Monday, June 26, 2017

TRUMPCARE: PEOPLE WILL DIE because of having to close 700 rural hospitals.

Every healthcare association, provider group, and patient advocacy group in the country is on red alert over Trumpcare, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's effort to end healthcare in the U.S. as we know it.
"There has never been a rollback of basic services to Americans like this ever in U.S. history," said Bruce Siegel, president of America's Essential Hospitals, a coalition of about 300 hospitals that treat a large share of low-income patients. "Let's not mince words. This bill will close hospitals. It will hammer rural hospitals, it will close nursing homes. It will lead to disabled children not getting services. . . . People will die."
That National Association of Medicaid Directors—the people who administer the program in every state—agree, but in less blunt language:
Changes in the federal responsibility for financing the program must be accompanied by clearly articulated statutory changes to Medicaid to enable states to operate effectively under a cap. The Senate bill does not accomplish that. It would be a transfer of risk, responsibility, and cost to the states of historic proportions.
While NAMD does not have consensus on the mandatory conversion of Medicaid financing to a per capita cap or block grant, the per capita cap growth rates for Medicaid in the Senate bill are insufficient and unworkable.
"Historic" cuts, "insufficient and unworkable" cuts—that's a bureaucratic way of hitting the panic button. They have every reason to panic—they're the ones who along with their states' governors are going to have to make the decisions over who lives with Medicaid and who dies without it. All the while Republicans were screaming about death panels in Obamacare, they were actually plotting out the most cruel way to create them.
The end of Medicaid as we know it? No exaggeration. The Senate version of Trumpcare has worse long-term cuts to Medicaid than the House version, to pay for tax breaks to the wealthy. Call your Republican senator at (202) 224-3121, and give them a piece of your mind. Tell us how it went.

CBO Report: 22 Million will lose Health Insurance..

The stats on the Senate health care bill are in: The Republicans’ new plan to repeal Obamacare would leave 22 million more people uninsured in 2026 than under current law. That’s according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper for Congress, which also predicts that the federal government would spend $772 billion less on Medicaid over the next decade.
Senate Republicans kept the bill secret until last Thursday, but they are nonetheless rushing forward with a plan to vote on it by the end of this week so they can wrap things up before they head home for the Fourth of July. In a nearly unprecedented move, the entire drafting of the bill happened behind closed doors, with zero public hearings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes that the accelerated schedule will help his members pass the controversial legislation before they are confronted by angry voters in their home states over the holiday recess. That could prove tricky, though, as a bloc of far-right conservative senators have said the bill doesn’t go far enough in undoing Obamacare. At the same time, the GOP leadership has encountered resistance from some of the more moderate Republicans—most notably, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is up for reelection next year.
House Republicans passed a similar bill in early May, which the CBO estimated would leave 23 million people uninsured. The Senate bill isn’t exactly the same—it uses a different mechanism to allow states to duck out of covering essential health benefits, and it has a different form of subsidies. But the core of both bills are the same: large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and the health industry, paid for by massive reductions to Medicaid, the governmental program that provides health insurance to poor Americans and long-term care to the elderly.
The Senate’s bill could wreak havoc on the Obamacare marketplaces for people who need to buy individual insurance. Currently, insurance companies can’t charge their oldest enrollees more than three times as much as the youngest. The GOP bill changes that ratio to 5:1, jacking up premiums for older Americans. Obamacare currently offers subsidies to help offset monthly premiums for people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level; the GOP bill would lower that threshold to 350 percent.
Under Obamacare, moreover, those subsidies are currently intended to help people buy so-called silver plans, which cover 70 percent of patients’ out-of-pocket costs. The Republican bill would lower those subsidies so that they pay for skimpier plan, with insurance companies now covering just 58 percent of out-of-pocket costs under the new subsidy formula. The bottom line: Deductibles would skyrocket.
The GOP bill—which was drafted by a working group made up entirely of men—would bar Planned Parenthood for a year from receiving any Medicaid funding to reimburse the organization for non-abortion services it provides to Medicaid payments. (Federal Medicaid funds are already prohibited form being used for most abortions.) The bill would also block subsidies from going to insurance plans that include abortion coverage.
But the bill would make even more significant changes to Medicaid. Obamacare attempted to expand Medicaid coverage to everyone who makes up to 138 percent of the poverty level (though 19 states have refused to adopt that expansion). Seventy-four million people nationwide now receive health coverage through the Medicaid program, with 11 million of those covered under the Medicaid expansion. The Senate bill would roll back most of the federal funding for the expansion by 2024.
But the legislation goes far beyond ending Obamacare’s Medicaid revisions. The Senate would impose a cap on federal Medicaid spending—ending the program’s promise to offer states funding for anyone who qualifies for the program. While those spending caps would rise over time, the bill pegs that rate to inflation, which experts warn will grow at a slower pace than the medical costs incurred by people currently on Medicaid. As federal funding increasingly falls behind spending demands over time, states would be faced with difficult choices: raising state-level spending on Medicaid, or kicking people off the program and rolling back coverage.

