PunditFact strikes again. For the second time.
PunditFact is a so-called truth-seeking column by the Tampa Bay Times. Its website describes the feature as “dedicated to checking the accuracy of claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers, political analysts, the hosts and guests of talk shows.”
President Barack Obama, for example, recently made the following patently wrongheaded claim: “The states that have raised the minimum wage have had faster job growth than the states that haven’t raised the minimum wage.” This claim implies a causal connection between raising the minimum wage and prosperity. Minimum-wage hikes do not provoke growth. Indeed, the reverse is true. Yet PunditFact’s sister site, PolitiFact, gave Obama a generous “half true.”
What did I say that got me fact-checked?
On CNN, I said, “If black America were a country, it would be the 15th wealthiest in the world.” PunditFact rated the statement “false.” Not even “mostly false” or “half true”?
PunditFact said: “In 2011, the report (Elder) provided us, Target Market News put the income spent by African-Americans at $836 billion. Elder got his talking point by comparing that figure to the World Bank’s list of each country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced. In 2011, ‘black America’s’ $836 billion would have put it in 16th, above Indonesia and below South Korea.”
So Elder said 15th and it’s really 16th — close enough, right? Well, no.
PunditFact, you see, says that I failed to look at “purchasing power parity.” They divided blacks’ $1 trillion earned income by 44.5 million (every black man, woman and child in America) and applied a “conversion factor called purchasing power parity to account for the different values of goods and services in different countries.” Then they compared that to a list of countries ranked by GDP per capita, and voila! PunditFact says black America falls to 44th — between Portugal and Lithuania. “Purchasing power parity?”
Newspapers, newscasters and business publications routinely do stories about China eclipsing America as the world’s “largest” or “biggest” or “richest” or “wealthiest” country — with no mention of purchasing power parity. For example:
Fox News, April 30, 2014: “And setting the stage for a new economic superpower to replace us — get this — by the end of the year … China.”
Time magazine headline, April 30, 2014: “China Poised to Pass U.S. as World’s Leading Economic Power This Year”
Financial Times headline, April 30, 2014: “China Could Overtake the U.S. as the World’s No. 1 Economy This Year”
CBS Evening News, Oct. 9, 2014: “(Today) came the news that China has surpassed the United States as the largest economy in the world.”
The New York Times‘ headline in 2010: “China Passes Japan as Second-Largest Economy.” The second paragraph read: “The milestone, though anticipated for some time, is the most striking evidence yet that China’s ascendance is for real and that the rest of the world will have to reckon with a new economic superpower.” Despite the headline, we don’t read anything about China’s per capita income until the 9th paragraph, and nothing on purchasing power parity.
Since PunditFact kicks me for not using purchasing power parity, surely PunditFact’s parent, Tampa Times, follows its own advice when writing about the size of a country’s economy? Wrong.
A Tampa Times‘ 2012 story headlined “With Slow Growth, China Can’t Prop Up the World Economy” called China “the world’s second-largest economy,” with not one word about per capita GDP or purchasing power parity. It also reprinted articles from other papers that discuss a country’s gross GDP with no reference to purchasing power parity or per capita income.
This is my second bogus fact-check.
Several months ago on CNN’s Crossfire I said, “In 1900, at all three levels of government — federal, state and local — government took less than 10 percent of the American people’s money.” PunditFact found no problem there.
Second, I said that when you take all three levels of government — federal, state and local — today government takes “about 35 percent.” PunditFact calculated total government expenditures at 32.6 percent of GDP, and at 38.5 percent of personal income. Again, no problem there.
But then I said, “Add a dollar value to mandates” issued from Washington, DC, on the various states, “you’re talking almost 50 percent” of our income. PunditFact said “the exact cost is hard to pin down” since it’s difficult to assign a “cost” to a mandate. True, but this doesn’t mean mandates are without cost or that we can’t make an attempt to determine that cost. I asked UCLA economics Professor Lee Ohanian about my “controversial” assertion. He said, “If anything, you understated the amount government takes.” And PunditFact even conceded, “Elder’s figures certainly are eye-popping, and his general point — that the government consumes a lot more money than it did more than 100 years ago — is true.”
Therefore, as with Obama, did PunditFact give at least partial credit for the “true” claims about how much government took in 1900 and the amount it takes today? Nope. PunditFact gave me “mostly false.”
For its blatant bias and unfairness, let’s rate PunditFact “mostly useless.”
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.