The New York Times joins the fact-checking game!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Who is Linda Qiu:
Recently, the New York Times got into the fact-checking game.

They were rather late to this trend.

At present, their fact-check presentations are being done by Linda Qiu. We'll admit that we've occasionally thought her work falls short of the mark.

This morning, Qiu has a high-profile FACT CHECK piece in the hard-copy Times. She fact-checks Donald J. Trump's recent speech, the one he gave Wednesday night.

Qiu starts like this, hard-copy headline included:
QIU (6/23/17): An Adoring Crowd, And a Dozen Things That Aren't True

President Trump returned to familiar rhetorical territory during a raucous campaign-style rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, repeating exaggerations and falsehoods about health care, jobs, taxes, foreign policy and his own record.

Here’s an assessment.
Sure enough—twelve fact-checks follow. That's an even dozen.

Qiu's third fact-check is very significant. She offers this brisk report:
QIU: He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.
That's exactly the kind of fact-check a major newspaper should stress. It reviews a major, gong-show claim—a major claim which gets made all the time. Through this standard claim, millions of voters get disinformed about a very basic topic.

That was an excellent fact-check. By way of contrast, it seems to us that Qiu's sixth fact-check isn't:
QIU: He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.

Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.
All of a sudden, we're off in the weeds, and we seem to be splitting an extremely fine hair. This is the kind of nit-picking point which will convince many people that they're dealing with a partisan, and that they should therefore ignore all her points.

Other fact-checks were hard to follow, or made minor small points, or seemed to take us toward the land of difference of opinion or emphasis. At one point, we experieneced major puzzlement. Because of certain claims we heard last night, we were especially interested in this topic:
QIU: He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited.

The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.

Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.
"Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country?"

Are we missing something here? Has any such person "worked in the United States for 10 years" "within the first five years of entering the country?"

There may be a way to exit this maze, but we'd have to guess what it is.

We've been frustrated by Qiu's presentations in the past. For that reason, we finally decided to check her background.

She's three years out of college (University of Chicago, 2014). We're just wondering:

Reducing labor costs can be great if that's what we're looking at here. But at a newspaper like the Times, does fact-checking seem like a major beat for someone of such tender years?

Presumably, a person that young could do that job. That said, we've often thought that Qiu's work isn't quite up to snuff at this point in a very important field.

Is this the best the Times can do? Youthful scribes to the side, we find ourselves asking that question a fair amount of the time.


  1. Silly Somerby thinks all young people get their jobs to replace the high slaries of geezers like himself.

    "Is there a way to exit this maze?" asks Bob after criticizing the "tender aged" reporter for insertng a disclaimer written by 47 year old Alison Siskin of the Congressional Research Service who in 2016 wrote the report used by Qui to document Trump's howler.

    By the way, Bob, the people eligible are almost all dependents of immigrants who have been here and worked for ten years but the dependent has been here less than five. But you would not know anything about dependents.


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  2. "we seem to be splitting an extremely fine hair."

    Uh, what?

    Trump says Gary Cohn "paid $200 million in taxes," to the IRS. Actually, Cohn sold $200 million in shares and put the money in his own bank account.

    That doesn't sound like "splitting hairs" to me.

  3. Ambiguous statements, that are true under one possible interpretation, shouldn't be called lies. E.g., take the statement that the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.” "Highest" might be measured in dollars per person or ratio of dollars to GDP.

    Ms. Qiu and Bob evidently think the former interpretation is impossible. I don't agree. The latter interpretation is based on the idea that as a country grows richer, it should automatically spend more money on government. That's not automatically the case.

    A good analogy is home office administrative overhead for large corporations. As a corporation grows in size, there can be economies of scale, so home office overhead goes down as a ratio.

    1. P.S. Note that when Bob rails about how much Americans pay for health care, he looks at absolute dollars, not ratio to GDP.

    2. Same thing happens with deficit-hawks. They hate when i remind them how cheap it is to borrow, and how small a percentage the debt to GDP ratio is.
      In their defense, they aren't too dumb to realize this, but rather they ignore it so they can convince the gullible that we can't afford to help the vulnerable.

    3. @7:04 PM - put another way which is more aligned with your political beliefs, as a country grows richer, it should avoid any distributions to directly or indirectly improve the lives of most of its citizens and instead transfer its largesse upward to those who least benefit from the transfer, the already filthy rich. The current corporate state is a perfect metaphor for your political party's raison d'etre, which is simply moral justification for greed.

      Your misfortune is being born too late for the Gilded Age.

    4. Anon 11:09 - The "cheap to borrow" argument has a problem. Yes, it's cheap to borrow now, but it won't always be cheap to borrow. And, we're not planning to pay back the money we're borrowing now. On the contrary, we're planning for the national debt to grow forever. And, the current low rates are for short-term borrowing.

      Here's some crude numbers to illustrate. The national debt is around $20 trillion. If we're paying 2% interest, that's $400 billion -- a significant, but manageable portion of the federal budget.

      Suppose interest rates rise to 4%. In a fairly short time, the entire national debt has to be rolled over at this higher rate. Now interest on the national debt rises to $800 billion. That means we have to cut $400 billion from various programs or increase taxes by that huge amount or increase the deficit that much.

    5. David in Cal,
      Thank you.
      Sorry war hawks, we can't even help our most vulnerable citizens, so there is no possible way we can afford war with ISIL.

    6. Great point about how raising taxes to the rates they were in the 1950s, and not borrowing more, is the way to get out from under the deficit.
      When do we begin?

    7. Wow David in Cal. Didn't take you long to abandon the ratio of GDP way of stating facts and moving quickly to the huge, big, scary raw numbers, did it?

    8. If interest rates went up, the US government could cut back on spending and borrow less. This is a simple and obvious solution.

      All the money the US government borrow gets paid back. When was the last time the US government defaulted on T-bills?

    9. Care is needed to define terms. What does it mean to "borrow less"? If the budget were perfectly balanced, the national debt would remain. Interest on the debt would have to be paid at whatever the prevailing rates were. It's true that the federal government has paid back its T-bills and other debts, but only by borrowing even larger amounts of money. In other words, the government has to re-borrow the national debt each year.

      hardindr -- In theory you're right. In practice, I don't see the government paying back the money they're borrowing now. The Congressional Budget Office wrote
      In CBO’s baseline projections, budget deficits remain below 3.0 percent of GDP through 2019. But subsequently, continued growth in spending—particularly for Social Security, Medicare, and net interest—would outstrip growth in revenues, resulting in larger deficits and increasing debt. By 2027, the deficit would reach 5.0 percent of GDP—$1.4 trillion.

      Can you imagine annual federal spending being cut by $1.4 trillion PLUS a substantial amount to pay back the money we're currently borrowing. I can't.

    10. A large portion of our government's spending is discretionary. It could be cut back if needed, like it was for no good reason during the Great Recession and its aftermath (a bad idea in my opinion).

      Why would a deficit to GDP ratio of 5.0% be a problem?

    11. IANAB (I am not a banker), but I think the ratio of debt to GDP is more worrisome than the ratio of annual deficit to GDP. First of all, interest on the national debt becomes a bigger and bigger item. Second, an extremely high debt means a greater risk of insolvency. The current interest on the debt is $266 billion. That figure could easily double, as the debt continues to increase and if the interest rates go up.

    12. If I thought for a half-second that Conservatives really cared about the deficit, and weren't just making believe they were concerned so they could make the people who aren't them suffer more, I'd point out the deficit is caused by lack of revenue and tax breaks for the rich.
      But I won't do that, because Conservatives really don't care about the deficit.