site accessibility depends on an understanding of accessibility issues — not on technical issues. Obviously, knowing the technical side of web site construction and how it impacts accessibility is very important. Some decisions are fundamentally technical, but a huge part of web site accessibility is purely visible — and just understanding accessibility issues will make a huge difference.
To that end, here are a few quick comments about color blindness. Color blindness (or color perception deficiency) is an issue for approximately 1 in 12 people, mostly men. However, color perception problems are not always very effectively diagnosed, so these numbers could be low.
Color blindness is an inability to see certain colors.
Color blindness is really a misnomer. People with various types of color blindness are better described as being color vision deficient: it’s an inability to distinguish colors, not an inability to see color. People at the furthest limits of color deficiency, however, may have such an extreme inability to discern colors that this can be a fairly accurate description.
Individuals with color vision deficiencies can’t see red.
Well, no. Assuming we’re discussing Protanopic or Deuteranopic color blindness, in which the individual is missing either the red or green sensitive cones, the actual problem is that they may not be able to distinguish the color red. The color isn’t readily differentiated from other hues of the same shade or tint. Red perception deficiency is certainly the most common type of color vision deficiency, but it’s certainly not true of all individuals with poor color vision.
You have normal color vision
Not really. In fact, color perception is a spectrum for all of us. What’s commonly referred to as color blindness is actually only the portion of that spectrum which is considered anomalous — where the ability to perceive color begins to impinge on normal interactions with the world. Having “normal” color vision simply means that you don’t generally experience problems because of your color vision. You may well still fail an Ishihara test.
Color perception deficiencies are inconvenient, but don’t pose any serious problems
Particularly in our modern, technological society, color perception is a critical part of comprehending the world around you. From LED indicators which blink red, green, or yellow; to weather maps which a spectrum from red to green indicating storm severity; to knowing what color a traffic signal is showing if you’re in a location with a different signal orientation than what you’re familiar with. Outside of technology, color deficiencies can impact recognizing that you’re developing a severe sunburn or knowing whether you’ve actually cooked that hamburger enough to be safe.
People with Color Perception Deficiency have better Night Vision
Actually, I couldn’t definitely verify this one way or the other. There are a number of claims that this is true, but the reasoning is highly variable and not particularly evidence-based. It’s possible that certain types of color perception deficiency may give people better night vision, but it’s also possible that since some types of color perception deficiencies cause people to be photosensitive, those people may feel like their night vision is better, simply because it’s much better than what they’re accustomed to. Regardless, any evidence which is reasonably definitive would be appreciated.
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12 Comments to “Color Blindness Myths and Misunderstandings”
- Vivek R (new comment) says:
I am color blind (fail 3 on the test) and my wife is not. We have frequent power outages at night and I am the first to find the lighter / candles. She’d have no clue they were where I picked them up from. I wear glasses too (shortsighted) but she has perfect vision. This is the first time I am reading about others who experience this.
- Loren Pechtel (new comment) says:
I will definitely agree with color vision problems and camouflage, although my understanding is that the military has figured out how to make camouflage that works against those with color problems also. I have some red-green weakness and I think I was like 12 or 13 before I understood what camouflage was supposed to be — most every example of it I saw stood out like a sore thumb to me.
Just because it blends in well for someone with normal color vision doesn’t mean it blends in with abnormal color vision.
- ColoUr Blind Pete (new comment) says:
I’m colour blind, in the sense that i can’t tell the difference between brown, red and green. i can sometimes make correct intelligent (or so i think!) guesses. However I really do see better at night than my girlfriend for example. It’s little consolation for not fully enjoying the full spectrum of colour nature provides, but at least if i get stuck down a mine it might help!
- crazybat (1 comments.) says:
I must say that I’ve never heard about colour blindness and having better night vision. Interesting.
It would also be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between the severity of colour blindness to more effective night vision. Get snopes on the case
I personally fail in only one circle on the Ishihara test (the 6). I do know that my eyes adjust quite quickly to the dark. As well, I’ve never had a problem driving at night time.
