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Fact and Opinion

It was U.S. financier, statesman and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch who is quoted as having first said, “Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” 

While opinions in our time are so polarized as to make even the discussion of what may be considered actual facts difficult, some things can and should be known. Some statements are lies. They violate what can be easily and publicly known.

How Bad Does the Lie Have to Be?

Normally, nothing is of less interest to me than the charges and counter-charges which go back and forth in political campaigns. The word hyperbole, meaning, “exaggeration to the point of impossibility,” is tailor-made for such circumstances. However, there have been statements in Presidential campaigns which were so egregious that had the blogosphere existed at the time and had I been publishing a blog in the day, I would have posted in an attempt to set the record straight for at least a few persons, a tiny fraction of those who would vote in the next general election in November.[1]

Facts in August, September and October, 2012

Therefore, from this day forward, if I encounter an erroneous charge based on a clear falsehood, especially when that assertion by one candidate or another is repeated frequently as a part of an overall attack on the other, I will put a sticky post here on my site for a few days. When a false statement is made forcefully and repeatedly by a candidate or surrogate, someone is lying and the lie, at least, should be exposed.

The First Case of a Serious, Knowable, Repeated Lie

Case in Point: Mitt Romney’s Claim: “Obama Robbed Over $700 Billion from Medicare in order to finance ‘Obamacare.'”

This charge has been stated and repeated over the course of at least a week now by Candidate Romney including his appearance on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, August 12. If the candidate does not know his statement is false he could easily discover it, if he would.

The Facts

The Affordable Medical Care Act took many billion dollars worth of services which were provided to U.S. senior citizens by “Medicare Advantage” (the private insurance company plan for which most seniors sign up because it covers gaps in Medicare coverage) and reassigned those services to Medicare proper, the actual government program. In other words, “Obamacare” filled many gaps in medical coverage by taking those services away from the private insurers and covering them directly.

Result? An estimated $716 billion in savings for the government and seniors.

How, you may ask, did the government save that much money? Easy. Private insurers have overhead costs, ranging from 20% to 35% of their fees. Medicare overhead costs come in at about 3%. So any service offered by Medicare directly rather than by the various “Medicare Advantage” private policies, saves the patient and the government between 17% and 32% of costs for each service or procedure.


Hence, the only people who should be unhappy about this savings, the only folks who should feel they have been “robbed” are the overpriced private insurers. Everyone else comes out ahead.

Ought Romney and Ryan know perfectly well Obama has not “stolen” $716 billion from Medicare recipients? Of course, because the same exact savings appear in the Ryan Republican budget which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. Please pass this fact around.

Help stamp out lies! Regardless of what party does this sort of thing, I truly hate it. Lies and smear tactics distort the democratic process. Winning at all cost makes losers of us all.

An Offer

If anyone who reads this blog comes up with a similar whopper, please send it my way. Regardless of the candidate or party, after checking out the “fact” for veracity, I will post it. Political lies are constitutionally protected speech in the U.S. but the ones who lie should not get away with it. 

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1 Back to Post Among those old, outright lies?
1) That Barry Goldwater was likely to “nuke” the Soviets and was therefore too dangerous a man to be elected President. That was utterly false. A series of statements made in private by Goldwater to friends about “‘nuking’ the Soviets” were blown out of all proportion by the Johnson campaign so as to define Goldwater as “trigger-happy.” He was not an intemperate man and those who had heard his remarks had known he was joking.
2) That Al Gore was a boastful liar who claimed to have created the internet and boasted that a popular fictional book was about him. In fact, when Gore said he had “invented the internet,” everyone present knew what he meant. Gore, when he was in Congress, had introduced an amendment to a DOD appropriations bill which funded the expansion of the internet from a tiny connection between a few businesses, universities and some Defense sub-departments to become a platform on which tens of millions of persons could communicate on a daily basis. Gore’s opposition painted him as having lied about this when, like Goldwater, he had told a joke. And the book, Love Story, was partly inspired by Gore’s life, especially his relationship with his rich and powerful father, according to author, Erich Segal. Yet Gore was painted as being a person who had trouble with the truth.