Politifact's Lie of the Year Is An Exaggeration With Elements of Truth


Truth, lies, what's the difference?

If you had to rank the biggest political lie of 2010, what would it be? The utter horse-hockey that we've somehow proven that the stimulus created a zillion-billion long-term jobs and acted like a fiscal-policy Powerbar for the economy? The president's oft-repeated and flatly untrue statement that under the health care overhaul, if you like your doctor or your health plan, you can keep it? The contrived justifications for describing ObamaCare as indisputably "fiscally responsible" despite a hotly contested and thoroughly gamed budgetary scoring process? How about the administration's repeated but totally false claim that the CBO backs up its Medicare accounting, when in fact the CBO has said that the administration's numbers constitute a form of "double counting"?

Say what you will about the rest of its accomplishments (or lack thereof), but the White House has proven a remarkably consistent and high-quality bullshit factory this year. The way they churn this stuff out, you might think they'd be up for an award! No such luck: According to the enlightened fact-checkers at Politifact, the number one lie of the year—the nastiest, falsest, untrue-est, lying-est line of sheer baloney in politics over the past 12 ugly and lie-filled months—was the Republican slogan that the health care law represents a "government takeover" of the health care system.

If you want to point out that the GOP stretched this one, then by all means go ahead. The PPACA wasn't strictly a government takeover of the entire health care system. No, it was just a dramatic increase in government regulation, oversight, and control of many parts of the system.

Sure, as the earnest lie-rankers at Politifact point out, nothing was explicitly nationalized in the wake of the PPACA's passage. The law, they write, does not call for "a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees."  To hammer the point home, PowerPoint style,  they even provide several helpful bullet points that explicitly spell out the following facts: The law does not nationalize hospitals, or make doctors government employees, or even call for the creation of a government-run health insurance plan (a "public option"). All of this is as true as the sky is blue!

But what they don't lay out in any detail are the many ways the law vastly expanded the government's reach over the health care sector—for example, that the PPACA calls for the creation of a board of unelected bureaucrats who have the power to set provider reimbursement rates for Medicare (a bloated, fiscally unsound program that already exerts a significant controlling influence on payment rates for medical services). Even if you're rooting for the board to succeed in controlling Medicare's spending, the board represents a significant increase in federal control.

Nor do they mention that the PPACA sets up a system in which health insurers are regulated so extensively that they are more or less transformed into quasi-public utilities. The new regulations include a rule that caps administrative costs and profits as a percentage of premium revenue—a rule that pushes the boundaries of the government's regulatory authority so much that the Congressional Budget Office has said that if the rules were any stricter, it would turn the health insurance industry into "an essentially governmental program."

So no, it's not a gub'mint takeover. It's just pretty damn close.

Meanwhile, our rigorous team of fact-checkers even introduce a misleading statement of their own when they claim that "the law Congress passed…relies largely on the free market."

The only way this is true is if you utterly fail to distinguish between the concepts of "the free market" and "a highly regulated private sector," which is a far more accurate description of what the health care law relies on to accomplish its goals.

Sadly, making important distinctions doesn't seem to be their strong suit. Somehow when picking their lie of the year, Politifact settled on a minority party exaggeration with elements of truth—and managed to ignore the near-continuous stream of full-blooded whoppers coming from the folks actually running things.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Busybodies, Babes, and Bacon - Presenting the 2010 Nanny of the Year!

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  1. It’s odd that an organization that is supposedly rating the truth on what politicians say is using as its evidence…what politicians say (or don’t say). Just because nobody has said “the government is now in charge” doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Government can control an entity by controlling the money. They don’t have to put their name on the door.

    1. Best line of the article…

      “But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations…”

      Apparently neither the author nor the editor know the definition of a free market.

      1. I know, I just about blew coffee out of my nose at that one. In a free market customers can decide whether or not to buy a product, a merchant can price a product based on what it costs him to provide it, and a merchant can refuse to sell to someone if he knows he will lose money on the deal.

        Politifacts just lost all credibility with this one. I know its too fucking much to expect them to actually read the bill but couldn’t they at least get hold of a summary? I mean WTF??

        1. “Politifacts just lost all credibility with this one.”

