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When a “fact check” is no such thing

Tuesday, Sep 7, 2010

* Ever since the Daily Herald lost its political reporter (Eric Krol and then Joe Ryan) and its Statehouse bureau chief (John Patterson), its campaign stories have really gone downhill.

A great case in point is the paper’s latest piece on Republican 10th Congressional District candidate Bob Dold and Social Security reform.

The issue first heated up when Dold posted this on his Facebook page and then deleted it

Congressman Paul Ryan has taken a lot of heat for his Social Security plan, which would allow people under the age of 55 to invest a portion of their FICA tax

Offers workers under 55 the option of investing over one third of their current Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts, similar to the Thrift Savings Plan available to Federal employees.

That’s pretty much the same idea that got President George W. Bush is such hot water after the 2006 campaign. And it’s very much like Dold’s own plan which he wrote about before the GOP primary in his Tribune questionnaire

Additionally, I would propose allowing a portion of Social security payments (not more that 25%) to be put into Government authorized individual retirement accounts that would be able to be passed to heirs if not used

Dold now says on his website only that he would allow people under 55 to invest a “small portion” of their FICA taxes.

Ryan says his plan isn’t privatization, and that’s the only source the Daily Herald used in its alleged fact check…

THE FACTS: The official website for Ryan’s proposal, roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov, details its concepts for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. It also includes a section called “Setting the Record Straight” that seeks to debunk accusations about the plan, as well as another section with answers to frequently asked questions.

According to the website, the Roadmap would not privatize Social Security. The personal accounts it proposes would be managed by a public board.

It’s not difficult to find other sources which claim that Ryan wants to privatize Social Security. But Ryan’s statement is presented as the one and only “fact.”

And instead of quoting Dold’s very own Chicago Tribune questionnaire which cited the 25 percent figure, the Daily Herald instead delved into the semantics of Dold’s original Facebook post and the he said/she said which followed.

I know I’m repeating myself this morning, but this is yet another reason why blogs can often be far better vehicles for reading about politics (or anything else) because they are much more willing to use material from different sources than newspapers are. It’s just stupid that the DH didn’t quote Dold’s Tribune response. It makes zero sense. Their fact check is rendered completely meaningless. I’m not sure why they even bothered.

* To make matters worse, the DH completely botched the admittedly stale deleted Facebook post controversy. This is the explanation the Dold campaign gave me for removing that Paul Ryan post

It’s Facebook. We put things up and take things down all the time. We’re not announcing policy on Facebook.

And this is what the Dold campaign just told the Daily Herald…

As for the disappearing Facebook post, a Dold spokeswoman said the comment simply was replaced by one about a different issue, the proposed Metra STAR line. Dold stands by the original posting’s message, she said.

Democrat Dan Seals’ campaign watches that Dold Facebook page pretty closely and they say they’ve never seen the Republican delete a post except for that Ryan post. And you don’t “replace” Facebook posts. You can delete them and add a new post, but there’s no such thing as replacing them. It’s a goofy explanation and the Daily Herald “fact check” completely let them skip away clean. Also, if they don’t post about policy on Facebook, why did they post about Metra?

* Meanwhile, the Dan Seals campaign claims its latest poll has the Democrat with a large lead. From a press release…

– DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD: Seals holds a 13-point lead over Republican Bob Dold, 49% to 36%. This margin is slightly larger than Seals’ 8-point lead in May (46% to 38%). [http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2010/07/poll_watch_dems_find_glimmers.html]

– WINNING INDEPENDENTS: Seals leads by 5 points among self-identified independent voters, 39% to 34%.

– STRONGER NAME ID: Seals’ name identification remains strong at 74% compared to his opponent, who was recognized by just 47% of respondents. Seals leads in both Cook and Lake Counties and leads with almost every demographic subgroup.

– LARGE CROSSOVER VOTE: In addition to his strong base of Democratic and independent support, Seals is also winning 16% of voters who say they plan to support Mark Kirk in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, pointing to a diverse coalition of bi-partisan support.

The campaign’s polling memo is here. A We Ask America poll taken in early August had this race much closer, with Seals leading Dold by just 3 points. But there have been some problems with that poll’s accuracy.

