Anyone who’s ever longed to hit the pause button on the endless political spin cycle has a good resource in PolitiFact, an operation devoted to checking the veracity of public claims. PolitiFact has been especially active during the ongoing battle in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers.
PolitiFact is run by the St. Petersburg Times, in Florida, but it has several state affiliates, including one in Wisconsin. It rates claims on a truth-to-falsehood scale of true, mostly true, half true, barely true, false, and—for the mother of all whoppers—pants on fire.
They’ve dissected claims from both Democrats and Republicans, and found that the capacity for half-truth, or outright fiction, is biparitsan.
Here’s a sampling:
A TV ad says that Walker has sought to take money from workers, and give it to corporations. (One of his policies gave tax breaks for job creation.) Rating: mostly true. A policy institute says the average Milwaukee teacher's compensation tops $100,000, with salary and benefits. Rating: true. Yet U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has claimed that the average teacher in Wisconsin makes $89,000. Paul's number was too high and he may have conflated salary and benefits. Rating: false. State Democrats claimed that Republicans, in an effort to get control of protests, had bolted shut windows at the Capitol. Rating: pants on fire. On Walker's repeated assertion that his state is "broke," with no money to spend, as a reason for not negotiating over the governor's proposed spending cuts. Rating: false.
Of course, you could quarrel with any of PolitiFact’s judgments, and people often do. But any attempt at any independent breakdown of the rhetoric is welcome.
Other efforts to separate truth from fiction are available here.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.