          The implication that they had some to begin with is amusing.

          1. Funny, what do you people know about credibility? this website and this author has none.

  2. Who would expect anything less form an outfit that sprung up out out of the St. Petersburg Times?

    1. Would it be germane to wonder which St. Petersburg?

  3. Can a mother fucker get a hat tip?

    1. They only give those to Anal Vanneman.

      1. Shouldn’t it be “Venalman” or something?

        1. No. I got it right.

          1. Pale Vealman?

            1. Powdered Toast Man’s arch-nemesis.

              1. Venal Analman

  4. “If you had to rank the biggest political lie of 2010, what would it be?”

    “In its life, the healthcare reform act will create 4 million jobs, 400,000 jobs almost immediately.”


    1. And balance the budget too, right?

  5. Oh, we learned from our past mistakes with nationalizations. We’ve learned how to keep ALL the power while retaining NONE of the responsibility. If something breaks, YOU pay for it; we’ll just sit back and decide what hoops you’ll have to jump through next to cover up our mistakes like when our forebears created the HMO Act of 1973 where we managed to completely divorce medical cost from market discipline. Nope, only pissed off libertarians ever notice our fuck ups. When they point them out we just point a finger to the side of our heads and wiggle it in circles while whispering, ‘he’s nuts.’

    Isn’t the life of a bureaucrat grand?

    Now, go bring me some more cheese, you Polifact rats. Trained them myself!

  6. Reason should set up it’s own “Fact checking Politifact” site.

      1. Well, I was actually thinking of a point-by-point format, rather than having it wrapped up with news about little kids getting fines for selling cupcakes.

  7. That is the weakest weak sauce of a choice for “Lie of the Year”.

    What’s even more annoying is that there were plenty of lies that were told about the Healthcare bill that deserve this title far more than what was chosen. I mean, Pelosi’s “we need to pass this so we can find out what’s in it” is more bullshit than the exaggeration of government takeover.

    I think the lie that not only deserves this award but is also a phrase that needs to die a quick painful death and be permanently removed from the political lexicon is this one:


    Everytime someone in the administration uses this term God strangles to death another kitten.

    1. We are quite aware that if the Bush Administration had used that phrase during the slump of the early years, the smirks of the network anchormen alone could have powered a medium sized city. We keep them right in our hip pocket, except for that cutie pie Katie Couric who I keep closer to the front.

      1. Using ‘cutie pie’ to refer to Katie Couric kinda makes me want to demonstrate for you some of the many non-standard uses of a framing hammer.

        1. Whatever floats your boat, but whatever you have planned, it sounds like it will get your neck broken.

        2. i just wish she would keep the “pages from her notebook” from spilling out onto the airwaves like the results from an all night kegger out in the backyard.

    2. There is a problem for those who’s job was neither created nor saved. We are assured that in the absence of these programs the Goths may have sacked the city. But an unintended consequence of these decisions is that so many people were kept unemployed, there will always be on hand plenty people to repel the invasion!

    3. Everytime someone in the administration uses this term God strangles to death another kitten earns its wings.

    4. This snarky comment created or saved 13 jobs.

    5. (smacking hand on head)
      “Be Created Or Saved!”

  8. Somehow when picking their lie of the year, Politifact settled on a minority party exaggeration with elements of truth

    And right on cue this bloviated bullshit was on NPR this morning and front and center on front page of the St. Petersburg Times.

    The only way this is true is if you utterly fail to distinguish between the concepts of “the free market” and “a highly regulated private sector,”

    In other words if you lack the intellect to distinguish between a free market and not a free market.

  9. How about Our Dear Leader’s firmly-stated promise that he would eliminate earmarks – totally not allow them?

    Or his promise that all legislation would be published on the internet for five days before he signed it?

    As Steve Martin said (30 years ago when he was funny), the public has a short memory.

  10. Why anyone would give a shit what some partisan hacks think is “the biggest lie” is beyond me. At this point, excluding a few specific people, I can tell you exactly what someone’s talking points will be if you tell me whether they are on TEAM RED or TEAM BLUE.