- Stephani Roberts says:
@Matthew My husband is color blind and he was able to spot deer in the fields last weekend as we drove home at twilight. They were almost invisible to me as they blended into their background but he saw them easily as distinct shapes. He speculated that it was a result of his color blindness. I think so. There are advantages, this could correlate with sharp shooting. He mentioned that color blind men were put at the front of the lines because they were able to spot camouflage. Here’s a short article about the upside of color blindness: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/apr/the-upside-of-color-blindness
- marlene frykman says:
@joe: wonderful. that is a fantastic tool. thanks for sharing!
- marlene frykman says:
hi joe, just letting you know the link to the vision simulator is broken
- Joe Dolson (1152 comments.) says:
@Matthew I’ve read that as well; but again, without any definitive evidence.
@Karl What I wonder about that is whether that perception is because you’re more accustomed to identifying what you can see with reduced color or because you can actually see better. Given that one of the characteristics of low-light conditions is a significant reduction of color definition, I’m wondering whether the real issue is in the ability to understand what you’re seeing, rather than actually having improved perception in low-light conditions. From a subjective perspective, this may give you better understanding of your surroundings in low-light, but not actually mean that you have better vision. Does that make sense?
- Karl Groves says:
re: Night Vision. I have no evidence, but I am very color blind (as in usually can’t get any of the items in the Ishihara tests) and I seem to have much better night vision than most people.
- Matthew says:
I’ve heard a similar rumor that colorblind individuals are better sharpshooters, with the justification being that your retina packs in more rods, which give you a higher resolution image. I’d like to see the Snopes on that one (although I still like to repeat it )
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Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?
Not very, say some pundits. After all, the last time Republicans controlled Congress while a Democrat lived in the White House was the period from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2000. And people remember that era as a good time, a time of rapid job creation and responsible budgets. Can we hope for a similar experience now?
No, we can’t. This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.
Start with the politics.
In the late-1990s, Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on some issues. President Obama seems to believe that the same thing can happen again today. In a recent interview with National Journal, he sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.
After all, that era of partial cooperation in the 1990s came only after Republicans had tried all-out confrontation, actually shutting down the federal government in an effort to force President Bill Clinton to give in to their demands for big cuts in Medicare.
Now, the government shutdown ended up hurting Republicans politically, and some observers seem to assume that memories of that experience will deter the G.O.P. from being too confrontational this time around. But the lesson current Republicans seem to have drawn from 1995 isn’t that they were too confrontational, it’s that they weren’t confrontational enough.
Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: “We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.” So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.
True, Mr. McConnell did say that he might be willing to work with Mr. Obama in certain circumstances — namely, if he’s willing to do a “Clintonian back flip,” taking positions that would find more support among Republicans than in his own party. Of course, this would actually hurt Mr. Obama’s chances of re-election — but that’s the point.
We might add that should any Republicans in Congress find themselves considering the possibility of acting in a statesmanlike, bipartisan manner, they’ll surely reconsider after looking over their shoulder at the Tea Party-types, who will jump on them if they show any signs of being reasonable. The role of the Tea Party is one reason smart observers expect another government shutdown, probably as early as next spring.
Beyond the politics, the crucial difference between the 1990s and now is the state of the economy.
When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the U.S. economy had strong fundamentals. Household debt was much lower than it is today. Business investment was surging, in large part thanks to the new opportunities created by information technology — opportunities that were much broader than the follies of the dot-com bubble.
In this favorable environment, economic management was mainly a matter of putting the brakes on the boom, so as to keep the economy from overheating and head off potential inflation. And this was a job the Federal Reserve could do on its own by raising interest rates, without any help from Congress.
Today’s situation is completely different. The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.
So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Fat is a dirty word in America. “Overweight” or “obese,” of course, is the politically correct term. Yet Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly threw tact to the wind and called it like she sees it earlier this week when she voiced her online disgust with CBS sitcom Mike & Molly. The show, which chronicles the relationship of a couple who meet at Overeaters Anonymous, has garnered criticism from two camps: those who bridle at the plentiful fat jokes and those who squirm watching intimacy between obese actors.
Kelly, to her credit, points out that obesity is costing our nation a bundle. But, besides that, she's just grossed out. Though she insists she's not a “size-ist jerk,” this is how she really feels: “To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair,” writes Kelly. (More on Time.com: Study: Obese Workers Cost Employers $73 Billion Per Year).
Ouch. Most parents have had occasion to blush a rainbow of reds when their child notices something unusual and asks the obvious: Mommy, why does that person have one leg? Why is that boy wearing make-up? Why is that woman so fat?
