Friday, October 12, 2012

Fact Checking the AP

The AP likes to be “an independent fact check” organization but often simply becomes a “both sides are right and wrong” waste of time.  Why?  They don’t want to appear partisan.  Sometimes, both candidates ARE distorting the truth or misleading or just plain wrong…but many times, one candidate is right and the other is wrong.  Instead of fact checking the debate, let’s look at the AP “fact check” and show where they got it wrong…and less often got it right.

AP “Fact Check”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Anyone who paid attention to a hearing in Congress this week knew that the administration had been implored to beef up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there. But in the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Joe Biden seemed unaware.

“We weren’t told they wanted more security there,” the vice president asserted flatly. During a night in which Biden and Republican rival Paul Ryan both drifted from the facts on a range of domestic and foreign issues, that was a standout.

A look at some of their claims:

BIDEN: “Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly – we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.”

RYAN: “There were requests for more security.”

THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at the hearing a day earlier.

Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told lawmakers she refused requests for more security in Benghazi, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate. “Yes, sir, I said personally I would not support it,” she said.

Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. He said conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?”

He said his exasperation reached a point where he told a colleague that “for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”

The AP got this obvious one right. The Obama Administration, from Jay Carney, to Susan Rice and even the President himself, flat out lied to the American people and Joe Biden doubled down on that flat out lie. During sworn testimony before a house panel, that carries the penalty of perjury and a LENGTHY prison sentence, State Department officials testified that not only did they request more security, but that those requests were denied and other testimony during the hearing from the intelligence officials stated that they NEVER suggested that this had anything to do with the protests in Cairo or the widely discussed video. In fact, intelligence officials maintained from the beginning, that this was a long planned anniversary attack by Al Qaeda in Libya. So either the State Department officials and intelligence officials lied under oath (unlikely, especially given the penalties) or VP Biden lied during the debate (there is no penalty especially when you have a complicit media to ignore your lie). Which do you think is more likely?

RYAN: “Look at just the $90 billion in stimulus the vice president was in charge of overseeing – this $90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups.”

THE FACTS: Dismissing an entire package of energy stimulus grants and loans as “green pork” ignores the help that was given to people to make their homes more energy efficient, grants to public entities constructing high speed rail lines and tax credits to manufacturers to install equipment fostering cleaner energy.

To be sure, there were notable failed investments, such as $528 million to the politically connected and now-bankrupt solar power company Solyndra. But Ryan’s claim made it sound like every penny went down the drain.

More broadly, economists are nearly universal in saying Obama’s $800 billion-plus stimulus passed in early 2009 helped create both public-sector and private-sector jobs, even if they fell short of what sponsors had hoped. Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, estimated the stimulus saved or created more than 3 million jobs.

The AP is citing a questionable study that asked very narrow questions and suggesting that it’s a broad endorsement of the President’s Stimulus plan. The fact is that when you look at the study, as the NRO did, there is more than meets the eye. When asked if the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill, there was nearly universal agreement. Well, IF we had spent $800 billion and it hadn’t done ANYTHING to help unemployment rates, that would be obvious but that are not what the Romney/Ryan ticket or the Republican opposition is claiming. What they’ve said is that the Stimulus Package was irresponsible given the cost of the plan and the fiscal health of the nation. The very next question in the survey cited by the AP (which is ignored by the MSM) actually shows that most economists agree. Economists were asked “Taking into account all of the ARRA’s economic consequences — including the economic costs of raising taxes to pay for the spending, its effects on future spending, and any other likely future effects — the benefits of the stimulus will end up exceeding its costs.” Less than half agreed or strongly agreed with that statement, 27 percent weren’t sure and the rest disagreed or considered the question unanswerable based on its reliance on future events that no one can predict.

