I basically ignore everything PolitiFact has to say at this point, and today's pathetic episode is exactly why. I mean, I was going to ignore this, as I've been trying to ignore everything about them, but really, PolitiFact -- if you not only make bonehead mistakes but refuse to correct them...well, as I said, I ignore everything they say.
Here's the thing. Eric Cantor said somewhere that the deficit was "growing." He probably actually meant the debt, which is in fact growing; he said the deficit.
Is it worth getting all fact-checky about? Probably not. But PolitiFact did, in fact, decide to fact-check it, and somehow managed to give it a "half-true." Wait, you're thinking -- everyone knows that the deficit has been going down, right? Ah, yes, says PolitiFact, but then projections say it's going to go up again in the medium or long run.
Oh, we could get all technical about this..."growing" has to mean either that it's going up now, or that it's now projected to go up more in the future than previously expected...it doesn't make any sense at all to say that it's "growing" if (as is the case) it's going down now, and then in the future it's (still) scheduled to go up, but less than older projections. PolitiFact's original item didn't bother to consider whether the long-term projected deficits had changed, but that seems to me pretty important to their own interpretation of Cantor's claim.
But we don't need to get all technical. Because today's follow-up actually brings two fact-checks together: the Cantor claim, and a Barack Obama statement that deficits are falling.
Here's the thing: it just can't be true that the deficit is falling at a record pace, and also half-true that the deficit is "growing."
No, really. It can't be.
Now, it's fine if you want to give Cantor the benefit of the doubt and ignore the literal meaning of what he said. Assume he meant debt, not deficit. Spin out some invented version in which he said that the deficit, after going down now, is projected to go up in the future. Or whatever. But then you're not checking facts. And at any rate, if you (oddly) believe there's an implied "forever into the future" any time people talk about the deficit, then Obama is wrong.
I think the real story here, and the real reason I've stopped paying attention to PolitiFact, is that they handle criticism extremely badly. They got this wrong; that's okay. In my view, they probably shouldn't have looked at it in the first place. Or, if it was a different kind of place, they could have just given us the budget facts, and not worried about their ratings. Or, having done it, they could realize that their two ratings really didn't reconcile, and they could have admitted error and dealt with it. But if they treat legitimate criticism this way (and I've seen it from both sides), then how can you take them seriously?
Really: I've been ignoring them for some time now. And if you catch me relying on them for anything, call me on it. They've unfortunately become useless.