We're obligated to tell our kids — and ourselves — the truth: large folks are a fact of life. One-third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. The U.S. recently snagged the dubious distinction of being named the heaviest of 33 economically advantaged countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (More on Time.com: America is Officially the Fattest Nation)
Kelly takes issue with the show, claiming it promotes obesity. But does Mike & Molly really promote obesity any more than Seinfeld promoted wacky humor? Isn't Mike & Molly really just a reflection of our society?
Apparently so. Kelly has since reconsidered her take on tubbiness. In an apologia appended to her post, Kelly, who has a history of anorexia, says she regrets what she wrote: “And for whatever it's worth, I feel just as uncomfortable when I see an anorexic person as I do when I see someone who is morbidly obese, because I assume people suffering from eating disorders on either end of the spectrum are doing damage to their bodies, and that they are unhappy. But perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge based on superficial observations.” (More on Time.com: Special Report: Overcoming Obesity)
More on Time.com:
Health Care Spin — AgainWild new claims top off a major campaign to discredit the law with misrepresentations.
As the election draws near, some conservative groups are making ever-wilder claims about the new health care law:
- An elderly man in a Crossroads GPS ad makes the death-panel-esque claim that the law “threatens our lives.”
- The 60 Plus Association has a World War II veteran evoking the Normandy invasion and claiming that “your freedoms will be chipped away,” unless the legislation is repealed.
- The American Action Network made the false statement that “jail time” would be the punishment for not having insurance, when the law in fact forbids any criminal penalties.
In addition, we continue to see claims from the Republican side that the law creates “government-run” health care, or will cause a steep rise in premiums for typical families, or will give health insurance to illegal immigrants, or will lead to widespread cuts in Medicare benefits. As we’ve written before, none of that is true. We also see claims that the law allows tax dollars to be used to fund abortions, despite specific language in the law forbidding that.
Misrepresenting the health care law has been perhaps the single most dominant theme of attack ads by GOP candidates, party groups and independent conservative organizations. A record estimated $4 billion is being spent on both sides in this midterm election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And from our observations, a large part of that is being spent to discredit the health care legislation and the Democrats who voted for it. In this article we wrap up all this health care spin, examining both the latest claims and those that have been repeated most often.
The midterm campaigns have been ripe with false and misleading claims about — what else? — the health care law. By our count, this is the fourth roundup of claims about the legislation that we’ve written. And it very well may not be the last.
A Government-Run Threat to Life and Freedom?
Some of the more outrageous recent claims appear in ads that call the new law "government-run" health care or a "government takeover." But much to the chagrin of a minority of lawmakers who wanted a true, government-run, single-payer system, that’s not what the law delivers. Yes, there’s an expansion of Medicaid, but the law builds on the country’s private insurance system, creating more business, in fact, for those private companies by requiring individuals to have coverage.
That hasn’t stopped opponents of the law from making this claim — and going much further than that. In an ad attacking Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Crossroads GPS harkens back to pull-the-plug-on-grandma claims by having an elderly man say the law "threatens our lives."
How exactly does it do that? A spokesman for the group told us this was a reference to $500 billion in Medicare cuts in the law. That’s $500 billion in cuts in the future growth of spending over 10 years — more on this later — and the move, if it happens, puts Medicare on much better financial footing. The program’s board of trustees reported that [t]he financial status of the [hospital insurance] trust fund is substantially improved by the lower expenditures and additional tax revenues instituted by the Affordable Care Act," and that the savings would extend the life of the trust fund by 12 years. But there’s a big caveat. That’s only if Congress sticks with the reductions in the legislation and previously scheduled cuts in payments to physicians, set up by a late 1990s law, and that’s not likely. Legislators postponed the physician cuts until December this year, and they’ve repeatedly canceled them in recent years.
So, either the cuts the man in the ad fears won’t happen, or Medicare would be in much better shape financially. Either way, we fail to see how this "threatens" anyone’s life, so we judge this claim to be false.
