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.'
"In the 'mostly false' fact check, you call my assertions -- plural -- 'eye-popping.' Plural, of course, means you not only found my 'almost 50 percent' claim 'eye-popping,' but you had to have found at least one of my two other assertions 'eye-popping,' as well.
"Katie said 'all,' not 'both.' 'All,' to me, means three claims -- not one, not two.
"Two of my 'eye-popping claims' were true, but I still get 'mostly false.'
"You essentially said that it was the most 'eye-popping' of my claims -- so you gave it more weight. That is also unfair.
"First, PunditFact switched the goal posts from being concerned about 'all' my assertions, to ignoring the two that check out.
"Second, why do you think the 'almost 50 percent' part was the most 'eye popping' assertion? I don't. I'm willing to bet, as I said in our interview, that Katie was gob-smacked when she heard that in 1900 government took less than 10 percent and now it takes 35 percent! But this 'eye-popping' (and truthful) assertion checks out and gets ignored. Suddenly, you focus only on the 'almost 50 percent' part. Unfair.
"Finally, you say 'you could find no expert' to corroborate the 50 percent number. Really? I offered Grover Norquist's organization, and it assigns an even higher number to the cost of mandates. You rejected that. Nobody at the American Enterprise Institute? Nobody at the libertarian Reason Foundation? Nobody at Heritage? Nobody at the Competitive Enterprise Institute?
"I won't even bring up the lenient grade you gave Ed Schultz when he exaggerated the number of teachers Gov. Chris Christie supposedly 'fired' by over 30 percent -- and still got a 'half truth.'
"Soft on lefties, hard on conservatives?
"Please reconsider. I take my credibility quite seriously, and you've slammed my character and integrity. Stuff like this affects one's stature and even career. You should have been more considerate and respectful.
"I treated you with courtesy and respect tonight. I hope you will do likewise.
Media tells us that the lost and "schizophrenic" GOP cannot decide between the tea party and "more mainstream candidates." But if liberal media bias didn't exist, it wouldn't matter whether they nominated Texas' Sen. Ted Cruz or New Jersey's Christie. UCLA Professor Tim Groseclose, author of the media bias book "Left Turn," says that in presidential elections, liberal media bias gives Dems an 8 to 10 point advantage out of the gate. Were the media truly "fair and balanced," the voting electorate, writes Groseclose, would resemble red state Texas.
The old line goes, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own set of facts. Yet leftwing fact-checkers give us leftwing "facts."