Friday, April 29, 2011

The PolitiFact Truth Index

In December, I published an analysis of all the statements analyzed by, the preeminent fact-checking website. I looked at all the statements rated by the PolitiFact national editorial team and found that Republicans lied a lot more than Democrats. I found that almost 70% of the statements rated by as "false" or "pants-on-fire" since the 2008 election came from Republicans.

But my interest in PolitiFact ratings didn't end there. I wondered if there were more lies now than there used to be. I wondered what subjects get lied about the most. I wondered if Senators lied more than members of the House of Representatives. I also wondered what the ratings were like for all the different state newspapers that PolitiFact partners with to see if there were any biases and to see if local Republicans seemed to lie as much as their national counterparts.

So I started a database. I recorded every statement analyzed by PolitiFact National and every statement analyzed by each of its eight partner state newspapers since the beginning of March. Then I looked at when the statement was made, what subject the statement was about, what occupation the statement-maker had, how the statement was delivered, and to what audience the statement was delivered, among other characteristics.

The information I have found is astounding.

First of all, in order to interpret the "truthiness" of each statement, I had to come up with a system that would convert the rankings into a numeric system. PolitiFact assigns one of six rankings to each of their statements: "True", "Mostly True", "Half True", "Barely True", "False", and "Pants on Fire". How they assign these rankings is detailed on their website. True and Mostly True statements are not misleading, Half True and Barely True statements occur when there is a nugget of truth inside some important omitted details, and False and Pants on Fire statements are straight up lies.

I tried a couple of different ways of counting up truth points, but the one that seems to reveal the most is a simple +1 / 0 / -1 system.

- True or Mostly True statements get +1
- False or Pants on Fire statements get -1
- Half True or Barely True statements get 0

With this system, if an individual or organization has a positive average, that means that individual or organization tells more truths than lies. Likewise, if there is a negative average, that means that an individual lies more than he/she/it/they tell the truth.

With that in mind, here is the latest graph showing the weekly breakdown of the statements by political party. The four-week average is less volatile than the weekly average, so I have included it as well.

As you can see, the trend of Democrats telling the truth more often than Republicans is still going strong. Check out the last numbers for this week. Of the last nine statements of Donald Trump's that are in this database, seven of them have been lies. With this week's birth certificate release and subsequent press conference, the Donald is driving the Republican numbers down.

This will be an ongoing project for me, and I hope to continue this project through the 2012 elections at the very least. I hope to update this graph every week.

Next: The political issues that get lied about the most.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Senator Brian Bingman = Admiral Ackbar

The federal health care bill, lovingly referred to as Obamacare by most Republicans, stipulates that every state needs to set up a health insurance exchange where consumers can access information about cost and coverage of every insurance carrier in the state. It is a free-market idea, one that makes comparing different plans easier and expands consumer choice. But a fully functioning exchange would require some additional investment in information technology infrastructure, which is why the federal government is giving away millions of dollars worth of grants to the states to help them set their exchanges up.

Enter Senator Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), the president pro-tem of the Oklahoma Senate. He told reporters that a bill passed by the state House of Representatives that helps establish a state health insurance exchange would not be considered by the Senate. "We're concerned about actually falling into the trap ... of adopting the Obamacare, which is really what we're against," said the Senator, who last month released a joint statement with Governor Mary Fallin and House Speaker Kris Steele (Republicans all) saying he supported the federal grant. Steele and Fallin both still support getting free money from the federal government to better the lives of their fellow Oklahomans. And it's not like these people could ever be described as liberals.

"My hope is that the federal health care bill will either be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or that Congress might take up legislation to repeal it and replace it with other free-market health care reform initiatives," Fallin said. "But whether that happens or not, the federal health care bill is still the law of the land."

If Oklahoma fails to take action to establish its own health insurance exchange, Fallin warned the federal government will impose its own system on the state.

"I don't think it's helpful to the state of Oklahoma not to have a plan in place," Fallin said. "I also think it puts us on a dangerous path of the Obama administration being able to come in and force a federal exchange on our state."

So Fallin fears a trap just as much as Bingman does. She is just responding a little bit more proactively than he is.

Oklahomans passed a bill last November allowing Oklahoma to opt out of any federal health care law due to a fear of government intrusion (and therefore socialism). The Senate president pro-tem thinks that accepting money from the federal government would trap the state into accepting government intrusion (and therefore socialism). The Governor thinks that not creating an exchange would lead to government intrusion (and therefore socialism).

Our governor, our state leaders, and the majority of state voters are all a bunch of Admiral Ackbars, too blinded by right-wing dogma to see that the whole point of Obamacare is to offer choices to consumers to get us a step closer to universal health insurance coverage.