Crossroads GPS ad attacking Sen. Patty Murray of Washington: "Problem with Patty," first aired Oct. 7
Speaking of over-the-top claims, this week the 60 Plus Association launched a minute-long spot that has a World War II veteran claiming "your freedoms will be chipped away" if the health care law isn’t repealed. Philip Storer tells viewers that he "was one of thousands that landed on D-Day. We fought to protect something we all hold very dear, our freedoms." Now, Storer says, those freedoms are "threatened" by this "government takeover of health care." We contacted 60 Plus to ask what basis the group had for those claims. We haven’t yet received a response.
This is the same group, readers may recall, that had former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on camera making the bogus assertion that the United Kingdom considers seniors "too old" to qualify for artificial joints, pacemakers and coronary stents. We put the "freedoms" claim in the growing category of unsubstantiated hyperbole.
60 Plus Association Ad: "Still Believe"
No ‘Jail Time’ Here
A group called American Action Network resurrected an old falsehood that the law calls for "jail time" for anyone who fails to get health insurance. It doesn’t. As we wrote in May, the law nullifies the possibility of prison time for those who don’t get coverage and refuse to pay a fine. It specifically says: "In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure." The AAN ad ignores what the final law said, instead referring to an outdated news item from Politico from September 25 of last year. The bill was amended soon after.
The false "jail time" claim appeared in an ad that first aired Oct. 22 against Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. And the assertion raised eyebrows at one TV station. AAN Communications Director Jim Landry told us that a station questioned the ad, prompting AAN to revise it to remove the reference to "jail time." Landry told us the ad was updated sometime on Oct. 26 or 27. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of Kantar Media, the original "jail time" version aired 92 times through Oct. 25. CMAG hadn’t captured a revised ad yet. That version says that those who didn’t get insurance would be subject to "penalties." That’s true.
The ad also says the law requires "thousands of IRS agents." That’s based on a partisan analysis using false assumptions. We knocked down that whopper in an earlier item, pointing out that the law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties.
American Action Network Ad: "Mess"
Coverage for Illegal Immigrants?
We haven’t heard much about this claim since Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s "you lie" moment. But American Action Network’s ad above, and another from the group, resurrects the charge, saying the health care law provides "free health care" or "spends our tax dollars on health insurance" for illegal immigrants. The ad below is airing against Reps. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota.
The law doesn’t provide any "health insurance" for illegal immigrants. In fact, it stipulates that insurance plans sold on the state-based exchanges are available only to citizens and lawful residents.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: ACCESS LIMITED TO LAWFUL RESIDENTS.—If an individual is not, or is not reasonably expected to be for the entire period for which enrollment is sought, a citizen or national of the United States or an alien lawfully present in the United States, the individual shall not be treated as a qualified individual and may not be covered under a qualified health plan in the individual market that is offered through an Exchange.
It also doesn’t provide any subsidies for illegal immigrants or any new "free" care for them. What American Action Network objects to is Senate Democrats’ rejection of an amendment to require some type of verification system of legal status. AAN also points to the fact that citizens are required to have insurance, while illegal immigrants aren’t — but those here illegally can still get emergency care at hospitals. However, that was the case before the health care law was passed. Illegal immigrants, and others who aren’t insured, are able to get treatment for emergencies (but not non-emergencies, unless they pay for it). U.S. law requires that.
The change that might occur is which pot of government money is used to reimburse hospitals for this uncompensated care. We called the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and talked with spokeswoman Mary Kahn, who explained how this works. Hospitals either get payments for emergency care through what’s called Emergency Medicaid (for patients who would be eligible for Medicaid but don’t have it) or the disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funds, provided for hospitals that treat a lot of uninsured people, Khan explained. The health care law expands Medicaid eligibility, so hospitals may find themselves filing paperwork for more money through Emergency Medicaid than DSH, whether those who are treated are illegal immigrants or not. Either way, it’s government money. And either way, illegal immigrants get treatment for emergencies and hospitals get reimbursed.
AAN also referred us to two news reports that undercut its own claim. A 2007 Reuters report said: "Less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending went to health care for illegal immigrants, according to a study that the researchers said defied a common belief that they are a bigger drain on taxpayer money." And the group cites a January 2008 USA Today article (yes, that’s a year before Obama was even sworn in) that states: "The sweeping overhauls of the nation’s health care system proposed by Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards would not provide coverage for illegal immigrants."
