WaPost fact checker gives Ocasio-Cortez four Pinocchios for Pentagon claim

Stefani Reynolds

The Washington Post “fact checker” column awarded Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) “four Pinocchios” on Tuesday after she said in a tweet that a “$21 trillion mistake” by the Pentagon could have paid for about two-thirds the cost of a Medicare for all bill.

“$21 TRILLION of Pentagon financial transactions ‘could not be traced, documented, or explained.’ $21T in Pentagon accounting errors. Medicare for All costs ~$32T. That means 66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon,” she wrote to her 1.46 million followers. 

The column said the tweet was wrong on a couple of counts. 

First, it said it made an apples and oranges comparison, in that the $32 trillion estimated to pay for providing Medicare to all citizens was over 10 years, while the errors in Pentagon spending highlighted by the future lawmaker were over 17 years.

More importantly, the Pentagon errors cited by Ocasio-Cortez, which came from research by Michigan State economics professor Mark Skidmore, represent missed transactions that include both inflows and outflows and not a lost pot of $21 million that all went out the door. It includes assets and liabilities, a point The Washington Post said was missing from Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet.

In another tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that her real point was that people only demand fiscal details on health and education. And her office in an email to the Post faulted the fact that people only worry about how something will be paid for when it is for “investing in the physical and economic well-being of our citizenry.”

But the Post said this was not enough.

“Ocasio-Cortez is not the first Twitter user to mangle information from a news report,” the Post wrote. “But it’s unconvincing to try to pass this off as a rhetorical point being misread. She cited the $21 trillion figure and said ‘66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon.’

“That’s a direct comparison. It’s badly flawed. The same article she referenced on Twitter would have set her straight. The tweet is still up, probably causing confusion. So we will award Four Pinocchios to Ocasio-Cortez,” they wrote.

The Post has always applied Pinocchios in rating public statements, ranging from one to four Pinocchios depending on the degree of the lie, with four being the most egregious.

Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet has been retweeted more than 26,000 times and liked more than 72,000 times.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez The Washington Post

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