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


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.