Ryan to Bachmann to Paul

Published: May 22, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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With baseball season underway, it’s time once again, to consult with the fact checkers to see who stretches the truth and who knocks it out of the park.

While the White House certainly has enough of its own questions to answer between Benghazi, the IRS and the AP phone records issue, some members of Congress like to pile onin spite of the facts.

According to FactCheck.org, “Rep. Paul Ryan distorted the facts while making the claim that a real investigation needs to be done to find out how high up the IRS scandal went.

“… Ryan said the [Inspector General] investigators ‘didn’t look at emails, they didn’t look at intent, they didn’t look who was in the chain of information. So, none of that information has been acquired yet.’

“It’s a matter of opinion,” FactCheck.org writes, “whether the IG investigators were thorough enough, but Ryan underplayed the extent of the IG’s report. In fact, the IG’s investigators didconduct interviews and scrutinize emails, and they attempted to find out how high up the chain the directive regarding the targeting of some conservative groups went…

“The report also includes a High-Level Organizational Chart of Offices Referenced in This Report,’ (Appendix V, page 29) as well as a detailed timeline whose express purpose was to try to describe who knew what and when.

FactCheck adds, “Again, we take no position about whether further investigation is warranted. But Ryan’s assertion that the IG’s investigators didn’t look at emails or attempt to ‘look who was in the chain of information’ is not accurate.”

Then there’s Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who, in a recent appearance (May 19) on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, said “There’s rumors that who wrote the [IRS] policy [to scrutinize tea party and other conservative groups] is the person running Obamacare, which doesn’t give us a lot of confidence about Obamacare.

“He’s referring to Sarah Hall Ingram,” FactCheck writes, “who served as the IRS’ commissioner for the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division for a portion of the period under the IG’s review. Ingram is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office (so not “running” Obamacare, just overseeing the IRS end).

“More importantly, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report makes no suggestion that Ingram ‘wrote the policy’ that resulted in the IRS targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.”

While White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer appeared on Fox News Sunday to say that further inspections of the IRS are to come, he pointed out “that [Ingram] was not named in the inspector-general’s report. No one has suggested she’s done anything wrong, yet… [and] the acting commissioner is going to do a 30-day review. And everyone who did anything wrong is going to be held accountable.”

Once again, Senator Rand Paul is jumping the gun before a full accountability report is complete.

This brings me to my favorite member of Congress; an individual esteemed by Politifact.com as having the highest ranking of false and misleading statements of anyone. I’m talking about Michele Bachmann – the legislative “shortstop” who makes Sarah Palin look encyclopedic in her “grasp” of the facts.

According to Politifact, in an interview with Fox News (May 15), Bachmann concerning the IRS, Minnesota’s own offered this gem: “So now we find out these people are making decisions based on our politics and beliefs, and they’re going to be in charge of our health care. There’s a huge national database that’s being created right now. Your health care, my health care, all the Fox viewers health care, their personal, intimate, most close to the vest secrets will be in that database, and the IRS is in charge of that database? So the IRS will have the ability potentially — will they? — to deny health care, to deny access, to delay health care? This is serious! Based upon our political beliefs? That’s why we have to repeal Obamacare. And I still think it’s possible.”

(I’ll politely step over the fact that the House has tried, unsuccessfully, to repeal the Affordable Care Act 37 times, and get to truth or friction in Bachmann’s statement.)

Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize winning organization breaks it into three parts:

1) The IRS “is going to be in charge of our healthcare.”

Here’s what Politifact found: “most Americans will not see any dramatic change in how they obtain insurance, since the law leaves in place the existing system of health coverage provided by employers. In fact, in 2010, we chose the claim that the law amounts to a “government takeover of health care” as our Lie of the Year. To claim that one portion of the government — the IRS — is going to run health care is even more far-fetched. The IRS will have nothing to do with the nuts-and-bolts provision of health care to Americans.

“Even among federal agencies, the law puts far more responsibility in the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The department’s Web page on the health care law says that ‘HHS is responsible for implementing many of the health reform changes included in the Affordable Care Act,’ including ‘significant roles’ for an alphabet soup of HHS offices, including the Administration on Aging, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

Politifact rates Bachmann’s statement as False.

2) “The IRS will have the ability, potentially” to deny or delay health care.

Here’s how Politifact summarized this: “Bachmann said ‘the IRS will have the ability potentially’ to deny or delay health care. She makes it sound like the IRS would purposefully deny or delay people from getting health coverage, perhaps based on an applicant’s political beliefs. Experts told us that was extremely far-fetched. But if complicated logistical challenges are not met, there is a chance that IRS could inadvertently end up delaying some of the millions of uninsured Americans seeking subsidies from purchasing insurance on the exchanges.”

Politifact rates this Bachmann statement: Mostly False.

3) Bachmann claimed that the IRS is going to be in charge of “a huge national database” on health care that will included Americans’ “personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest secrets.”

In summarizing, Politifact found: “The congresswoman chooses to believe that the IRS and the rest of the government intend to delve ever-further into Americans’ personal lives. We can’t predict what will happen in the future, but as best we can tell now, she has mischaracterized the intent and limitations of the hub. It’s not a ‘database.’ The IRS isn’t running it. It won’t include ‘intimate’ health data. And most Americans won’t need to interact with it at all.”

As a result, Politifact rates this Bachmann statement: Pants on Fire!

Both Politifact and FactCheck.org labeled Bachmann’s statement as politically motivated “overreach.”

But let’s be fair. The President has also run afoul of fact checking himself over the past 5 years. Of 476 statements checked by Politifact, the President’s totals are as follows:

46 percent have been rated True or Mostly True.
27 percent were rated Half True.
26 percent were rated as False or Mostly False.
And 1 percent were rated as Pants on Fire.

How does he compare to Representative Michele Bachmann? Of 125 statements checked:

17 percent were rated True or Mostly True.
11 percent were rated Half True.
54 percent were rated False or Mostly False.
And 18 percent were rated Pants on Fire False.

Ethical Bottom Line: citizens need to be able to trust that those elected to lead need to do so using the facts – no matter how those facts shake out.


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