Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?


This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

It would be funny were the stakes not so high, were the issues not important, were it true that Palin was not the VP nominee.

Martin said:

Let’s look at a recent one, #83. The rumor, as it was reported, was that Palin had “cut the Special Olympics funding in half.” Now, here are the facts (and thanks to Warren Throckmorton for digging this out):

  • The 2006 budget was $250,000.
  • The 2007 budget as passed by the Alaskan legislature was $650,000
  • After Palin used her line-item veto authority, the new budget was $275,000

So we see the facts of the story are that it was a “Beltway budget cut”: more money, but not as much as someone wanted. The facts aren’t as interesting as the history of the story, though. It appears to have started, in this case, with the New York Times, which casually says:

Democrats have pointed, sometimes correctly, sometimes erroneously, to items in the state budget for the disabled that Ms. Palin cut. According to state documents, she cut the state’s Special Olympics budget in half.

Step one: assert something in a way that doesn’t stand out.

Notice this isn’t a main point of the story.

The next mention, and the first one I find from Alaska, is from KTUU TV Anchorage on  September 14, which says:

While the Special Olympics did not want to make any comments about budget cuts, Channel 2 News looked into the governor’s funding of the program.

Records show Palin actually increased their funding by $25,000. However, that amount is only half of what the program asked for.

“This governor from the very start has a very clear record of her support for children with special needs,” said Palin’s campaign spokesperson Meghan Stapleton. “Since taking office she has nearly tripled funding for those with special needs in the public school system.”

The Department of Education in Early Development says funding for special needs and intensive needs has gone up $73 million since Palin took office.

So by the 14th, the story had already been debunked. Nonetheless, Think Progress covers the story on September 15, and in an update, links to the KTUU story, correcting the notion that a 10 percent increase is a cut. But right about the same time, there are hundreds of occurrences of the story that don’t link to the Think Progress story or to the New York Times story, much less the correction.

Okay, it could all be coincidental, or it could be a bunch of people who aren’t linking back to their sources. In any case, we see what seems to consistently be step two.

Just fantastic, no?  We have two competing facts, one that Palin herself slashed the allocation to Special Olympics by 58%, and two, that the final number was an increase of 10% over the previous year.  The second fact does not, in truth cannot, alter the first.

Faced with an inconvenient truth, the partisans simply deny reality. Oy.

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