Then there is the suggestion that there were some “notable failed investments”, suggesting that these were rare events. Yet CNN noted that Republican Senators found 100 such funded “investments” that were, in the end, were frivolous at best and total failures at worst. And Ryan’s point about the money going to Obama campaign cronies? Well that is supported by the facts as well. As it turns out, 80% of the Obama Administrations “Green Energy” stimulus went to Obama supporters and companies that they invested in. Notable failures? How about Fisker, who received half a billion in loans and guarantees from the federal government (and tens of millions of dollars from Delaware’s state government) with the promise to build cars in the abandoned GM plant in Wilmington, DE and has recently announced that it has all but scrapped plans to build here in the near future? Solyndra is another high profile failed “green energy” venture in which another half a billion dollars went down the drain. Here’s a short list from the American Thinker (from 2010 mind you) of just a few of the Obama Administrations excellent failures:

So with all that in mind, let's turn our attention to what has actually happened since Obama took office.

· SunPower, after receiving $1.5 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.
· First Solar, after receiving $1.46 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.
· Solyndra, after receiving $535 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Ener1, after receiving $118.5 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Evergreen Solar, after receiving millions of dollars from the state of Massachusetts, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· SpectraWatt, backed by Intel and Goldman Sachs, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Beacon Power, after receiving $43 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Abound Solar, after receiving $400 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Amonix, after receiving $5.9 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Babcock & Brown (an Australian company), after receiving $178 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· A123 Systems, after receiving $279 million from DOE, shipped some bad batteries and is barely operating. It cut jobs.
· Solar Trust for America, after receiving a $2.1-billion loan guarantee from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.
· Nevada Geothermal, after receiving $98.5 million from DOE, warns of potential defaults in new SEC filings.

Finally, the AP claims that the Stimulus Package “saved or created 3 million jobs”, a claim that there is no way to prove or disprove because no one knows for sure if a job is “saved”. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, does 3 million jobs “saved or created” make the stimulus package a success? Well, consider this, during the “Great Recession” (a term I hadn’t actually heard before VP Biden said it last night, but that comes from a CNN Money story from 2011), the US lost 8.8 million jobs. So spending nearly a Trillion dollars has left us 5.8 million jobs in the hole. Was it worth the downgrade of our credit rating, the inflation of our goods and services and the coming fiscal cliff? Could that money have been spent better and more effectively created more jobs in a quicker time frame? Romney/Ryan and the Republicans say yes, by restricting government spending (including defense by the way), cutting taxes to stimulate economic growth and easing regulations on small businesses especially in manufacturing. Once again, in an effort to be “fair”, the AP has distorted the facts and tried to make Ryan’s claims false when in fact they are true.

BIDEN: “We went out and rescued General Motors.”

THE FACTS: Actually, the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration continued and expanded it.

The AP nailed this one. Of course, this is against the better judgment of Conservatives and Libertarians who suggested a structured bankruptcy (more on that later) that would have preserved nearly all jobs (as opposed to the thousands that were lost in places like Delaware and Detroit) while ensuring that the car companies would restructure contracts and ensure long term fiscal viability without risking any taxpayer money.
RYAN: “And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board, by the way, it’s 15 people, the president’s supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training.”

THE FACTS: Ryan is referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law. It has the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to service providers if costs rise above certain levels and Congress fails to act. But it doesn’t look like the board will be cutting Medicare “each and every year,” as Ryan asserts. Medicare costs are currently rising modestly and the government‘s own experts project the board’s intervention will not be needed until 2018 and 2019 at the earliest – after Obama leaves office if re-elected to a second term.

Here, the AP is fishing. “It doesn’t look like…” and “Medicare costs are currently rising modestly…” are situational and opinion based. Here’s the fact, that PAB DOES have the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to doctors which means that unelected government bureaucrats with no medical training will have the power to cut Medicare payments. Furthermore, while Medicare spending may be “moderate” now, enrollment will only continue to rise. Over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare every single day. This will more than double the program’s enrollment and spending on the program will balloon to $1 Trillion per year (currently $760 billion annually) and that’s without accounting for inflation or other artificial increases of the price of healthcare. So, given the bleak outlook of healthcare costs, especially in the wake of the Obamacare legislation, is Ryan wrong to assume that this 15 person board would in fact be tasked with cutting Medicare each year to ensure that it stays within the predetermined levels? Congress has failed to even pass a budget in over 1000 days, do you trust them to act each year to control healthcare costs?
BIDEN, when asked who would pay more taxes in Obama’s second term: “People making a million dollars or more.”

