Violet: Are elections about competing records — or lies?

Arlene Violet

There’s a reason why the oath administered to courtroom witnesses calls upon them to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Experience teaches that something can be false, either because it is a misstatement or a partial truth whose full context would also make it a lie. Regrettably, both kinds of lies were in full evidence at the respective Republican and Democratic conventions.

Republican National Convention

Apparently, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan missed a few lessons about honesty from the nuns who taught him. His assertion that the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating was a result of President Barack Obama’s spending is false. The fact is that the downgrade occurred because Ryan and other Republicans in Congress threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Mr. Ryan excoriated Mr. Obama for the shutdown of the GM plant in Janesville, Wisc., the plant was actually closed during the term of former President George W. Bush.

Mr. Ryan continued to insist that the president took $716 billion from Medicare and that was a dastardly act. Of course, Mr. Ryan’s own fiscal plan had the same feature. The idea was to take the money from service providers, not the elderly, since the volume of new patients under the Health Care Act would make up for the excision of reimbursement under Medicare. Former President Bill Clinton got it right when he said it takes a lot of “brass” to criticize somebody for having the same position as the critic.

Democratic National Convention 

Fact-checkers had their heads spinning on the opening night of this convention as speaker after speaker repeated the assertion of the creation of 4.5 million jobs under the Obama administration. Technically there was job creation, but the loss of jobs during the same time showed a net gain of only 300,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the jobs that have been created aren’t the same ones that have been lost. Low-wage employment in retail and food service has been created but higher-paid occupations still aren’t recovering. Since the figure was used to underscore an alleged uptick in employment, it is a misleading statement.

Mr. Clinton certainly delivered a stem-winder but he oversold a few “facts.” His assertion that President Obama’s Health Care Act slowed down the rate of increase in health care spending is technically true also but his addition that we are better off as a result of health care reform cannot be measured. The major provisions of the law haven’t taken effect yet. Some economists blame the economy for the slowdown in health care spending as they forego services they can’t afford. Folks apparently are afraid to take time off from work to visit a doctor for any routine checkups lest they lose their jobs. Other comments were slightly embroidered as well.

There used to be a time when elections were about competing records rather than competing lies or gross exaggerations. It’s a travesty that now they are about who can get away with the biggest whopper against his opponent.

At the heart of the misstatements is a secret contempt for voters whom they apparently think are too stupid to know any better. Hopefully, the voters will let these politicians know that they don’t appreciate the gilding of truth.

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