PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.
Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)
By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.
The phrase is simply not true.
Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "
PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'Death panels'
By Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.
Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.
The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.
Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really ?"
The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times , have chosen it as our inaugural "Lie of the Year."
PolitiFact readers overwhelmingly supported the decision. Nearly 5,000 voted in a national poll to name the biggest lie, and 61 percent chose "death panels" from a field of eight finalists. ( See the complete results .)
This is the story of how two words generated intense heat in the national debate over health care.
A ‘Job-Killing’ Law?
House Republicans misrepresent the facts. Experts predict the health care law will have little effect on employment.
January 7, 2011
Bookmark and Share
When it comes to truth in labeling, House Republicans are getting off to a poor start with their constantly repeated references to the new health care law as "job-killing."
* Independent, nonpartisan experts project only a "small" or "minimal" impact on jobs, even before taking likely job gains in the health care and insurance industries into account.
* The House Republican leadership, in a report issued Jan. 6, badly misrepresents what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the law. In fact, CBO is among those saying the effect "will probably be small."
* The GOP also cites a study projecting a 1.6 million job loss — but fails to mention that the study refers to a hypothetical employer mandate that is not part of the new law.
* The same study cited by the GOP also predicts an offsetting gain of 890,000 jobs in hospitals, doctors’ offices and insurance companies — a factor not mentioned by the House leadership.
There’s little doubt that the new law will likely lead to somewhat fewer low-wage jobs. That’s mainly because of the law’s requirement that, generally, firms with more than 50 workers pay a penalty if they fail to provide health coverage for their workers. One leading health care expert, John Sheils of The Lewin Group, puts the loss at between 150,000 and 300,000 jobs, at or near the minimum wage. And Sheils says that relatively small loss would be partly offset by gains in the health care industry.
Attaching misleading labels to legislation is a well-worn tactic in Washington. Conservatives got rid of most of the estate tax after labeling it a "death tax," as though it taxed death instead of multimillion-dollar fortunes. And liberals once won passage of an "assault weapons ban" that didn’t really ban fully automatic military assault rifles, which were already illegal for civilians to own without a very-hard-to-get federal license. Now House Republicans are seeking to repeal what they call "Obamacare: A budget-busting, job-killing health care law." That’s the title of a study issued by the House Republican leadership Jan. 6.
And the GOP is clearly pushing the "job-killer" claim. House Speaker John Boehner used the phrase "job-killing" to describe the health care law seven times on Thursday in a press conference that lasted less than 14 minutes — that’s once every 2 minutes. He also used the phrases "destroy jobs" and "destroying jobs" once each when talking about the law. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Republicans named their bill to repeal the health care law: "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."
But is the health care law really "job-killing" as claimed? We find that to be another case of exaggerated and misleading labeling.