40 Economists say TrumpCare is bad for the economy and will take millions off of any health care plan.

Forty economists, including six Nobel Prize winners, have destroyed every major Republican lie about the healthcare bill in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The economists wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

Based on our reading of the bill, we believe that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would reduce coverage nearly as much as the House bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would take coverage away entirely from 23 million Americans and narrow coverage for millions more. At a time when economic change is making life more difficult for all but the relatively well-to- do, denying people to access health insurance is a giant step in the wrong direction.
The Senate bill will expose millions to increased out-of-pocket health care costs. It would base tax credits on a plan with greatly increased cost sharing and deductibles that could run to
$12,000 per family or more. Far from improving Obamacare, the Senate bill would reduce assistance for the millions of people who buy coverage through the state and federal marketplaces. Many now eligible for tax credits would be denied them entirely. States would be allowed to opt out of regulations that allow less healthy people to buy insurance at reasonable rates.
The savings from slashing health subsidies and coverage would go largely to bestowing tax cuts on upper-income tax filers. The richest 0.1 percent of tax filers would receive tax cuts averaging over $200,000 per return.
We call on Congress to work on legislation to improve the health delivery system, in general, and The Affordable Care Act, in particular. The goal should be to hold down health costs and increase access to affordable, quality health coverage for all. Unfortunately, the Better Care Reconciliation Act threatens reduced coverage and higher costs for those who continue to have it.
The forty economists who signed the letter included six Nobel Prize winners. The message from the economists has nothing to do with partisan politics. What they are discussing the true economic impact of the health care bill.
Every single one of the major lies that Republicans are telling about this legislation was debunked by the experts. People will lose their health insurance, and those who still have insurance will see their coverage narrowed. The Republican bill is going to increase costs and deductibles while reducing financial assistance for millions of people, and states will be allowed to strip protections from patients.
The Trump White House and Congressional Republicans have decided to go with a strategy of lying about what’s in the bill. The economists aren’t letting it happen. The American people need to know the truth. The Republican health care bill will do grave harm to health care system in the United States.
This letter is a must read for every American before the Senate votes later this week on healthcare.

Carbon in the Atmosphere is showing sudden rise - Scary Stuff.

CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.
But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.
For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.
Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions.
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing?
Continue reading the main story
“To me, it’s a warning,” said Josep G. Canadell, an Australian climate scientist who runs the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration among several countries to monitor emissions trends.
Scientists have spent decades measuring what was happening to all of the carbon dioxide that was produced when people burned coal, oil and natural gas. They established that less than half of the gas was remaining in the atmosphere and warming the planet. The rest was being absorbed by the ocean and the land surface, in roughly equal amounts.
In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste. But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up.

10 Stupid Things that Trump Supporters believe are factual but they are made up facts.

It’s no secret that when it comes to facts, supporters of Donald Trump aren’t overly fond of them. That’s how he became so successful within the GOP — pandering to people who don’t care about the truth. They are people who, as Ted Koppel perfectly described to Sean Hannity recently, believe that ideology and what they want to be real matters more than actual facts.