THE FACTS: Obama’s proposed tax increase reaches farther down the income ladder than millionaires. He wants to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making over $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.

The AP got this one right. Obama and Biden have long been lying to the American people about their tax plan which will tax everyone making over $250,000 more, stunt economic growth and kill jobs for the middle class. So in effect, the ramifications of the Obama/Biden plan will reach potentially every American home regardless of income.
RYAN: “We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let‘s take a look at where we’ve gone – come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material – nuclear material – to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”

THE FACTS: Ryan’s claim is misleading. Iran isn’t believed to have produced any of the highly enriched uranium needed to produce even one nuclear weapon, let alone five. That point isn’t even disputed by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored the world at the United Nations last month to create a “red line” at enrichment above 20 percent. Iran would have to enrich uranium at much higher levels to produce a weapon. There is intelligence suggesting that Iran has worked on weapon designs, but not that it has developed a delivery system for any potential nuclear warhead.

Again, the AP is stretching here. First, there are reports out that say that Iran, with more than 10,000 centrifuges, are building a stockpile that could be large enough to arm a nuclear bomb as quickly as 4 months from now. The Obama Administrations own Defense Secretary said that the US would only have a year to take action if the Iranians decided to build a Nuclear weapon. The AP doesn’t take into account Congressman Ryan’s statement made later in the answer that he agrees with Biden that the time frame is likely further away than that but that we cannot wait until it’s too late to foil attempts to create a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the suggestion that Iran doesn’t have the capability to deliver a nuke is ridiculous. We know, for instance, that mini nukes can be carried in suitcases anywhere in the world. In addition, Iran has developed weapons that they say, can reach Israel and other places within the region including the home of the US 6th Fleet in Bahrain or Camp Doha in Kuwait. Since intelligence on weapons development in Iran is often months if not years behind current technology, the chances that Iran has developed a rocket that could reach Europe and points in Asia are much higher than the AP is letting on. The question is, how long do we wait to find out how deadly the madmen are who run Iran?
BIDEN: “What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare.”

THE FACTS: Contrary to Biden’s assertion, not all the money cut from Medicare is going back into the program in some other way. The administration is cutting $716 billion over 10 years in Medicare payments to providers and using some of the money to improve benefits under the program. But most of the money is being used to expand health care coverage outside of Medicare.

Not to mention that by cutting payments to providers, choices for seniors will be limited as doctors will stop offering the services being cut.

RYAN: “What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.”

THE FACTS: The requirement under the health care law that most employers cover birth control free of charge to female employees does not apply to churches, houses of worship, or other institutions directly involved in propagating a religious faith. It does apply to church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities that serve the general public.

The AP stretched again here. The fact is that a church who runs a hospital or a charity, is affected by having to comply with these mandates even though they infringe on the religious freedom of the church.

BIDEN: “Romney said `No, let Detroit go bankrupt.’”

THE FACTS: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gotten endless grief through the campaign for the headline put on his November 2008 opinion essay that he wrote for The New York Times. But his point was never that he wanted the auto industry to go down the tubes.

Romney opposed using government money to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, instead favoring privately financed bankruptcy restructuring. His prescription seemed improbable. Automakers were hemorrhaging cash and the banking system was in crisis, so private money wasn’t available. Without the government money, it’s likely both companies would have gone out of business. Romney did propose government-guaranteed private loans for both companies after bankruptcy.

