Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just the Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts

In the consideration of many matters, especially controversial ones, objectivity is a difficult goal.  Perhaps it is not even possible.  If all of that is anywhere near the mark, perhaps pretended objectivity is something that some hide behind to try to convince people of their favorite cause.

I read a periodic e-newsletter from Kim Komando.  I would describe it as geeky stuff watered down a bit for the non-geeks who have to deal with digital matters - as most of us do these days.  Kim’s last name really is “Komando.”  She has a syndicated radio show about matters digital, an extensive website devoted to the topic, and she half-jokingly refers to herself as “The Digital Goddess.”

That is all just a bit of background so I can tell you about an e-newsletter I recently received from the Komando empire.  It read:

“Do you have a question about Obamacare?  How about some of those statements made by congressmen and senators?  When you need a hot-button issue checked out, where do you go?  Some sites have a political bias and might skew the facts.  But FactCheck is a neutral site that only gives you the facts behind the rumors circulating around the Internet. Find out what the hot stories are and get the scoop on the facts behind the rumors.”

The point this much is not so much the whole matter of “Obamacare” as it is facts.  Facts, as it turns out, are very interesting things, at least to some.

Kim Komando is very apolitical, at least on her radio show and website.  She hands out lower-end digital advice designed to help non-geeks negotiate their way around the digital world.  When she recommended “” I was interested enough to take a look.  When I looked, on October 12, 2013, the lead story was “Defining Default.”

Remember that, according to Kim, will give us “the scoop on the facts behind the rumors.”  So when I read “Defining Default” I was a bit surprised.  The story opens with this:

“President Obama says failing to raise the debt limit on Oct. 17 will ‘force the United States to default on its obligations.’  Sen. Rand Paul contends ‘there’s no reason for us to default,’ because the government collects enough revenue to meet its interest payments on the debt.”

So who is correct?  The answer, from FactCheck, was, in summary, “It depends on the definition of ‘default’.”  The article then goes on to quote various people, selected by FactCheck of course, who claim in one way or another that unless our national government can continue to borrow more money, “new federal obligation will exceed incoming revenue.”  Yes, but what does that tell us about the “facts” of default?

The contention of many, like Rand Paul who is quoted in the article, is that the Treasury has more than enough money coming in to service its debt.  But to everyone else selected by FactCheck to give an opinion on the matter, this did not matter.  As one of these said, unless you pay for everything the government now pays for “you’re defaulting toward someone.”

The article went on to quote various “money people” who were all very worried about the credit rating of the United States is the debt ceiling were not raised.  The only source that was not worried about this was Moody’s.  The only fact in view here is that as of this morning, the credit limit of the U.S. was raised.  So for now, it is a moot point.

But notice what is assumed by most of those in this article.  First, that a government that continues to borrow and “print money” will be viewed as more credit-worthy than one that does not.  Also, no one mentioned another real fact: the government owns assets, many of which could be sold to raise money to pay bills.  The national government owns nearly a third of the land in this country, just to mention one little item.

But finally, nearly all those quoted in this article simply assumed that unless the government spends at least as much as it is spending now, everything would come grinding to a halt - or at the very least not get on very well.  Does this imply that it is simply impossible for the national government to spend less?  It is difficult to come to any other conclusion.  And if that is a fact, we are really in trouble.

So in regard to Kim Commando and her recommendation of “FactCheck” as a place to cut through the opinions to the facts, in this case, it’s a very significant “FAIL.”

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