That being said, there’s still a difference between believing in things that aren’t completely accurate that can be slightly subjective, and believing that outright, easily debunked lies are actually true. When it comes to believing in the latter, Trump supporters take the cake.
While most of us are probably aware of this information, I thought I’d put together this list to serve as, what I think, will be a great tool to use in proving how delusional most of the people who support Trump actually are.
1. They think the economy has improved because of him: Despite the fact he hasn’t signed a single piece of major economic legislation, and the current economic data we’re seeing is clearly a continuation of the success we saw for the vast majority of Obama’s time in office, the Republican view on the economy has doubled since he took office. The exact same economy only 31 percent of Republicans felt positive about at the end of Obama’s presidency, is now viewed as heading in the right direction by 61 percent of Republicans.
2. The same people who think Obama is a Muslim also believe Trump’s a devout follower of Christ: This one pretty much speaks for itself as it relates to the hypocrisy, ignorance, and, in many instances, the racism of “Christian” Trump supporters.
3. The majority believe “millions voted illegally” without a single shred of actual proof: A poll from a few weeks ago found that 55 percent of Trump supporters believe his idiotic conspiracy that the only reason he lost the popular vote is because “millions voted illegally” for Clinton.
4. They think illegal immigration is out of control and they’re mostly criminals: There’s a reason why Trump made vilifying illegal immigrants a big part of his campaign — the lies he told about them are what people who ultimately ended up supporting him want to believe. Problem is, net migration from Mexico is practically zero and stats show that illegal immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than actual citizens.
5. Majority believe he should have the power to overturn judicial rulings: Let the ignorance of this one sink in for a moment. Around 51 percent of Trump supporters are so clueless as to how our Constitution works that they feel as if the Executive Branch should have the power to overrule the Judicial Branch. Not only does that belief completely nullify our entire system of “checks and balances” but it would effectively make every president a dictator.

6. They actually believe Trumpcare will make health care better: During Trump’s campaign he promised his health care plan would be cheaper, better, cover more people, and protect people with pre-existing conditions — the bill he supports does absolutely none of that. If the bill the House passed becomes law:
  • Around 24 million people will lose insurance — many of whom will be people who voted for him.
  • Premiums, especially for Americans 50 and older, will increase dramatically.
  • States can opt-out of protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Coverage will get worse.
  • Medicaid will get gutted.
The only thing Trumpcare accomplishes, besides everything awful I just listed, is it provides huge tax cuts for the richest among us.
7. Large majority don’t believe Barack Obama was born in the United States: While this survey was done in 2016, there’s no reason to think the numbers on this issue have changed much since then. In that PPP survey, 59 percent of Trump supporters didn’t think Obama was born in the United States — only 23 percent said he was. Meaning 77 percent of Trump supporters either don’t believe, or aren’t sure, our 44th president was legitimate.
8. They truly believe there’s a “war” against gun rights: Before Obama even took office, the GOP, fueled by the NRA, began pushing the idea that he was some anti-gun radical who was, at any moment, going to confiscate everyone’s guns. This paranoia led to one of the most preposterous things I’ve ever written about, the Jade Helm conspiracy. More than just a few conservatives all across the country believed a military exercise was actually a secret ploy by Obama to declare martial law and seize guns. A large theme throughout Trump’s campaign was that Clinton wanted to “abolish the Second Amendment.”
Even now, despite the fact that Obama did practically nothing during his eight years in office to go after anyone’s guns, Trump continues to act as if his administration will end some non-existent war on the Second Amendment.
9. They believe the stock market went down and the unemployment rate went up during the Obama administration: Even though it is absolutely indisputable that the unemployment rate drastically fell during the Obama administration, while stocks set numerous records, that’s not what many Trump supporters believe. According to PPP, 67 percent of Trump supporters believe the unemployment rate went up during the Obama administration, while 39 percent believe the stock market went down.
This is another perfect example of easy-to-verify facts of reality that many Trump supporters simply don’t believe are real.
10. They actually believe he’s honest and trustworthy: I thought I’d save the dumbest thing they believe for last. Not only is it foolish to believe practically anything Trump says, in most instances, his supporters believe him over, well — anythingYou can present piles of evidence disproving something he’s claimed isn’t factual, while he doesn’t provide a shred of evidence to support what he said, and they’re still going to believe him. A guy with a well-documented history of claiming things are “rigged” whenever he loses, pushing ridiculous conspiracies without any proof, and denying he’s said things that he’s on audio or video saying is the person most of his supporters believe is “honest and trustworthy.”
There are plenty more I could have added, but I think most get the point.
Looking at this list, it’s easy to see why Trump did so well. When you’re a pathological liar who’s willing to tell people who don’t believe in reality what they want to hear — no matter how dishonest it is — that’s a dangerous combination. And it’s exactly what Donald Trump did on his path to the White House.

Republicans: DEFENDERS OF THE RICH, Pushers of Hate, Bigotry and Fake Christianity.

The modern day Republican Party is a cesspool of most of the worst aspects of humanity. It’s an organization that preys on fear, paranoia, hate, bigotry, and religious manipulate with some faux “patriotism” mixed in for good measure just so their supporters think opposing the GOP is “un-American.”

