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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fact Checking is Important

Today I leave for Germany, so I am up early doing some last minute things. While eating breakfast and drinking tea, I was watching the news and saw Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell being interviewed. During the course of the interview, the intervewer presented Mr. McConnell with some statistics displaying massive support for a government health plan. Mr. McConnel responded first with, "Well, it's how you phrased the question. Had you phrased it, 'Do you want the government between you and your doctor?', you would have had much worse support." Of course, McConnell is conveniently leaving out the fact that currently it is the insurance company between you and your doctor, and the insurance company has far more incentive to deny health-care than the government. Anyway, what followed was worse, however. In trying to explain his boneheaded rephrasing of the question, McConnell said something along the lines of, "Because that what it will be. We see in countries that have national health plans long waits and delays in treatment, and that is reflected in their life spans."

When you are going to make a statement like that, know what the hell you are talking about. Canada and France both have life expectancies beyond the American life expectancy (According to the UN estimates, both Canada and France have an average life expectancy of 80.7 while the U.S. has one of 78.2). Likewise, countries that have a mixture of government and private health care (but a predominant emphasis on the government provided health care) like Norway and Japan also have longer life expectancies (Japan has an exceedingly impressive 82.6 years and Norway 80.2). While a few years seems quibbling, it is still a few years in the exact opposite direction implied by Mr. McConnell. I wish journalists would challenge politicians for sources a little more often.


Robert said...

Yes, this was excellent. Could not agree with you more.

BrianS1137 said...

There's an interesting book called the 'Oh Really' Factor which calls out Bill O'Reilly on a number of his factual errors. I saw it at a friend's house and it's definitely worth a skim if you get the chance. Unfortunately, both sides tend to use these tactics to some extent, but for some reason the most public figures who do so tend to be conservative. I know that reading this kind of material also makes me more aware to do a bit of background-checking myself before parroting back something I've been told.

Robert said...

I have that book. It is written by Peter Hart from FAIR, a media watch dog group. They are my favorite nonprofit organization. The same group did a book called The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, another outstanding book.