Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Discerning Truth from Fiction

Can Statement Analysis help decide if this single short statement is reliable?  Can we know from the statement itself, without the author's proof?

Without reading the author's arguments, what do you make of the statement itself?

The statement is in italics, with the author's response.   Please post your Statement Analysis in comments section.  By the title of the author's article (and the conclusion) he believes this is a lie.  What principles do you highlight?  On paper, what would you do with this short statement?  Following the article is analysis but you must scroll down a bit .  Post your analysis first.  

Obama’s whopper of a claim on tax cuts

“We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.”
— President Obama, Sept. 5, 2011

The president’s Labor Day speech in Detroit featured an assertion that contained a number of warning signs that it might be an errant fact: “biggest middle-class tax cut in history.”
 First of all, anytime a politician claims he or she has done something historic, watch your pockets. That’s usually a dubious claim.
 Then, “biggest” can mean all sorts of things. If we are talking about dollars, then are they inflation-adjusted or measured against the overall economy? Raw dollar figures are essentially meaningless without that context.
 Finally, the “middle-class” modifier. What’s the definition of “middle-class”? There are many ways one could slice and dice that classification.
 Clearly the president wants to demonstrate he’s a tax-cutter. And certainly White House officials have been frustrated that the $116 billion Making Work Pay tax cut was largely unnoticed by Americans.
 We decided to put the president’s claim to the test.

The Facts

We took an informal survey in our office and asked people what they thought the president’s statement meant. Everyone agreed he was claiming the biggest tax cut in terms of dollars. 

Imagine our surprise when the White House responded that he wasn’t talking about dollars at all.
“The point the president was making that is there is not a tax cut that has been enjoyed by such a broad section of the population,” an administration official said, pointing to a report that said that 95 percent of working families received some kind of tax cut under the Making Work Pay provision in his stimulus bill.
 In other words, this isn’t about the size of the tax cut, but about the fact that every working family, except those making more than $190,000, received as much as $800 in tax cuts.
 That strikes us as very odd way to claim “the biggest,” but maybe that’s because Obama can’t make that claim. We ran the numbers every which way, but the fairest over time is to look at the tax cut as a percentage of national income (Gross Domestic Product minus depreciation.)
 John F. Kennedy seems to win the prize for biggest tax cut, at least in the last half century. By the same measure, the income tax provisions of George W. Bush tax cuts are more than twice as large as Obama’s tax cut over the same three-year time span. (Yes, a large portion of Bush’s tax cut went to the wealthy, but it also benefited the working poor. We still don’t know what Obama means by “middle class,” since his definition also seems to include the working poor.)
 Incidentally, the report that the administration official cited as “outside validation” for the 95 percent statistic just mentioned it as an aside. We checked with one of the co-authors, and he said the source for the figure was a White House fact sheet.
We’re not that impressed by the 95 percent claim, in any case. Essentially, all this means is that the top 5 percent of taxpayers did not receive the tax cut. Some economists might argue the cut-off limited the effectiveness of the provision as economic stimulus.

The Pinocchio Test

 Obama’s claim of having passed the “biggest middle-class tax cut in history” is ridiculous. He might have been on more solid ground if he had claimed the “broadest” tax cut, but that doesn’t sound very historic.
 We went back and forth over whether this was a three or four Pinocchio violation, until we found evidence that Obama knew he was saying a whopper.  Here’s how he put it in his 2010 State of the Union speech: “We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.”  That phrasing, at least, would not have been so misleading.

 Four Pinnocchios


Watch Obama’s Labor Day speech


Statement Analysis section:

“We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets."

it can't be that just can't be....Answers come so often in simple pronouns. 

We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.

We flag the change of pronouns as unreliable.   "Us" didn't take office, but the singular "me" did.  

"We" did not sign anything.  One subject signed a bill into law, and one signature only.  

When someone knows that something is not true, it is very difficult to take ownership of it, and using a "we" helps spread around guilt and gives a feeling of needed strength.  

When one knows it is truthful, human nature being what it is, the human RUSHES to grab ownership.  "I said...middle class needed a break, so within one month of me taking office, I signed..." would have been strong.  

"I" signed into law because it was within one month of "ME" taking office."  

He back peddles away from commitment, so we must do so in our analysis.  It is no different than many complicated statements we have looked at.

How often have we seen guilty parties use the word "we" when singular was appropriate?  More times than I can count.   I did not need to read any 'proof' to note that the President was not strong on this statement and not committed to it.  All I needed to do was all that you needed to do:


I hope you have done this so many times, that you 'circle the pronouns in your head' as you hear or read them.   


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