I’ve never pretended to be a Republican, but I’ve never loathed the party as much as I do now.
Let me put into perspective how radical and unhinged today’s GOP has become.
1. Ronald Reagan passed the Immigration Reform Act of 1986: This bill gave legitimate amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Today you can’t even get most Republicans to support basic, common sense immigration reform. Even when Republicans and Democrats passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill a few years ago — a piece of legislation supported by the majority of Americans — the GOP-controlled House of Representatives wouldn’t let the bill come up for a vote.
2. Ronald Reagan also supported a ban on assault weapons: Yes, Reagan put his support behind Bill Clinton’s 1994 ban on assault weapons. Now to even talk about banning these same weapons that most Republicans supported at the time will get the right-wing media flipping out over tyrannical gun confiscations and the need for another revolution. Yet the president many Republicans view as the epitome of today’s GOP supported banning these weapons.
3. Obamacare was actually a Republican idea: When Clinton pushed for true universal health care during the 90’s, the Republican alternative to that was a government mandate that people purchase health insurance. As most people know, Obamacare is essentially a clone of the health care legislation Republican Mitt Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts. Yet this is the same party that’s spent the last few years bashing their own idea as one of the worst things to ever happen to the United States.
4. Republicans denied Jeff Sessions a spot as a federal judge over accusations of racism: Think about this one for a moment. Our current attorney general, the most powerful law enforcement official in the country, was overwhelmingly embraced by the GOP for that position — the same party that, in the 80’s when he was up for a spot as a federal judge — denied him that position over accusations of racism. So, a man Republicans once viewed as too racist to be a federal judge, is now our attorney general.
5. Republicans used to actually care about protecting the environment: Did you know cap and trade, an idea staunchly vilified by today’s GOP, was actually a Republican idea? In fact, current senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham once supported legislation that gave businesses incentives to reduce greenhouse gases. Now you have Republicans bringing snowballs into Congress to “prove climate change isn’t real” and a “president” who thinks it’s a hoax created by the Chinese.
The list goes on and on — and that’s just within the last couple of decades. That’s how fringe and radical the party has become. Many members of the GOP from the 80’s and 90’s wouldn’t even qualify as “Republicans” by today’s batshit crazy standards.
Believe it or not, “moderate” Republicans such as John Boehner and Gov. John Kasich were once ranked as some of the most conservative members of Congress. Now they’re loathed by “the base” because that’s how ridiculous things have gotten among the right.

This is a party that does nothing but support policies that benefit the rich. Nearly every single policy they support is nothing more than a massive handout for the wealthiest among us wrapped in some sort of manipulative propaganda aimed at blinding people from realizing how disastrous the legislation’s going to be for them, personally.
Look at their “health care bill.” It shouldn’t even be called that because it’s not a bill to improve health care in any way. These are nothing more than massive tax cuts for the rich that will not make health care better, cheaper, or provide coverage for more Americans. They’re masking their anti-Obamacare propaganda in a “health care bill” that has nothing to do with health care, and almost everything to do with screwing over the majority of Americans while giving the wealthiest among us bigger breaks.
Why else do conservative voters think Senate Republicans wrote this plan in secret and are now trying to push it through Congress as quickly as possible? A political party doesn’t do that unless it’s ashamed of what it’s trying to do. When Democrats passed Obamacare, Congress debated on that law for a year — Republicans are trying to force theirs through in a couple of weeks.
Then just look at how Trump built his campaign. Sure, there were many aspects to it, but his main core principles were vilifying immigrants, pushing Islamophobia against Muslims, pushing hate against Hillary Clinton, and pandering to racism. It’s not a coincidence that Trump inspired a resurgence in public displays of white nationalism, as well as garnering enthusiastic support from the KKK and neo-Nazis.
Oh, and when Republicans embraced Donald Trump, possibly the least Christian candidate to ever run for president, they lost any right to call themselves Christians — because there’s absolutely nothing Christian about him. He’s a vile, greedy, corrupt, conspiracy-pushing adulterer on his third marriage who has five children from three different women. I’m not here to say if Jesus Christ were alive today he’d be a Democrat, I just know there’s no way he’d be a Republican, let alone a Trump supporter.
Today’s GOP is best described as the party that stands against progress.
Seriously, what are their “plans”? They’re pushing practically the same basic (and debunked) trickle-down bullshit they have for nearly 40 years, while most of their current legislation is aimed at undoing what Democrats have done. All they do is spend most of their time building this cult-like following — pushing paranoia, hate and fear — telling their supporters, “If you don’t support us, you’ll let those trying to destroy this country win.”
Republicans know if you keep people afraid, while manipulating them with religion, those are two of the most powerful weapons to use if you want to get large groups of people to act completely irrationally and support policies that are in direct conflict of their own best interests.
The only thing today’s Republican Party truly represents is a prime example as to why it’s vitally important for good people to stand up and fight back. As the saying goes, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.
And I’ll be damned if I sit idly by while these deplorable bastards triumph.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Warren Buffet: 'It (TrumpCare) is a huge Tax Cut for Rich Guys Like Me!'