    1. Yeah Suderman’s opinion on this topic is worthless.

      1. Which team is he on?

      2. Behold the biting wit of Chony.

        1. Behold, the whining bitch called Fluffersonian.


      1. In your caps rage, you forgot to capitalize that “I”.

      1. I would never have figured you for a Eurythmics fan, John. You’ve written entire books of pornographic Annie Lennox slashfic, haven’t you?

  11. I think I’d vote for lies told by or about the Tea Party movement.

  12. Is it:

    1. That “B-b-but-but–OBAMA!!” is somehow expected to be a compelling rebuttal of Politifact’s point?


    2. Many, many people will look at Mr. Suderman’s work and say: “You know, he’s right. Politifact must be wrong.”

    I’m torn, but leaning 1.

  13. You sit on a throne of lies!

  14. (…these comments are with reference to the old adage “give them an inch and they will take a mile”…)
    What Adair has to say about his ‘Lie Of The Year’ choice represents the ‘inch’ aspect of what Obamacare overtly claims to represent. What the Republicans and the Conservatives are saying (…when they say that Obamacare represents a government takeover of the american healthcare system…) is the ‘mile’ aspect that Obamacare will surely become.
    Thus, no lie was expressed. Rather, misinterpretation apparently took place on the part of Adair’s listening skills.

  15. Aetna, Cigna, UHC, and Wellpoint all love the “gubmit takeover of health insurance” judged by the huge rise in their market values.

    Of course, only single-payer is a government takeover of health/CARE in reality.

    I love how the Teabagger Medicare Preservation PAC protects their little gig at the expense of us tax-paying rubes.

    1. I tear up a bit when a plan works as beautifully as what you demonstrate here.

      Years ago we pushed bills through the state houses mandating that libraries could not turn away crackheads. We even had them bookmark free market sites like this one on the public computers so after hitting a bowl you guys would show up and annoy the hell out them.

      God Bless You, Shrike.

    2. shrike|12.17.10 @ 4:28PM|#
      “Aetna, Cigna, UHC, and Wellpoint all love the “gubmit takeover of health insurance” judged by the huge rise in their market values.”
      This would be because a business ‘market value’ is controlled by that business?

      “I love how the Teabagger Medicare Preservation PAC protects their little gig at the expense of us tax-paying rubes”
      Repeat a lie often enough, and you’ll get, well, an oft-repeated lie.

    3. I just dropped my pen to see if gravity still worked after reading that.

    4. I’m not surprised that Shrike missed the point. Just because something is good for some specific corporations, that doesn’t mean that a government takeover has not occurred. In fact, government takeovers and corporate success often go hand in hand.

      1. Investors LOVE it when the feds take over their company, right? You idiot.

        “Some” insurance companies? Try “all”. If anything Obamacare is crony capitalism – not that I am defending that concept at all.

        So Occam says its a lie – there was no “guvmint takeover” like the idiot conservatives/teabaggers claim.

  16. Now let me be perfectly clear. If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.

  17. the PPACA calls for the creation of a board of unelected bureaucrats who have the power to set provider reimbursement rates for Medicare (a bloated, fiscally unsound program that already exerts a significant controlling influence on payment rates for medical services). Even if you’re rooting for the board to succeed in controlling Medicare’s spending, the board represents a significant increase in federal control.

    I don’t get how this is an expansion of government control. Medicare is a bloated government program. How is creating a board that figures out what Medicare will pay for treatments an expansion of federal power? Is this a “Get the government out of my Medicare statement” or am I missing something? Most insurance companies of all kinds have organizations internally that figure out what they will reimburse for various services, I’m not sure why Medicare should be different.

    To be sure, everything else you describe is a huge expansion of government control of the health care industry, I don’t get how the Medicare reimbursement rate board qualifies.

    1. Mo,

      The issue is that it’s a tightening of control over payments to private providers who accept Medicare payments. Because it’s tightening control over payments to private providers, and because those payments exercise such a massive amount of control on payments across the system already, the Medicare payment board represents a pretty significant increase in control over the overall health care system, which is what’s at stake here.

      1. If people weren’t crooked, the freemarket would work, politicians would be honest, and blog comments would make sense. This will be my only comment here.

