Factual statements that arenít factual
April 25, 2011 —
President Gilbertson eats ten pounds of carrots each day. That is not intended to be a factual statement. Confused? So am I.
Several weeks ago, during debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl stated that over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions. After it was revealed that the official statistic was closer to 3 percent, Kylís office claimed that his claim was ďnot intended to be a factual statement.Ē Naturally, as with any time a highprofile public official says something dumb, Colbert seized on it. On Twitter, #notintendedtobeafactualstatement was launched by Colbert as a way to say completely absurd things, and not be sued for libel because as Kylís office said, it was not intended to be a factual statement.
Joking aside, Kyl should be ashamed. While I am not defending Planned Parenthood or saying that the 3 percent figure (which was selfreported by Planned Parenthood) is accurate, Kylís conduct was completely unbecoming of an elected official. In an academic setting, if a student did this, their professor would fail them. But if youíre a senator speaking on a contentious issue? You largely get a pass.
The most appalling part of this entire saga is that the official congressional record does not reflect Kylís statement. On April 22, he had the record changed so that instead of being on the permanent record for what he actually said, the record now states that ďif you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood and that is what Planned Parenthood does.Ē This is in spite of video that clearly shows Kyl saying otherwise. This is a scary amount of power that officials have to modify events to prevent themselves from looking bad.
What it comes down to is that either Kyl lied or he was lazy with fact-checking. Neither bodes well for Kylís constituents in Arizona who are counting on him to make informed decisions. Sadly, reality seems to be taking a backseat to posturing these days, and Kyl is not alone in this pursuit.
With many of the proposed budgetary changes that have been introduced both in Lansing and Washington being sold as necessary budget fixes, proponents of these changes are going to great lengths to gloss over reality.
That reality is that the real losers are students and low-income individuals and families who rely on many of the government programs that are facing an ax. In Michigan, the higher education budget is facing a 15 percent, while funding for grants and subsidized loans is also in jeopardy at the federal level. Under a bill that recently passed the House of Representatives, the Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to low income families, would be turned into a series of block grants. Paul Ryan, a Republican Congressman from Wisconsin and the author of this bill, said that this is needed to curtail the cost of the program, which has been rising for decades.
However, what Ryan fails to mention is that by turning Medicaid into these grants, the cost of paying for healthcare is shifted onto the individual families. This does nothing to address the fundamental problem of soaring healthcare costs, which only prevent more people from getting the care that they need.
This argument is being repeated across the nation as vital parts of our societyís social safety net are eliminated. During economic recessions, it is true that social programs will experience increased costs as more people file for unemployment, and some who are able to find new jobs are paid less for their work, meaning that tax revenue is down. It is at this point states have two options: find new sources of revenue or cut existing programs. The challenge is that both options are touted as hurting the economy. Democrats will claim that cutting social programs will leave people homeless, which will impact consumer spending as people cannot stimulate economic spending if they have no money, while Republicans will claim that increasing taxes on the rich and/or businesses will cause businesses to close in their operations in the state, meaning more job losses.
With the debate framed in such a way, how are people to decide which route is best? Naturally, it depends on how much you trust either political party to tell you the truth, along with your socioeconomic standing. No one wants to see their taxes go up, and yet, no one wants to admit that if tax revenue does not increase, programs will have to be cut or eliminated. The best solution would be a combination of raising new revenue, primarily through an increase of the beer tax (if people claim they canít afford to pay for gas, then they shouldnít be buying beer), along across the board cuts to all areas of the state budget.
Sadly, this compromise is unlikely to happen, despite talk of not picking ďwinners and losersĒ in the budget. Until our legislators realize that facts are non-partisan, and that fixing problems is more important than winning elections, we will vainly wait for effective leaders. And that is intended to be a factual statement.