Pundits vs Facts

This is something of a rant, concerning what passes for news and accurate informantion on cable news channels.

Over the weekend, Charlie Cook (who is one of the best political observers around), did a segment on MSNBC on Medicare taxes vs. benefits. the following was put up in graphics concerning Medicare contributions:

Single man: $55,000 contribution, $161,000 benefit

Single woman: $55,000 contribution, $181,000 benefit

1 earner couple: $55,000 contribution, $343,000 benefit

2 earner couple: $109,000 contribution, $343,000 benefits

This is all well and good, but doesn’t take into consideration the time value of money. Some of us will have paid into the system for 50 years before retirement. As the quote below from the government indicates, there really isn’t a trust fund per se, however the government has dumped the excess into US government treasury securities, which pay interest. No one ever brings this up!

With an insurance policy, the insurer collects the premium, and invests the money. The law of large numbers dictates that not everyone will collect or many won’t live long enough to collect a major portion. The insurance industry collectively whines when a big payout hits, but is generally a very profitable business.

The government doesn’t even NEED to make a profit, and doesn’t! Pundits and politicians can’t leave the time value of money out of these outrageous claims they make about the systems going broke. (This doesn’t even address the social value of providing for a country’s elder population and covering medical care…which every other civilized country in the world does anyway!)

Here’s a quote about the so-called ‘trust funds’ from the Department of HHS:

<The U.S. Treasury Department tracks their financial flows through accounts that by law are labeled “trust funds.” The label “trust funds” can be confusing in that it may suggest that the money collected for the programs is somehow segregated and managed differently than other receipts. It isn’t. When received on a day-to-day basis, any revenue that comes in for Social Security and Medicare is commingled with other federal revenues, and any such revenue in excess of what is needed to pay each day’s program costs gets used for whatever other obligations the government has to meet. The excess is not invested outside the government, such as in stocks, corporate bonds, or securities of other nations. At the same time, the appropriate trust fund balance is increased by a corresponding amount by crediting it with U.S. Treasury securities, which is tantamount to the government investing in itself. It is one account of the Treasury giving credit to another — i.e., from the Treasury’s general fund to the Social Security or Medicare trust funds.>

Source:

http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/ss-mcare-trust05/index.htm

On the same topic of how leaving out facts shades the information we get, another pundit, (this time on CNN), states that post-recession, 37% of jobs created are in Texas. He does say as a qualifier that Texas is a low wage and low tax state. This is a bit of an understatement as Texas has NO personal income tax…NONE! They make enough off oil not to have ever had a personal income tax.

Having so-called ‘learned panels’ and pundits is one thing, but if they leave out giant swaths of fact, they need to be called out on it by hosts that are smart enough and well-educated enough to do so. This is a terrible example of spreading half truths and misinformation, and not even doing it on purpose…as one network on cable regularly does!

Speaking on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox, Gretchen Carlson incorrectly claimed that “about 35 percent of the in-state tuition people or students” at University of California schools “were illegals.” In fact, only 0.34 percent of undergraduates in the University of California system in the fall of 2008 were “potentially undocumented” students who received the in-state tuition rate. It’s amazing what essentially moving a decimal point a couple digits can do to stir people up.

Send emails to these networks and complain…do some of your own fact-checking with multiple sources. Be informed, the cable channels AREN’T going to inform you at this point!

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Internet Posts- Libel, Slander or Other?

Libel and slander are two forms of defamation, a definition of which is:

‘An act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in ‘defamatory language’. Libel and slander are defamation.’ Libel typically refers to defamation that is written or published, while slander is usually limited to oral defamation.

In an article just posted by the Nieman Journalism Lab, (link to the article below), there’s a scholarly discussion concerning modernizing libel and slander laws further to apply more appropriately to internet social media like Twitter.

Much of social media postings, while written, much more closely resemble the spoken word than the traditional written word. Certainly when libel was first formulated, the written word was found in books, manuscripts, and periodicals. Never even imagined was the modern capability for changing posts and ‘republishing’ so quickly and in such a fluid manner as is now possible on the web.

Careful people assume that anything they may post anywhere on the web will live for all time, so they exercise caution with what they do write or post. What about items that are ‘hacked in’ or posted in a person’s name? When negative things can be attributed to someone that can do harm to their career, reputation, or even end a life, there should be serious consequences in law for those who misuse the web to the detriment of others! Will the law be able to catch up and truly cover social media defamation? So far, there’s NOT an app for that!

http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/06/is-twitter-writing-or-is-it-speech-why-we-need-a-new-paradigm-for-our-social-media-platforms/


SmartPhones Changing Policing-Book

In the law, you often hear about a ‘slippery slope.’  Once some rights are nibbled away, others fall like dominoes. A book called ‘Always On’ addresses the new ways police can track all of us using the tech built right into our smartphones. In this case, it’s not a result of the courts, or the legislative or executive branch taking away privacy rights, we have actually (and in many cases unknowingly) given them up ourselves.

The hot new tech, GPS, and ‘always on’ tiny computers we carry around in our pockets and purses can rat out bad guys quickly and efficiently when police are working to solve a crime. In the case mentioned in the excerpt from ‘Always On’ (link is below), it was a good thing, as a child taken by a relative was returned safely to the parent. Conspiracy theorists and privacy aficionados may fume, but the proverbial horse is already out of the barn, and we opened that barn door ourselves!

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/06/always-on-excerpt/