  18. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the St. Petersburg Times as a “usually liberal” newspaper….FACT CHECKERS?…RIGHT

  19. Oh look a whole column in reason dedicated to defending a Frank Luntz poll-tested bullshit Republican lie. Repeat it often enough, and you can make people dumber: the primary Republican vote-getting strategy.

    1. How Dare You Wake Me From My Coma! Turn The Goddamn NPR Back On And Get The Hell Out!

      1. Their voices are so soothing, and it gets me ready to listen to Amy Goodman talk through her nose on Democracy Now!

    2. Oh look a whole column

      It’s a blog post, not really a “column”.

      Although, to be fair, your statement isn’t wholly inaccurate. So, for example, if I were to write an article about the biggest lie you’ve told this year, I don’t think that would even make the shortlist.

    3. SOMALIA!

    4. This comment made me check to see if I were reading comments for the right post.

      Turns out it wasn’t my mistake after all.

    5. from the link:

      Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just aint so:

      * 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
      * 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
      * 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
      * 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
      * 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
      * 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
      * 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
      * 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
      * 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

      1. Which Jay-walking all-star were you? Your comment indicates that you might have won the competition.

  20. The Internet has undermined the power of the news media as gatekeepers, their ability to dictated what thoughts are permitted in the public arena. Polifact and other media fact-checking are attempts to maintain some of the gatekeeping power. Certainly they could report that the Obama administration lies continuously, but that is a meme that they want to suppress, not promote.

  21. that is right,,dang near a govt takeover,,,and obamation says many times,,you can keep your healthcare,,,bs

  22. There’s a name for the system where the gov’t does not own the means of production but still controls it.

    1. Must be free-market, libertarian, capitalism.

      1. let me be perfectly clear, you will still get to keep your lies…er um liberals!

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  24. Regarding single payer health care: it seems that people are afraid that this system would replace consumer choice of doctors and treatments with choices made by the provider (government)?.” But isn’t that what we already have with for-profit insurance?
    Insurance companies now tell you what doctors are in your plan, what tests they will provide payment for and the delay that may result while your claim is reviewed. In addition, since an insurance company’s primary goal is profit, you may be denied coverage if they can find a way to save dollars, for their profit.
    As for costs and waste, insurance companies have costs of 30% for billing, marketing, profits according to the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP.org). This compares to 3% administrative costs for Medicare. And paying insurance executives $10 million dollars to find ways to deny coverage is as wasteful as anything I can think of.
    Unless insurance companies can make profits at our expense they will eventually implode. At some point employers may realize they should not be paying for employee’s continually increasing health care insurance costs. And eventually health care insurance will be seen for the money, not service, oriented industry it is as at it fights to increase profits by increasing premiums and decreasing coverage. That is when it’s “customers” will realize they should be treated as potential patients that need service and not “consumers” that need to be fleeced of their dollars.
    To prepare for this insurance company implosion we should begin framing the debate on what type of single payer system we should have. First though, we have to stop demonizing single payer as a “socialized “program. A socialized program is one where the doctors, nurses and staff are paid by the government. This not the goal of single payer as outlined by Mad As Hell Doctors. The goal of single payer is Medicare for all.
    With 60% of all U.S. health care costs currently paid for by the taxpayers through federal, state and local government jobs, Medicare, V.A., emergency rooms, military hospitals, etc., isn’t it time for the rest of us to enter that pool of workers that we already pay for? Maybe then we can all derive some of the care that our legislators covet so dearly, yet deny to us.
    A single payer system is inevitable if we are to trim medical costs. And it would be shameful not to provide health care to everyone in this great nation. Unfortunately, we are all tied up to a health care industry based on for-profit denial of coverage. Wait until it happens to you.

    1. You’re making sense.

      This is not the place for it.

    2. Bad. Ass. Mo. Fo.

  25. Look, here’s the thing. People that don’t like it are going to find ways to slam it. Even if they have to lie about it. So “factchecker” was just pointing that out.

    That we are moving towards more of a 21st century health-care system; is w/o dispute. And you can certainly be “against” it; but i’ve yet to hear credible alternatives. Medicare is a prime example of “socialized medicine”; we’ve had it for decades. Do you want to get rid of it? If so, what would you put in its place?

