The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

December 1, 2012

Reader Viewpoint: Citizens need accurate information

Nancy Wehsollek’s Oct. 19 viewpoint was titled “Americans need to be more informed.” But in order to be informed, we need accurate sources of information. She gives no sources for her charges, and many of them are blatantly false.

She claimed that every household will pay $3,800 more in taxes because of the Affordable Care Act. According to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the minimum penalty for not buying health insurance is $95 in 2014, rising to $695 in 2016. The Congressional Budget Office estimates only 1.2 percent of taxpayers will be subject to the tax; 5 percent will actually receive tax credits. Households earning over $250,000 (3 percent of taxpayers) will pay a surtax on investment income and higher Medicare payroll taxes.

So where does her $3,800 figure come from? Is it from a false chain email which charged that Obamacare taxes anyone who sells their home with a 3.8 percent sales tax? The example given was a $100,000 house, which would be a $3,800 tax. Factcheck.org and snopes.com have debunked this email. Or is it from the Heritage Foundation’s ‘taxmageddon,” which derives the figure from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on Jan. 1?

Ms. Wehsollek said that the government has hired 20,000 new IRS agents to handle ACA taxes, which Politifact.com has given a “Pants on Fire” rating. The 2012 budget actually requested 291 new agents.

She alleged that all 15 green job companies which received stimulus funds have gone bankrupt. What is the source of this misinformation? According to Factcheck, under the stimulus 1705 loan program, 26 companies received loan guarantees; three have filed for bankruptcy.

She asked which political party advertised for more citizens to apply for food stamps. The answer is both major parties. President George W. Bush started a recruitment campaign and increased participation by 63 percent in eight years. Of course participation has increased during the last four years, not because politicians want more people “dependent on government,” but because almost 9 million people lost their jobs during the financial crisis. CBO predicts enrollment will fall as the economy recovers.

She also asked which party “believes that looking for work is not necessary to receive welfare.” The answer is none. The Romney campaign ad that charged that President Obama ended the welfare work requirement was judged to be false by numerous newspapers and fact-check sites, to which Romney adviser Neil Newhouse replied, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Another claim was that the stimulus bill spent $740 billion to create 700,000 jobs, which means that every job created cost $1.2. First, CBO estimates 1.4 to 3.6 million jobs were created. Conservative blogs have given figures from $230,000 to $4.1 million per job; Politifact has rated several such claims as false.  

The Associated Press calls such math “satisfyingly simple but highly misleading.” These figures ignore the value of the work produced. “Any cost-per-job figure pays not just for the worker, but for material,  supplies, and that worker’s output — a portion of a road paved, patients treated at a health clinic,” etc.

Also, some contracts will stimulate work for years to come. The stimulus act included money not just for job creation, but also research, training, extended unemployment benefits, plant equipment, etc. And employment created indirectly by stimulus spending is difficult to measure.

People who want accurate information can agree that campaign ads and speeches, chain emails, and political blogs are not good sources. The Washington Post reports that of 79 political emails judged false by Politifact in the past five years, only four were aimed at Republicans. Almost all the rest targeted President Obama or other Democrats. Unfortunately, animosity toward the president makes many conservatives gullible enough to believe anything aimed at him.

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