When somebody worth $65.5 billion talks about taxes and financial policy, most people listen because it’s fairly easy to conclude the person doing the talking knows what they’re talking about. When that somebody is Warren Buffett, everyone listens.
At the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting, mega-investor Buffett, currently ranked at number three on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s richest people, explained why the American Health Care Act is bad policy for working-class Americans.
“It [Trumpcare] is a huge tax cut for guys like me,” Buffet said.
The billionaire business mogul went on to explain,  “And when there’s a tax cut, either the deficit goes up or they get the taxes from somebody else. That is a problem this society is having trouble with and is going to have more trouble with.”
As if Warren Buffett needed to be fact-checked, his remarks are accurate. Under the version of the American Health Care Act passed last week in the House of Representatives, most of the taxes enacted to pay for the healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) would be eliminated.
The taxes in question are proportionate to income, which means the wealthiest Americans are currently being required to pay more to subsidize health coverage for those who cannot afford it. Because more people with coverage equates to fewer uninsured patients whose costs are then distributed among the insured anyhow, the premise is that overall costs should decrease.
The specific taxes being targeted by Trumpcare are a 0.9 percent payroll tax on earnings and the other is a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income for any individual making over $200,000 or a couple making more than $250,000 per year. According to The Tax Policy Center, eliminating these taxes on the wealthy will cost approximately $274.9 billion from 2017 to 2026.
Buffett further explained the need to keep American healthcare costs at competitive levels, describing the costs as “the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness.”

When Truth becomes whatever Trump, FOX or Breitbart say it is: Facts no longer matter to Trump Supporters.

