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Does "Fact Checking" Help?

Posted by Bob Moore on

Bob Moore

Bob Moore

You all know the old joke — "How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving."

I agree that the distortion of truth in campaigns is egregious and it is difficult for the average citizen to make judgments about the truth. However, I am starting to become uneasy about this whole "fact checking" phenomenon that has become so prominent in the media.

A case in point is what happened after the first Obama-Romney debate. One news network fact checked a statement by Romney and declare it true. I changed channels just in time for another fact checking network to declare the same statement false!

Despite the intentions, I think the fact-checking is adding to the muddying rather than bringing clarity. We are not being served well by the Pinocchios, the half true, and the pants on fire judgments. Even the resources used for fact-checking have problems.

Those that find Romney's tax plan credible tout academic studies from Princeton and Harvard, but also reference opinion-based blogs with no statistical analysis as credible sources.

Those that find it false often refer to a study by the Tax Policy Center which is presented as "unbiased" even though one of the authors was an economist previously employed in President Obama's White House. This allows both parties to accuse the other side of having their own facts.

What we as voters should be focusing on are the principles voiced by the Obama and Romney. How do they propose to the handle our $16 trillion dollar deficit? Tax increases? Cuts in spending? A combination of both?

How do they propose to stimulate the economy? Deregulation? Tax Reform? Stimulus spending? Do they see a need to reform entitlements?

Specific numbers will change once they are elected and have to deal with Congress. The principles, though, will tell you what is guiding them even if the specifics change.

In 1932, FDR never spelled out the New Deal in his campaign, but his principles were on display for all to see. Voters trusted those principles and FDR enacted the New Deal.

All of the numbers thrown around in the remaining debates may have no connection to what actually happens over the next four years, but the beliefs of the candidates that are also on display will.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.


Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.