25 Feb 2011

Politifact Schools Rachel Maddow on Wisconsin Budget

I love Politifact and Factcheck.org – I wish there were a half dozen of them in every state. Unlike polemics like Rachel Maddow, they use as objective and measurable material as they can to come to their conclusions. Maddow disagreed with a point they made recently, by totally ignoring whole swaths of their analysis. Their response can be summed up here:

We examined her statement that Wisconsin “is on track to have a budget surplus this year.” But she maintains that in the same segment, she made clear that she knew the state had a shortfall. (You can read a transcript of the entire segment here.)

We chose to examine her surplus claim because we had requests from many readers and it was the main focus at the beginning of her segment. It went on for nearly a minute. Her later statement about the shortfall was very brief and her main point seemed to be that the shortfall was created by $140 million in tax breaks for businesses. Still, we acknowledged in our article that she made that point.

In her criticism of PolitiFact Thursday night, Maddow misled viewers by repeatedly playing just a nine-word snippet of her saying that “There is in fact a $137 million budget shortfall.” She neglected to include her full quote in context:”There is in fact a $137 million budget shortfall. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, coincidentally, has given away $140 million worth of business tax breaks since he came into office. Hey, wait. That’s about exactly the size of the shortfall.”

That artful editing — plus the fact that she didn’t mention the more lengthy quote that we checked — deprived viewers of the full context for her remarks and our reasoning for checking the claim we checked. We not only examined that claim, we also debunked the suggestion from Maddow and others that the tax breaks were the cause of the $137 million shortfall.

As usual, their posts can run on a bit… but it is a fantastic example of how people who are looking for the truth, rather than supporting evidence for their predetermined ideological position, think through things. We would all do well to learn from these folks.

Read on at Politifact »

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