Facts and politifacts

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A famous quote of Mark Twain’s was there are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.  If he were alive today, he probably would agree with the statement that there are my facts, your facts, and politifacts.

Politifacts is a creation of daily newspapers both at the national and at the state levels. This creation allows reporters to pick and choose what they wish to denigrate.   

Their basic premise is that their readers are just not smart enough to understand the facts, therefore, they must assist their readers. They believe themselves far superior than others, so they should be the arbitrators who explain it to us mere mortals.

Politifacts likes to offer themselves up as being non-partisan. They do question the accuracy of members of both parties, but they appear to focus more on conservatives.

They pick and choose what speeches they will review, and then carefully pick and choose what are the important facts. Then they render their opinion of how true the statements are; very similar to the way a judge rules.

The only difference is that you can appeal a judge’s ruling when it appears facts are misunderstood. With Politifacts, you might be able to prove the reporter’s decision wrong, but any correction will be buried where few will find it.

Consider this example: At a presidential debate Sen.Marco Rubio questioned the focus of education on academics over skills training. I have been pushing for this type of hands-on skilled training for most of this decade. Rubio understands the issue as you and I do.

We, as do most manufacturers, small businesses, and home owners, understand how hard it is to find the people to do many of the skilled jobs of today. Politifacts did not see the issue the same. They took the statistics of employment, income, training or education needed and completely confused the facts and reality; giving the impression that Senator Rubio was wrong and gave those remarks a negative judgement.

They did this by comparing apples to oranges. They used the federal definition of welding in which anyone earns an income working with welding from entry level jobs with no skills to high end certified welders and came up with an average salary.

If they had wanted to be honest and fair, they would have used statistics that only included certified welders who work full time. They would have found the average income significantly higher.

On the other end of the equation, they only considered those who had achieved the highest level of education. Most trained philosophers must have a doctorate degree which means six to eight years more education expense than a certified welder.

Should you calculate all those who work in the welding field into the welding average income, would it not also make sense to average in the income of those who believe they are philosophers without the proper training such as “barstool” philosophers?

As Mark Twain understood, statistics can be used even better than lies. Rubio was right, we need welders, machinists, and other skilled workers.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia State Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.