When PunditFact -- the new offspring from the folks at PolitiFact -- contacted me, they wanted sources for "all of the claims" in the following statement I made Nov. 4 on CNN's "Crossfire":
"In 1900, at all three levels of government -- federal, state and local -- government took less than 10 percent of the American people's money. Now, we're talking about 35 percent, and when you add a dollar value to mandates, we're talking almost 50 percent."
What's the problem? PunditFact rated the statement as "mostly false." For added measure, PunditFact called the assertions "eye-popping."
No, I was not "mostly false." At worst, I was "mostly true." Broken down, "all" of my "claims" consist of three assertions. They are:
1) On size of government in 1900: "Less than 10 percent." PunditFact doesn't bother to even mention their findings on this "claim" -- no doubt because the number I gave is accurate. In essence, PunditFact admits I'm right.
2) On amount government now takes: "Now ... 35 percent." PunditFact admits I'm right.
3) On amount government takes at all levels when you "add a dollar value to mandates": I said, "Almost 50 percent." This requires judgment and assignment of value to things that are difficult to quantify. But there is a cost, even by the Elder-was-wrong experts PunditFact cited -- and the cost is north of zero.
Yet PunditFact determined that since a) it is difficult to quantify the cost of mandates, and b) experts disagree, my entire statement -- all three "eyepopping" assertions -- are scored "mostly false"?! This is nonsense.
For added measure, PunditFact quoted one tax professor: "Mr. Elder's statement is too vague to be useful for any purpose other than generating 'hallelujahs!' from the choir he is preaching to." Nice touch.
So I challenged PunditFact on my radio show, and to PunditFact's credit, the editor agreed to an interview. After our interview, I sent him the following letter:
"Thanks again for coming on. You're a stand-up guy.
"I respectfully and formally request that you re-visit your rating -- in hopes that I will get a fair one. I made good arguments this evening in our interview -- and you knew it.
"My quote consisted of three factual assertions.
"You've admitted that the first two were correct, leaving us with the 'cost' of mandates as our only unresolved issue.
"Katie's letter (Katie Sanders is the reporter who wrote the piece) spoke of fact checking 'all' my 'claims.'