    1. “factchecker” was just pointing out the political oppositions point they, the entire MSM was in lockstep in endorsing the “reform” bill. You couldn’t read a paper or watch an alphabet network without glowing smiling raving reports about the wonderous health care “reform”.

      and the rational argument won public opinion anyway.. that’s what really galls the left. A full court press media blitz, and the public still rejected them.

      The center right majority just doesn’t trust a unobstructed left to do whats best for the country. We just don’t.

  26. Well you can blame politifact, but it also has been chosen lie of the year by their readers, and in 3 or 4 other polls around the country.

    It was the top debated issue of the year, and it was an outright lie. You may not agree with the CBO, or you may simply say its hard to prove if jobs were saved or created, however HCR is a series of health insurance reforms. Not over is it not a government take over, since there’s not even a government insurance plan.. its not even really about Health care. The government has absolutely no involvement with your health care, your doctors, your tests, or anything else. So it is a pretty big lie…

    and again, that’s not saying its a good big…but its far from a government take over of health care. I guess you could call it over regulation of the insurance industry but that’s about it.

  27. I thought 2010 was the Gitmo was promised to be closed.

  28. How about the big lie that the Tea Party was nothing but astroturfed racists?

  29. The Vichy Regime: Proof that there was never a Nazi “take over” of France.

  30. So the outcome of Munich in 1938 was not a take-over of Czechoslovakia, because after all, it left an emasculated, indefensible rump surrounded by hostile states on all sides and a proven non-availability of allies willing to protect it? That’s about what Pelosicare has left of the private health delivery industry here, slice it as thinly as you please. So *of course* it’s not a take-over; we’ve left the private system existing on sufferance until 2014, and if they dare do something like point out the defects, we’ll cut them out of our markets so they all fold.

  31. Vibram Fivefingers Men’s & FiveFingers Women’s are hot sale,all of our Mbt shoes from Vibram. http://www.getvibramfivefingers.com

  32. I’m simply amazed that a rabidly hard left paper with a spin off “factchecker” website would be taken seriously by anybody. Only the most die hard leftwing Obama sycophants could claim this is the “biggest” lie…

    oh come on..

    Obama hasn’t been able to find the whole truth on any subject since he was baptized by the MSM as our political missiah. You can certainly disagree with the statement.. but to claim this is the “biggest lie” is downright insulting to any person not dipped in the deep blue flavored Koolaid.

    I’m medically retired and if you think this bill is a good thing to folks like me.. uh huh… count on alot of us voting republican for the forseeable future.

    I’ve been on medicaid for awhile,. and trust me.. Blue Cross Anthem was vastly superior.. Between Medicaid and Workers Comp, I can’t decide which gubmint run system is more incompetent. Vastly slower, and if you think there is an ounce of compassion in them..

    You must think Cuba has a truly glorious system.

    private health care everytime, if given a choice. Had the gubmint version, and they suck.

  33. Not addressed, wha about the pols saying the overwhemling numbers of Doctors who will opt to just quit the profession rather than deal with the nitemare of underpayments and paperwork?

    The single payer rah rah chorus going to suggest conscripting doctors against their will?

    or lowering standards in medical schools to fill in the giant gaps left unfilled?

    I don’t know if the majority of doctors will quit, but why should they stay? To be told by progressive politicians who they can deal with and what they can be paid for doing? Why is that such an improvement over private insurance companies? Their concern is money, a predictable motivation that can be factored in. But politicians?

    What is their motivation for denying certain treatments? Money? or perhaps a touch of social engineering thrown in..

  34. the health care reform law had little to do with health care and everything to do with the government take over of the health insurance industry. Health care is what happens when you walk into your doctors office and interact with your doctor. Or what happens when you go into the hospital and interact with the hospital staff.

    This new law has taken the power from the states to regulate the insurance sold in each state and assumed the regulation for themselves. They now control the makeup of all insurance policies sold in the US. They control the amt of the payments for the services that are provided under the policy. They mandated that every person had to buy this insurance.

    So please explain how this can not be considered a take over of the Health Insurance Industry. And the quality of the Health care you receive at the doctors office and the hospital is directly related to the amt the doctor and hospital receives for these services.

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