“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Nevada’s primary election is June 14. Voting is one of the most important things we do. When we vote, we should make sure we are using facts to guide our decisions, not misguided opinions or even flat-out lies.
One source voters draw from is the Internet. This is fine as long as it’s recognized that there are many untrue claims on the Internet. Once information, true or false, is out there, it’s almost impossible to stop. Unfortunately, too many people think like the woman in an old insurance commercial: “They can’t put it on the Internet if it’s not true.”
As Stephen Colbert famously said, “The facts have a well-known liberal bias.” Because of this, many conservatives claim that fact check sites such as Snopes are run by liberals. Why? Because these sites are constantly debunking false claims, which usually come from conservative sources. Instead of verifying their facts, conservatives just blame “liberals.” That’s easier than changing their world view. And no, George Soros does not own Snopes or any other fact-checking site.
A recent claim, debunked in a Letter to the Editor and retracted in a second letter, is that children born here of undocumented parents receive $17,000 a year from our government. In fact, this is the cost per year to take care of Unaccompanied Minors (children) who arrive here from other countries, usually from Central America. Of course, there are alternatives to spending this money to feed, clothe, house, and supervise these children while they are here.
When children arrive at the border, the border guards could bodily throw them back into Mexico. Or they could put the children in cages, padlock the cage, and wait for the children to die. After they’re dead, empty the cage and use it again. For a minimal cost – cage and padlock – the problem has been solved. Or we could act humanely and take care of these children, which costs money, until their case is settled and they are admitted or sent back home, where they will probably be murdered or worse. The “pro-life” party thinks saving money is more important than saving these lives. That’s their right, but please base these opinions on facts.
Another fallacy is that President Obama tried to give himself and others a 17 percent raise. This is referring to a budget item concerning pensions and other allowances for former presidents, under the 1958 Former Presidents Act. Congress wants to cut the allowances; Obama wants to increase them. Last year, George W. Bush got around $1 million from us taxpayers. I wouldn’t mind seeing his remuneration cut, but this story is about something most presidents have done since 1958. It’s not unique to Obama. But again, a great chance to spread a lie when the truth is far less interesting.
A perennial email claims that Obama cancelled the National Day of Prayer. Not only has the president issued a proclamation every year, but in 2010 a federal court ruling that said such proclamations are unconstitutional; Obama challenged that ruling. Obama is fighting to keep this observance. His thanks? Lies from the Right.
Another claim says that Obama is the only president who hasn’t visited the D-Day Monument on D-Day, implying that other presidents visited many times. In fact, Obama visited the American Cemetery in Normandy on June 6, 2009, and again on June 6, 2014. Reagan visited once, in 1984. Clinton visited once in 1994, and GW Bush visited in 2004. Once again, the accusation is untrue, but easy to swallow by those who want to believe the worst.
Here are a few facts contradicting much of the garbage spewed on the Internet. Under Obama, the U.S. trade deficit has shrunk by 24 percent. The budget deficit has been cut by over 67 percent. Over 12 million net new jobs have been created since March 2010. Unemployment is at historic lows. And the number of undocumented people in the U.S. has shrunk from about 12 million in 2008 to 10.9 million in 2014, a decrease of 9 percent. All of these facts can be easily verified.
To have an intelligent discussion about our differences, it’s important to make sure our claims are based on truth. We can disagree on taxes, spending, immigration, and other policies, but we should all start from the same facts. Don’t let spurious emails mislead you. Do your research and vote based on reality, not fantasy.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.