October 7, 2012

Jack Kelly Sunday

Even while gloating, Jack Kelly overreaches and gets his facts wrong.

Just take a look at this Sunday's column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

There's a clear consensus that Obama had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad debate performance.  As I emailed an astute reader a few days ago, I was hoping that Obama's plan was some sort if Aikido defense - stepping back, letting your opponent commit to an attack and then, using his own momentum, simply helping him off his feet and onto the ground.

Or, better yet, I was hoping it was a debate version of the Blackburne (or LĂ©gal) Trap, in which White sacrifices his queen for a checkmate 3 moves later.

Alas, it was neither.  It was simply a bad performance.  Though my partial Doppelgänger, Chris Potter, on Lynn Cullen's web broadcast had a slightly different view - the problem Obama had was that Romney simply lied about his positions. How do you debate someone who simply denies their own agenda?

And that brings me to Jack's overreach:
The Mitt Romney in Denver was knowledgeable, energetic, passionate, principled. He was aggressive, without being rude or mean. He seemed like a nice guy. He was in command -- of the facts and on the stage.
The OPJ has already touched on Romney's mendacity.  But let's go further.  What do the fact-checkers have to say about Romney's "command of the facts"?

Romney repeatedly claimed that a new government board was “going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” Not true. It could make some binding recommendations about such things as what drugs or medical devices would be paid for by Medicare, but it has no legal power to dictate treatment or ration care.

The board is a 15-member panel that’s tasked with finding ways to slow the growth of Medicare spending. So, its work concerns Medicare, not everyone seeking health care. And, according to the law, the board can’t touch treatments or otherwise “ration” care, or restrict benefits.

What’s officially called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, made up of appointed health care experts, medical professionals, and consumer representatives, would make binding recommendations to reduce the growth of spending. Congress could override them with a three-fifths majority in each house.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that the IPAB was limited to finding savings from “Medicare Advantage, the Part D prescription drug program, skilled nursing facility, home health, dialysis, ambulance and ambulatory surgical center services, and durable medical equipment.”
In case you couldn't hear it, this was a "dog whistle". Romney's talking death panels here.

Then there's this $716 billion fact that Jack got wrong:
Romney went on to say, “I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare.” But the fact is, the money isn’t being taken away from Medicare. Instead, Medicare would spend it, but over a longer period of time than was expected before the health care law. The law extends the solvency of the Medicare Part A trust fund.
Then there's factcheck summing up Romney's performance:
Romney sometimes came off as a serial exaggerator. He said “up to” 20 million might lose health insurance under the new law, citing a Congressional Budget Office study that actually put the likely number who would lose employer-sponsored coverage at between 3 million and 5 million. He said 23 million Americans are “out of work” when the actual number of jobless is much lower. He claimed half of all college grads this year can’t find work, when, in fact, an AP story said half either were jobless or underemployed.
Here's the fact-checking from the Washington Post:
“Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut — on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts — that’s another trillion dollars”

— President Obama

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut”

— Governor Romney

How can both facts be true? The $5 trillion figure comes from the fact that Romney has proposed to cut tax rates by 20 percent and eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says that would reduce tax revenue by nearly $500 billion in 2015, or about $5 trillion over 10 years But Romney also has said he will make his plan “revenue neutral” by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions, although he has not provided the details.

The Tax Policy Center has analyzed the specifics of Romney’s plan thus far released and concluded that the numbers aren’t there to make it revenue neutral.

In the debate, Romney countered that “six other studies” have found that not to be the case, but he’s wrong about that. Those studies actually do not provide much evidence that Romney’s proposal — as sketchy as it is — would be revenue neutral without making unrealistic assumptions.
And if we take a look at those "six other studies" we find they're not what Romney presented them to be.  Factcheck, again:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney claims that his plan would balance the federal budget in eight to 10 years. But so far, he has not made public the details on how he would be able to do that, and one neutral budget expert calls it “an unrealistic goal.”

Also, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan exaggerate when they say “five different studies” prove that all of the stated goals of Romney’s revenue-neutral tax plan could be accomplished without raising taxes on middle-income taxpayers. Two of the five “studies” were blog items. And none of three other studies was nonpartisan: Two were written by Romney campaign advisers and a third was by a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush.
And they don't know where that sixth study came from.

And then there's this from politifact:
Romney said his health care proposals include protections for pre-existing conditions What he didn’t say at the debate -- but which his website states and advisers confirmed after the debate -- is that people would be protected from denial only if they have been continuously insured.

The health care law, though, offers protections whether people have current coverage or not, so it offers more robust protection. The law also includes a requirement that everyone have insurance or pay a tax penalty. Romney’s plan doesn’t have that requirement.

Romney did not mention the qualifier that people have to stay insured to get the protection. That’s a significant omission. We rate his statement Mostly False.
And yet conservative columnist Jack Kelly said that Mitt Romney was in command of the facts.

There have to be people at the P-G (sincere, hard working, intelligent people, no doubt) looking over Jack's shoulder to make sure he doesn't repeat his fact-free Van Jones writing style. Perhaps they're even asking him for deeper research to justify each sentence he writes.

But you have to know he still gets things very very wrong.

And you're still letting him.


EdHeath said...

I am a fan of "Twelve Angry Men", a film in which quiet Henry Fonda, standing alone at first, demolishes superficial facts one by one with reasoned analysis and more subtle contradicting facts. He faces down both reasoned (although stubborn) analysis and simple loud blowhards.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently published an article questioning the effect of spin and punditry in determining the victor or any given debate. As an example, they said that people who watched the third Bush Kerry debate in 2004 on CSPAN (without commentary) thought John Kerry won, while people who watched the debate on NBC thought Bush won.

I watched the Romney/Obama debate on CSPAN. I was disappointed that Obama was not more aggressive, but I also thought that Romney's repeated failure to list any deductions or credits that he would eliminate was a major liability. Personally I thought that since Romney provided no details of his plans, he effectively made no case. I doubt, for example, any bank would give Romney a loan based on his performance in the debate. He was just speaking in generalities and giving us the crazy eyes.

And finally, I ask this question. If Mitt Romney is elected and pushes through his tax plan, does anyone think that someone, either married with a couple of kids or a single parent, who makes maybe twenty thousand or forty thousand and usually gets a tax refund - does anyone think they will get that refund again?

Romney wants to end the progressive tax system, in that he says he wants to make the tax system flatter (fewer tax brackets). But this is one of the things where he won't give details. Make no mistake, though, if you have, say, only two tax brackets, one of fifteen percent and one of twenty five percent, say, and you eliminate credits and deductions, then the poor will pay more in taxes. The rich will pay the same or less in taxes. In Republican land, that is fairness.

EdHeath said...

This is the CJR paper