Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sheldon Whitehouse and PolitiFact's PolitiMath

For quite some time I've collected examples of the way numerical inaccuracies affect PolitiFact's application of its "Truth-O-Meter" ratings.  Given enough examples we may construct a PolitiMath theorem of numerical accuracy.

Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse helps give us the latest clear example of a rating based on the accuracy of a number.  PolitiFact's conclusion makes clear that PolitiFact allowed the degree of error to determine the rating (to whatever extent the ratings are not subjective, of course):
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said, "For Social Security, which is projected to remain solvent through 2033, Whitehouse has cosponsored [a bill that] . . . would extend the life of the program by an additional 75 years."

In fact, removing the income cap for collecting tax money to pay for the program would extend the viability of Social Security for 75 years from now, not from 2033.

Whitehouse's office quickly acknowledged the error.

In this case, we're talking about a difference of 21 years, between 2087 and 2108.

We rate his statement Mostly True.

Whitehouse received a "Mostly True" rating for a figure inflated by about 27 percent.

If PolitiFact cuts Whitehouse a break for misspeaking then it ought to mention that.

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