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Obama makes 10 big government lies list

In a list of 10 big government lies, published by Moyers & company last June, Barack Obama heads the list with his infamous 2009 statement about the proposed Affordable Care Act:

If you like the [health care] plan you have, you can keep it.

Of all the government lies I can think of, this one seems ill-suited for the most notable list, as it was actually true for 95% of people1, hardly in the same league with Nixon denying that the White House was involved in the Watergate break-in, or George W. Bush announcing that we had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But quibbles aside, the government does lie sometimes, and birtherism holds the premise that the Obama administration lies about everything, along with the State of Hawaii when it comes to birth records.

I think that it is beyond the resources of most people to verify everything the government says to them. This leaves the individual to decide who to trust. I take the “innocent until proven guilty” stance towards government pronouncements and leave it to investigative journalists to set the record straight when necessary. While I think my approach is practical and usually works, it is not without chance of error. What is the alternative? For those who lack confidence in both the press and the government, they can choose to believe whatever matches their personal preference and is in line with their prejudices. Police violence would seem to be one topic where facts  are taking second place to prejudice on both sides (this is a “reserve judgment” issue for me).

imageThe book that prompted the Moyers & company story is 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity by Chuck Lewis. Lewis makes the point that facts become irrelevant in a democracy when most people don’t believe them. His example for this is weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I would cite Republicans and birtherism, or conservatives and climate change. We are in a sad state when facts become matters of opinion.

I’m reading the book.


1It was PolitiFact’s 2013 Lie of the Year.

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10 Responses to Obama makes 10 big government lies list

  1. avatar
    Curious George December 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Dr. C,
    “We are in a sad state when facts become matters of opinion.”

    I would add that we are in a sad state when lies become matters of fact. This sad state of affairs may be seen daily at Gerbil Report.

  2. avatar
    The Magic M December 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    We are in a sad state when facts become matters of opinion.

    1. It begins with “First Amendment means I can say whatever crap I like without being called out for it”. (RWNJ daily)
    2. Then it becomes “Teach the controversy!”. (Intelligent Design)
    3. Then it becomes “My opinion is better than your facts because I’m a better person.” (Christianists)
    4. Then it becomes “Anyone disagreeing with me is evil.”
    5. Then it becomes “Anyone not towing the party line should be silenced/jailed/shot.”

    The US is currently in the process of establishing phase 4 and testing out phase 5.
    E.g. the other day James Woods said on Twitter he’d shoot a furrin-looking guy wearing a shirt depicting 9/11 without remorse => https://twitter.com/RealJamesWoods/status/549327893567115267
    And instead of being shouted down with “1st Amendment”, the wingnuts are cheering him on.

  3. avatar
    bgansel9 December 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    “If you like the [health care] plan you have, you can keep it.”

    It was never really a lie at all. The companies that offer healthcare insurance are constantly updating their plans, but they are always offering their own plans. If someone decided to change providers, that is not “keeping your healthcare’. Hell, I remember when my healthcare plan used to change annually and the cost kept going astronomically higher. I don’t have that situation anymore.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    This fits in with the article somewhat. An interesting story is trending on my Twitter feed. You can read a summary of what’s going on in a story at Vox, which seems pretty objective.

    http://www.vox.com/2014/12/30/7468979/steve-scalise-david-duke

    Republican House Majority Whip Scalise spoke in 2002 to a white nationalist group. The story was developed by a blogger rather than the mainstream press. There is also an alternate view of what happened.

  5. avatar
    James M December 31, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    I tried very diligently to find one person who could show that they had an insurance policy cancelled before its contract period had expired. Seeing none, I don’t see evidence for calling this a lie.

    I know that some people had policies which became non-legal after certain provisions of the ACA became effective, but you aren’t allowed to “like” those insurance policies for the same reasons you aren’t allowed to “like” child pornography and heroin.

  6. avatar
    James M December 31, 2014 at 12:47 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    This fits in with the article somewhat. An interesting story is trending on my Twitter feed. You can read a summary of what’s going on in a story at Vox, which seems pretty objective.

    http://www.vox.com/2014/12/30/7468979/steve-scalise-david-duke

    Republican House Majority Whip Scalise spoke in 2002 to a white nationalist group. The story was developed by a blogger rather than the mainstream press. There is also an alternate view of what happened.

    Good article Doc.

    Half tempted to go over to Gerbil and see how they are spinning this one.

  7. avatar
    Lupin December 31, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    The Magic M: 1. It begins with “First Amendment means I can say whatever crap I like without being called out for it”. (RWNJ daily)
    2. Then it becomes “Teach the controversy!”. (Intelligent Design)
    3. Then it becomes “My opinion is better than your facts because I’m a better person.” (Christianists)
    4. Then it becomes “Anyone disagreeing with me is evil.”
    5. Then it becomes “Anyone not towing the party line should be silenced/jailed/shot.”

    The US is currently in the process of establishing phase 4 and testing out phase 5.
    E.g. the other day James Woods said on Twitter he’d shoot a furrin-looking guy wearing a shirt depicting 9/11 without remorse => https://twitter.com/RealJamesWoods/status/549327893567115267
    And instead of being shouted down with “1st Amendment”, the wingnuts are cheering him on.

    Very well put; I couldn’t agree more. But it wasn’t always that way. I thought that CBS’ dismissal of Rather is the alleged scandal of GWB’s non-existent military service was the first step in the establishment’s acknowledgement that politics trumped facts.

  8. avatar
    RanTalbott December 31, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    James M: Half tempted to go over to Gerbil and see how they are spinning this one.

    I doubt they’ll even notice it. At the moment, they’re busy with the Breaking News™ that Grace Vuoto made A/Z #11 on the World Tribune’s “Top Stories of 2014”. I tried to get excited about it, but the ranch’s handyman is repairing the chicken coop door, and there’s a fresh coat of paint drying on it, so Vuoto’s story couldn’t compete.

    As amusing as it is to see the GOP hoist on their own scandal-fabrication petard, I don’t see this one blowing up: it’s probably true that Scalise was flogging his proposal to anyone who would listen, and wasn’t bothering to check too closely into who he was talking to. Even in Louisiana, who would expect that Duke’s Son of Klan Lite would be holding public meetings in the 21st century?

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy December 31, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Before that ABC settled a lawsuit that they would almost certainly have won over a story that exposed how tobacco companies manipulated nicotine content of cigarettes and other news organizations spiked their stories. This was a case of economics trumping facts.

    A large part of the story in “935 Lies” is how the lies were exposed, or now they were not exposed in time. He introduces the concept of “real-time truth” and tells how getting it is next to impossible.

    Lupin: I thought that CBS’ dismissal of Rather is the alleged scandal of GWB’s non-existent military service was the first step in the establishment’s acknowledgement that politics trumped facts.

  10. avatar
    Curious George December 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Ran Talbott
    “I doubt they’ll even notice it. At the moment, they’re busy with the Breaking News™ that Grace Vuoto made A/Z #11 on the World Tribune’s “Top Stories of 2014″.

    “Top Fictional Stories of 2014”