The confetti has been swept up, the balloons deflated, and the banners pulled down. One half of the country quietly weeps and moves to Canada, and the other half has yet another excuse for a kegger. The election is over, and what an election it was. While Obama receives instructions from his Kenyan Marxist Islamist masters for the next four years, it is worth looking back at the long saga of the race to the White House.
What we will find is extremely disappointing, although unsurprising. We will find that no matter who plunks their ass down in the Oval Office in January, they did so in no small part by lying. Truth definitively lost in 2012.
The accompanying charts are based off of rulings by Politifact, which is far from an infallible source, but offers a decent look at the general trustworthiness of the candidates. Each figure shows the different levels of truthfulness of each candidate’s statements as a percentage of the total. The first chart is based off of all notable statements in the candidates’ history, including ones made previous to this election. The second chart is based off of major statements made during the three presidential debates. In case anyone was uncertain before, these graphs confirm that our politicians are quite deceitful.
Romney is certainly a worse liar than Obama. Only 15 percent of his statements were absolutely true, and 41 percent of his statements were some level of a lie. In the debates he was a little better, with 34 percent of his statements being untrue. In fact, many of the vital points of his entire campaign are based on something other than the truth.
Romney said that Obama attempted to get rid of work requirements for welfare. He did no such thing. He actually granted waivers to states specifically for them to create better work-to-welfare requirements. Improving work requirements is a bit different from removing work requirements.
Romney said that Obamacare represents a government takeover of healthcare. Politifact rated this as the 2010 lie of the year. The major components of Obamacare are designed to strengthen private healthcare, largely through the infamous mandate. No hospitals are getting nationalized unfortunately. It’s a common refrain on Fox News and the conservative blogosphere that Obama is a commie, but it’s a little worrisome how close Romney skirted here.
Speaking of blogs, Romney has frequently cited six studies that support his tax plan. Supposedly the studies examined his tax plan and came to the conclusion that Romney would not have to raise middle class taxes in order to both reduce upper income tax rates and the deficit. It turns out that some of those “studies” included op-eds and blog posts. Even better, out of those six studies, only one was done by someone not advising Romney, and that guy was on George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. CC professors would probably frown upon a student citing a blog post as an academic study. And the Honor Council may frown upon the student paying their friend to write it. No problem for Romney though.
Despite all of this, and many more lies, Romney’s biggest accomplishment may have been lying so much that he makes Obama look like Honest Abe. Obama may be lying 28 percent of the time according to the first graph, but hey, at least it’s not 41 percent like Romney. He lied half as much as Romney during the debates, but still managed to bullshit the American people for a good 16 percent of the time. Picking out Obama’s lies is a bit more difficult because he tends to be subtler about it. He will frequently structure things to be incredibly misleading as opposed to demonstrably false, although he is certainly not bereft those demonstrably false statements.
Obama said that healthcare premiums have increased slower in the past two years than anytime in the past 50 because of Obamacare. It was actually total healthcare spending, not premiums, that saw that slower increase, and it was almost entirely because of the recession. You didn’t build that Obama.
Obama said that Romney believes the infamous “papers please” Arizona immigration law is a model for the nation. Romney only said that he believed a very specific piece of Arizona’s immigration policy, which was enacted separately from the law Obama was referring to, should be used nation wide. It was a program requiring employers to electronically verify the legal status of employees, as opposed to the largely paper system currently in use. Romney basically just wanted an electronic version of the I-9 form.
Obama has said an untold number of things about Romney’s role at Bain Capital at this point, and his campaign has deviated from reason in many cases. Accusing of Romney helping Bain ship jobs overseas is one of the largest recurring themes, and Obama has even referred to it directly in speeches and debates. Yet there has been no solid evidence that Romney was in charge of Bain when some of the outsourcing decisions were made. They were all made after Romney had left to manage the 2002 Winter Olympics. There have been a lot of questions surrounding whether or not Romney was really no longer in charge of Bain at the time, but those conspiracies are better discussed in the left wing blogosphere than by the sitting President of the United States.
It’s hard to pinpoint who is most to blame for the dishonesty, or how it can be fixed. Politicians know that they can make false statements, but many voters will not have the time to examine them, or simply may not know any better. The media would ideally be the check on this system, but they have played along. If the mainstream media did their job and called out politicians on their dishonesty, then the politicians might stop lying. Instead, the media not only refrains from correcting incorrect statements but many organizations—I’m looking at you Fox News—actively perpetuate the misinformation.
The main problem is that major media outlets simply repeat what the campaigns say. They attempt to remove themselves from the picture by quoting the candidates and offering little context or correction. An average campaign report would read something like, “Romney claimed Obama killed 17 children with a BB gun as a teenager, Obama staffers are denying the governor’s statements.” Never in a million years would they directly say that Romney was lying. They would only tell viewers, listeners, or readers that Obama said Romney is lying. Everything is portrayed as a baseless war between two sides with no grounded reality to compare to. The result is that the candidates can lie at least a third of the time and be elected president.
None of this paints a good picture for American democracy. At this point, the most trustworthy names in news can largely be found on Comedy Central. While I love me some Jon Stewart, this is not good. How to fix the entire country’s campaign and media system is not something I’m prepared to answer, but we need to find a way to keep our politicians honest and our media useful, because this election saw neither.