* Down-ballot campaign roundup…

* Hare, Schilling agree to 2 debates, but where?

* Cullerton says Democrats will retain state Senate

* Lots of Lawmakers on the Ballot, Few Races Close

* A look at some of the hottest state legislative races in the suburbs

* Legislative debates slated at Decatur Tech Academy

* Washington: Forrest gains, but can he topple Dem?

* Segvich supporters back Daley challenger

* Cook County Board Candidate Admits Conviction

* Felicia Page finds niche in Macon County State’s Attorney’s office

* Maurice Davis begins run in Macon County State’s Attorney’s office

* GOP to open Vermilion County HQ on Tuesday

- Posted by Rich Miller        


6 Comments
  1. - John Bambenek - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 11:46 am:

    Remind me again why letting younger workers invest a portion of what would be contributed to Social Security would be so catastrophic (assuming we keep the promises made to current and soon-to-be retirees)?

    Take into account that private (or semi-private) investment accounts wouldn’t be able to be “tapped” (in theory at least) for current government spending as opposed to the pile of IOUs that make up the Social Security Distrust Fund.


  2. - John Galt - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 12:06 pm:

    After following a few DuPage County races pretty closely, it’s my opinion that the Daily Herald is pretty crummy at reporting political stories. They either end up being blatantly biased and/or only reporting half of the story. Not a fan of Jake Griffin….


  3. - Fan of the Game - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    Journalism as it has been marketed to us over the past half century is just about dead. Those objective reporters delivering facts are gone. They have been replaced by the wire story and the rehashed press release because they are cheaper and fill space just as well.

    Fact checking is irrelevant. If the story is written correctly, everything in it can be true without being true. For example, let’s say a story reads, “The Joe Blow campaign says it released all of the candidate’s tax records.” No fact checking is needed. It is factually true that the campaign made that statement. Whether the candidate actually released the tax records might be open to debate.

    The void will be filled. Capitol Fax is one of the media that will fill it because discerning people want to see the whole picture…the real picture.


  4. - Xgman - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 12:41 pm:

    So now Dold supports the Star line!?! In the primary he had two or three mailers criticizing the RTA reform bill that made the Star line a possibility. So he was anti-transit then; and now pro-transit? Does he believe in anything?


  5. - KeepSmiling - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 2:00 pm:

    Yes and our non-fact-checking non-reporters aren’t even looking into the results of Metra’s New Starts analysis to illuminate whether the STAR Line is a good idea. The media doesn’t seem to care that the ridership projections and the cost effectiveness of the STAR Line have been determined, but Metra will not share the info with the public. (thanks, taxpayers, for footing the bill for the $1 million plus study that you don’t get to see.) I hear the results are not such great news for the STAR Line. But while the findings sit under-wraps in an office, Metra will once again let politicians use the STAR Line to try to get support from the mayors and communities along it.


  6. - G. Willickers - Tuesday, Sep 7, 10 @ 10:34 pm:

    Hey Bambenek — there ain’t nothing stopping you from investing whatever you want right now. 401(k)s, IRAs and Roth IRAs are all protected forms of investing for retirement and, if you can afford it, you can pour all the money you want into your own private investments outside of those vehicles too.

    But to claim you want to invest a portion of Social Security in some way that still “keeps the promise” to seniors is beyond obtuse. Magic is pretend and magic is the only that gets done.

    Well, magic or a drastic benefits cut or a massive FICA tax increase, either of which would be necessary to fund the enormous amount of Wall Street fees necessary to run such a pipedream scheme.

    Here’s the thing you and your fellow conservatives just don’t get. Social Security ain’t an investment. It’s insurance. It’s insurance against living in a cardboard box tucked away in an alley off Green Street in Champaign. It’s insurance against choosing between a scoop of dry cat food or half a can of dog food as your only meal for the day.

    And when you siphon off 25% (or whatever percent you think you can get away with) in order to create another 401(k) or IRA by a different name such an action would either raises taxes or cuts “the promise” of which you speak so highly by default.

    Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, not even in conservative-lala-land.


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