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If Politifact authors don’t like a word, forget about the facts.

Back in October 2011, the "fact-checkers" at Politifact.com reported on this statement for you:

“Our unemployment rate has been higher than 8 percent for more than two-and-a-half years, far above what the Obama Administration promised with the ‘stimulus’.”

They rated that statement, Mostly False

As always, you should fact-check PolitiFact.com.  So let's take a look into the facts.  Here we go.

Unemployment

As of October 2011, when this Politifact report was published, the unemployment rates according to the  US Bureau of Labor Statistics looked like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 11.20.29 AM

From the time of passage of the economic stimulus (February 2009) until the time of this Politifact report (October 2011), the data shows 2 years and 8 months of unemployment rates above 8 percent.  

In other words, the unemployment rate has been higher than 8% for more than 2 and a half years, so that part of the statement is factually accurate.

But let's look into the other part of  the statement that they "fact-checked", which has to do with addressing the unemployment rate being above what the Obama Administration "promised" with the stimulus.   Here is what page 4 of the Obama Administration report by Christina Romer, the President's Chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the time, and what it projected for unemployment with and without the stimulus:

“As Figure 1 shows, even with the large prototypical package, the unemployment rate in 2010 Q4 is predicted to be approximately 7.0%, which is well below the approximately 8.8% that would result in absence of a (stimulus) plan.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 10.51.51 AM

The Obama Administration's report projected that if they passed the stimulus, the unemployment rate would be approximately 7.0% which they projected to be, "well below the approximately 8.8% that would result in absence of a (stimulus) plan".  They passed the stimulus and the unemployment rate still went far beyond 8.8%.  

People can decide for themselves if 8 percent  constitutes "far above" 7 percent.  But why does Politifact.com give a Mostly False rating to a statement that has such factual accuracy?  

In their usual verbal gymnastics in order to flip over the facts, they say: "We think it's a big stretch to call an economic projection a "promise."  The administration never characterized it that way and included plenty of disclaimers saying the predictions had "significant margins of error" and a higher degree of uncertainty due to a recession that is "unusual both in its fundamental causes and its severity."

In the end, more of the statement was true - The numbers are correct and a "projection" of 7% was made but did not play out, yet the word "promise" carried far more weight in their truth rating than the facts.  A really good question here is, why  would Politifact writer's choose "Mostly False" rather than, say, "Mostly True" or even "Half True"?  You can answer that for yourself, but now it's your turn to chime-in on the question for this post.  Head over, do your thing. 

Related information on this subject:

Barack Obama before the stimulus was passed   “If nothing is done…the unemployment rate could reach double digits…”  (Note:  They passed a large stimulus package and the unemployment rate reached double digits).   ~Quote begins at 10 seconds~















The New York Times, November 6, 2009, after the passage of the $830 billion dollar stimulus  

“As the unemployment rate surged to 10.2 percent in October, reaching double digits for the first time in 26 years, it suddenly seemed possible that the nation might yet confront the worst joblessness since the Great Depression.”

 

The Congressional Budget Office

"CBO now estimates that ARRA’s (the stimulus) cumulative impact on deficits over the 2009-2019 period will be $831 billion."

"The rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this country since the Great Depression."



Reference List

Bureau of Labor Statistics report

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Stimulus report

Politifact report

CBO report, Page 1

CBO report

New York Times

(Politifact is a registered trademark of the Tampa Bay Times and the Times Publishing Company, St. Petersburg, FL.)
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The unemployment rate had been higher than 8% for more than 2-and-a-half years. Fact or Fiction?
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Fact Fiction





With a name like PolitiFACT.com, should their reports focus more on fact checking the facts, like unemployment rates, rather than the researchers opinion of words like promise?
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Voting Key


Fact = 100% - 92% True
Mostly Fact = 91% - 75% True
Slightly Fact = 74% - 60% True
Split = 59% - 50% True
Slightly Fiction = 49% - 30% True
Mostly Fiction = 29% - 10% True
Fiction = 9% - 0% True