Why the Right Wing's War on Facts Is Driving the Divide in America

Forget red state vs. blue state. Now the line of separation runs between those who prefer facts to fantasy.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
In Stephen Colbert’s epic performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner he ironically stated that “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” During the George W. Bush era, comedians like Colbert and Jon Stewart tackled what Stewart referred to as “bullshit mountain.” Less clearly a partisan project, the satire of Stewart and Colbert was directly aimed at the way that concepts like truth and reality had become politically polarized.
And they had a lot of work to do. Back in 2008, we learned that the Bush administration made 935 false statements in the lead-up to the Iraq war. In a 2006 interview, Colbert explained how important it was for him in the Bush years to defend the concept of truth:
It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It’s certainty. People love the president because he’s certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don’t seem to exist. It’s the fact that he’s certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?
While Colbert imagined his battle as a fight to rescue the truth, such efforts started to be more and more aligned with party politics. Around the turn of the millennium it became increasingly possible to connect fact-aversion to the GOP. Partisanship was no longer driven by political differences on how to deal with reality; it was divided over what constituted reality itself.
Chris Mooney has documented the allergic reaction the Republican brain has to truth. Focusing on attitudes toward science, Mooney points out that “politicized wrongness today is clustered among Republicans, conservatives, and especially Tea Partiers.” Mooney found that Republicans didn’t only deny the scientific facts behind climate change; they also resisted facts connected to economics and American history.
It’s important to remember this recent history, because without it we can’t make sense of the new war on facts. It’s not just that our president lies with impunity, it’s not just that his team refers to “alternative facts,” and it’s not just that he labels any critical news coverage “fake;” it’s that caring about facts is now seen as a political problem.
A recent study by the Duke Reporters’ Lab shows that, in addition to a partisan difference in the frequency of lying, there is a partisan division over the very idea of fact-checking itself.
The researchers logged 792 statements mentioning fact-checkers and coded them as positive, negative or neutral. While a majority of citations (68 percent) were neutral, they found a dramatic divide in the source of negative comments. The study noted 71 accusations of bias against fact-checkers. Conservative websites were responsible for 97 percent of them.
The study shows that conservative sites take a hostile, negative attitude toward the practice of fact-checking. In some cases the tone is hardly subtle. In one example, they cite Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online, who noted that Hillary Clinton’s record with the truth was far from spotless. “Even PolitiFact, the hackiest and most biased of the fact-checking outfits, which bends over like a Bangkok hooker to defend Democrats, has a long list of her more recent lies.”
Goldberg seems pleased that Politifact has a list of Clinton’s lies, but at the same time he feels compelled to denigrate the fact-checking operation that produced the list. In fact, the Duke study shows that even when conservative sites are happy to reference fact-checks that bolster their ideological perspective, they often still find a way to denigrate their sources.
The Daily Caller’s Evan Gahr offers another example of a conservative politicizing and discrediting fact-checking: “WaPo fact checker Glenn Kessler’s initial defense of his incomplete column also proved an interesting testament to the combination of sloth and liberal bias that is common at his paper.” Gahr openly discredits fact-checking as a partisan enterprise.
As Alexios Mantzarlis explains, “conservative pundits have long been critical of fact-checking.” But clearly these new attacks are taking the conflict over the truth to a whole new level.
Are these new attacks on facts a sign of the destruction of our democracy? There seems little doubt. When the party in power is closely tied to a systematic attack on truth the prospects for a healthy democracy are not encouraging.
Hannah Arendt in her famous study of totalitarianism stated that, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between true and false no longer exists.”
For Arendt the mark of totalitarianism was the pervasive nature of ideological thinking. Under that scheme the mind is simply closed to correcting information and it holds to an ideologically consistent view of the world — one that is understood as true despite an absence of supporting evidence.
Many have wondered whether the election of Trump suggests that the United States has moved from a democracy to a totalitarian, possibly even fascist, regime, but it may well be that the Trump era attacks on truth exceed Arendt’s theories of totalitarianism and truth. In the Trump era, the battle isn’t over truth versus reality. The battle is over whether or not we as a nation agree that truth even matters at all.
As Brendan Nyhan explains, “social science research suggests that Mr. Trump’s alternative version of reality may appeal to his supporters.” According to Nyhan, “Partisan polarization is now so extreme in the United States that it affects the way that people consume and understand information — the facts they believe, and what events they think are important.”
But the Duke study adds another layer to the battle between fact and fantasy. Their research shows that the words “fact check” are now perceived to have a liberal slant. Again and again the researchers found moments when conservative media referred to fact-checking in a negative way, regardless of the nature of the facts checked.
In one example from the Weekly Standard, fact-checking was referred to as “the liberal media’s latest attempt to control the discourse.” The entire article suggested that fact-checking was a liberal scheme designed to make conservatives look bad.
This partisan breakdown over the inherent value of fact-checking is of significant concern. Even though Hillary Clinton had many of her “facts” checked on the campaign trail and despite the reality that the most high-profile assault on a U.S. fact-checking organization came from lefty Rachel Maddow, the Duke study shows that there is a conservative push to demonize fact-checking as nothing more than partisan attacks.
According to the researchers in the Duke study, “This partisan divide has serious consequences for the nation’s fact-checkers. Their credibility hinges on whether they are perceived as independent.” They explain that the major fact-checkers describe themselves as “dispassionate and nonpartisan” (Washington Post) and as an “independent, nonpartisan news organization not beholden to any government, political party or corporate interest” (PolitiFact).
This new assault on fact-checking is simply the latest step in a long-term right-wing attack on the neutrality of the media. Since the Nixon era, conservative writers and Republican politicians have accused the mainstream media of having a liberal bias.
Now it is not just the media, but also the fact-checkers who are accused of a liberal bias. This development, of course, is not surprising given the way that fact-checking has become a recognized form of political journalism and now that it has increased public visibility.
But what I find even more ironic in this new attack on truth is the way that some of the very best fact-checking comes from comedians. Political satirists like Stewart and Colbert have dedicated their careers to functioning like watchdogs to politicians and the media.
Stewart loved targeting the lies of Fox News, which gets it right only 17 percent of the time. In one of his best takedowns he did a vine that offered viewers 50 Fox News lies in six seconds.
Colbert decided to coin the term “trumpiness” to describe what has happened to truthiness in the Trump era: “Truthiness has to feel true, but Trumpiness doesn’t even have to do that.”
To show that satire goes after all forms of deception, Lee Camp did an excellent piece on the way that the mainstream media was biased toward Clinton during the primaries. He explained that after the first debate every single poll had Bernie Sanders winning, and yet the media reported that Clinton had won.
Recently John Oliver used his satirical comedy show on HBO to seriously tell the public the truth about coal.