Friday, August 31, 2012

Who Will Fact-Check the Fact-Checkers?

Probably Had Better Fact-Checkers in 1942

The New York Times apparently needs a fact-checker to check its articles that purport to fact-check political speeches.

Case in point, an article in the Times today claims that Congressman Ryan's speech contained a "Litany of Falsehoods."   However, the very first example the Times provides is not a falsehood at all.  According to the Times:  "[r]epresentative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill."  Congressman Ryan was referring to the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which President Obama appointed.  The Times offers no evidence that contradicts Congressman Ryan's assertion that President Obama failed to act on the Commission's recommendations.  Thus, Congressman Ryan's assertion stands unrebutted.

Instead, the Times claims that Congressman Ryan helped blocked the Commission's recommendations.   But the Times fails to note that, unlike President Obama, Ryan offered his own budget that would have cut the deficit.  Moreover, one of the Commission's co-Chairs praised Conrgessman Ryan's budget.   In fact, here is what Erskine Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton and co-Chair of the Simpson Bowles Commission, had to say about Congressman Ryan's proposed budget:

"And the budget that he [Ryan] came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit just like we did, by $4 trillion... The President came out with his own plan and the President, as you remember, came out with a budget, and I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97 to nothing."  (Bowles goes on to assert that, after much pressure, the President finally offered a budget with back-ended spending reductions that would have achieved about $2.5 Trillion in deficit reduction, that is, 37.5 percent less than proposed by Simpson-Bowles.

In sum, Congressman Ryan's assertion that President Obama failed to act on the Simpson-Bowles recommendation is unrebutted.  Moreover, unlike President Obama, Congressman Ryan introduced a budget that achieved the same level of deficit reduction as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.   The Times' assertion to the contrary appears to be, well, a falsehood, though no doubt an inadvertent one.