By the way, about half of illegal immigrants actually had health insurance before the law was passed, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
American Action Network Ad: "Repeal"
This might be the most common line of attack of them all. We’ve seen many versions of the claim that the health care bill cuts Medicare by $500 billion. That’s actually a reduction in the future growth of spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current budget, as we’ve pointed out. To put that in context: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal Medicare spending will be $519 billion this year, and $929 billion in fiscal year 2020, even with these cuts. The health care law calls for a reduction in the currently projected growth of federal outlays of about 7 percent over the decade.
Claims that these cuts will "hurt the quality of our care" — like the one below from the 60 Plus Association — ignore the fact that the law adds some benefits to Medicare, such as free preventive care and more prescription drug coverage. And the law (section 3601) says that guaranteed Medicare benefits can’t be reduced. But one group of seniors — those on Medicare Advantage plans, about 10 million beneficiaries — will likely lose the extra benefits they receive, such as gym memberships or spare eyeglasses. These private plans currently get paid more by the government per enrollee than traditional Medicare, and the law brings those payments in line with the regular program, over time. 60 Plus ran ads similar to this one, which targets Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, against 15 other House Democrats.
60 Plus Association Ad: "Hurts – Kagen"
More Expensive Premiums?
Other ads, such as these from Revere America and American Crossroads, have claimed that under the law "costs will go up" or families will see "higher insurance premiums." But for most Americans with health insurance, premiums are expected to stay the same or decrease a bit, compared with what would have happened to costs without the new law.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, those in the large group market would see between no change and a 3 percent decrease in the average premium in 2016. The small group market would see between a 1 percent increase and a 2 percent drop in the average premium. Again, that’s in comparison to what premiums would do without the health care law.
For those who buy insurance on their own, the average premium would go up by between 10 percent and 13 percent. Why? Because the benefits in this non-group market would improve. Plus, 57 percent of those in this market would get federal subsidies — the extra money would entice them to buy more expensive plans than they normally would, says CBO.
On one point the ads make a valid criticism: The overall cost of health care is projected to rise because of the new law — but barely. In April, the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Richard Foster, projected an increase of less than 1 percent in overall health spending over the next decade:
CMS Chief Actuary Foster, April 22: "[W]e estimate that overall national health expenditures under the health reform act would increase by a total of $311 billion (0.9 percent) during calendar years 2010-2019.
Foster predicted that the slight increase would come about largely because 34 million persons who would otherwise be uninsured will gain coverage under the new law, and that others will gain improved coverage, and all will make greater use of health care services.
This is one area where President Obama has conspicuously failed to meet campaign promises that his health care overhaul would reduce costs in addition to expanding coverage. Foster noted: "Although several provisions would help to reduce health care cost growth, their impact would be more than offset through 2019 by the higher health expenditures resulting from the coverage expansions."
Revere America Ad: "Defeat Hall"
(For more on the Revere America ad, see our article "Pataki’s Bogus Health Care Claims.")
American Crossroads: "Far Enough"
This emotional issue was a major point of contention in the final days of debate on the health care bill, and neither the anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights camp walked away happy. Does the law use ”our tax dollars” to pay for abortions, as claimed by the following ad from CitizenLink, a family advocacy group, and the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List?
As we’ve said before, strictly speaking, it does not, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life, the same government restrictions that have applied to Medicaid recipients, federal workers and the military. The controversy stems from how the law aims to guarantee those rules are followed when the government provides subsidies to purchase insurance.
The law says that those receiving subsidies to buy insurance through state-based exchanges must submit a separate payment to cover abortion services (if they choose a plan that covers abortions), and insurance providers must keep federal money separate from private payments to ensure the federal money does go toward abortion coverage. President Obama also signed an executive order reaffirming the federal rules on only funding abortion in cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life. Does that go too far or not far enough? That depends on one’s viewpoint, and we’ll let readers be the judge.
The CitizenLink/Susan B. Anthony List ad (this one, targeting Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana) also makes the unfounded claim that the law is the "biggest expansion of abortion in decades.” But that’s conjecture. We looked at the question of whether more women would get abortions if more had insurance that covered the procedure, and we found the evidence didn’t support that claim.
CitizenLink/Susan B. Anthony List Ad: "Choice"
— by Lori Robertson
2010 Annual Report of the Boards of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 5 Aug 2010.
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