The AP is clearly confused on how business and specifically bankruptcy law works. Conservatives and Libertarians suggested a structured bankruptcy (more on that later) that would have preserved nearly all jobs (as opposed to the thousands that were lost in places like Delaware and Detroit) while ensuring that the car companies would restructure contracts and ensure long term fiscal viability without risking any taxpayer money. A structured bankruptcy would freeze the assets, reevaluate their worth and the needs of the creditors and would allow the companies to work through their major cash problems. As it stands, GM is once again in financial trouble even after the bailout but now, there are billions of tax dollars on the line instead of private dollars. Was there a need for SOME stimulus to sure up the banks? Perhaps, due to the failure of our leadership to properly regulate our banks, there was some need to bail them out.
RYAN: “We should have spoken out right away when the green revolution was up and starting, when the mullahs in Iran were attacking their people. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people.

THE FACTS: Neither President Barack Obama nor anyone else in his administration ever considered the Syrian leader a “reformer.” The oft-repeated charge stems from an interview Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave in March 2011 noting that “many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” She did not endorse that view. The comment was widely perceived to be a knock at senators such as John Kerry of Massachusetts who maintained cordial relations with Assad in the months leading up to his crackdown on protesters.

Apparently, the AP doesn’t communicate with the LA Times who seemed to know that the administration DID in fact consider Assad a reformer. I’ve listened to this clip myself and I am offering the opportunity to you as well. I want you to watch this clip and see if you think that Secretary Clinton is running away from this statement or if she seems to agree with it:

RYAN: “This one tax would actually tax about 53 percent of small-business income.”

BIDEN: “Ninety-seven percent of the small businesses in America pay less – make less than $250,000.”

THE FACTS: Both are correct, but incomplete, when sizing up the effect on small business of raising taxes for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000, as Obama wants to do. Republicans say that would hit small-business owners who report business income on their individual income tax; Democrats say the overwhelming majority of small businesses would not be affected.

According to a 2010 report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress, about 3 percent of people who report business income would face a tax increase under Obama’s plan. That support‘s Biden’s point.

The same report says those business owners account for about half of all business income. That supports Ryan.

The AP could have just said that both are correct but that Biden was attempting to minimize the impact of the tax increases on small businesses.
RYAN: Notes that there have been four rounds of U.N. sanctions on Iran to deter its nuclear program, three during the Bush administration and one under Obama. “And the only reason we got it is because Russia watered it down and prevented the sanctions from hitting the central bank. Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I’ve been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way.” He also noted the administration has granted 20 waivers to the sanctions.

THE FACTS: The argument that the administration was watering down or delaying sanctions is misleading. For sanctions to work, they need maximum global agreement and cooperation. Russia watered down U.N. sanctions not only under Obama, but also under Bush. And it’s highly unlikely that a Romney administration, particularly led by a candidate who says Russia is the biggest geostrategic threat to the U.S., would be able to get Russia completely on board with what the U.S. wants to – either in Iran or Syria.

The more absolute U.S. sanctions that Ryan and others have pushed in Congress would have punished U.S. allies, including most countries in Europe as well as Japan and South Korea, along with good friends like India and Singapore – without the exemptions that were put in place.

The administration has indeed granted 20 waivers, to countries that made significant reductions in Iranian oil imports. And the sanctions are pinching; Iran has been convulsed over the past week with protests over the collapse of its currency, which most people say is a direct result of the sanctions that the U.S. and others have imposed.

The AP is in Obama protection mode here. The FACTS are that what Ryan said was correct. It’s up to each of you to decide if you think that watering down sanctions and granting waivers, thereby rendering them largely ineffective, is the correct way to go or if they should stick to their guns and potentially limit US allies who trade with Iran. What should be noted here is that the Obama Administration was fighting the Congressional proposals on behalf of Russia. Why not propose tough sanctions and let Russia fight them in the international community? Why not pressure our allies to reduce their support of Iran and grant fewer waivers? These are questions worth asking.

So, in closing, the fact checkers need to be fact checked. Folks, do your own homework and formulate your own opinions based on what the TRUTH is, not what the spin is from either campaign or from the media.