Rachel Maddow vs Politifact

The Rachel Maddow Show (TV series)

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As an Honorable Skeptic, I never assume that anyone or anything is infallible, not individuals like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow nor websites like Politifact. So when there is an actual conflict between them, one must look at the actual facts to judge who or what is right. Facts, not ideology. FACTS, not personal preferences.

Look at this claim:


“Despite what you may have heard about Wisconsin’s finances, the state is on track to have a budget surplus this year.”

Rachel Maddow on Thursday, February 17th, 2011 in a segment on her television talk show


Here’s the bottom line:

There is fierce debate over the approach Walker took to address the short-term budget deficit. But there should be no debate on whether or not there is a shortfall. While not historically large, the shortfall in the current budget needed to be addressed in some fashion. Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.

We rate Maddow’s take False.

The quote attributed to Maddow is indeed hers. But it was taken out of context.


I‘m here to report that there is nothing wrong in the state of Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is fine.  Wisconsin is great, actually.  Despite what you may have heard about Wisconsin‘s finances, Wisconsin is on track to have a budget surplus this year.

I am not kidding.  I‘m quoting their own version of the Congressional Budget Office, the state‘s own nonpartisan “assess the state‘s finances” agency.  That agency said the month that the new Republican governor of Wisconsin was sworn in, last month, that the state was on track to have a $120 million budget surplus this year.

So, then why exactly does Wisconsin look like this right now?


MADDOW:  Why is there a revolt in the American Midwest tonight?  Why are we in day three of massive, massive protests—real upheaval in Wisconsin‘s capital city of Madison?  Why are we seeing what was described today by my friend John Nichols, a seventh-generation Wisconsinite, as perhaps the biggest protests that have been seen in that state since Vietnam?  Why is this—look at this—why is this happening?

As the state‘s own finances show, it is not happening because people who work for the state are the cause of some horrible budget crisis.  It‘s not because teachers are lazy and rich.  It‘s not because greedy snowplow drivers have bankrupted the state somehow.

The state is not bankrupt.  Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall. Republican Governor Scott Walker, coincidentally, has given away $140 million worth of business tax breaks since he came into office.

Hey, wait.  That‘s about exactly the size of the shortfall. (Emphasis mine)

So Maddow stated there is indeed a shortfall in the Wisconsin budget. So why did Politifact claim that she said otherwise? Because Maddow was comparing the original budget before Gov. Walker made his tax cuts to the budget after he made his tax cuts. When you cut taxes, there is less revenue coming in. Less revenue can turn a budget surplus into a shortfall. That’s obvious! Politifact told a half truth about Maddow!


Maddow’s producers have gone to bat for her:


And so do I.

More generally, tax cuts must indeed be accompanied by budget cuts to prevent a shortfall. The problem is that if you cut the budget by cutting the pay of public employees or denying them benefits, or even depriving them of their collective bargaining rights, you create LESS economic activity that in turn causes less revenue to the government later, thus causing a downward spiral. Private industry might take up the slack, but not immediately or certainly. There will STILL be economic decline even if it does make that effort!

One of the biggest lies ever told by Republicans since 1980, and I cannot emphasize enough what a BIG LIE it is, was that cutting taxes would stimulate a failing economy. That has NEVER happened. The false assumption here is that money collected in taxes disappears from an economy. NO! The government, and indeed any entity that handles cash flow, is part of  the economy.

What hinders cash flow and thus economic growth? Rich people hoarding so much money for themselves, becoming BILLIONAIRES at the expense (literally) of EVERYONE ELSE!


It’s the Inequality, Stupid

A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

The richest controls 2/3 of America's net worth

Note: The 2007 data (the most current) doesn’t reflect the impact of the housing market crash. In 2007, the bottom 60% of Americans had 65% of their net worth tied up in their homes. The top 1%, in contrast, had just 10%. The housing crisis has no doubt further swelled the share of total net worth held by the superrich.

The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.

Aevrage Household income before taxes.

A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

Why Washington is closer to Wall Street than Main Street.

median net worth of american families, median net worth for mebers of congress, your odds of being a millionaire, member of congress's odds of being a millionaire
10 Richest Members of Congress 100% Voted to extend the cutsCongressional data from 2009. Family net worth data from 2007. Sources: Center for Responsive Politics; US Census; Edward Wolff, Bard College. 

I’m so sick of us Americans suffering economic recessions one after another! If we do not dramatically raise taxes on the wealthy soon, the result may be another recession in a few years, maybe even another DEPRESSION! And the only way to ensure that is to vote out Republicans and conservative Democrats and replace them with Progressives of any party who will seek economic justice for all. It’s the only way to end the nonsense. We need to stop listening to the lies of the economists who say that it is a simple matter for one to work one’s way to wealth in this “free market” capitalist system and that once you become wealthy you should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The truth is that the capitalist system, with no government restraint or regulations, is rigged to enable the rich to become richer and the poor to be kept poor. And that is a system without honor, period.

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