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Seeking truth amid hype

Democrats and Republicans clouded the issues again in 2011.

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. speaks during a campaign stop at the Falcon Civic Center in Independence, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. speaks during a campaign stop at the Falcon Civic Center in Independence, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Read moreAP

Despite what you may have heard in 2011:

The new health-care law won't cost many jobs (and they'll be low-paying jobs at that).

Republicans aren't proposing to "end" Medicare (and a Democratic senator has signed on to a modified version of the GOP plan).

Most of the "millionaires" who would pay higher tax rates under a Democratic proposal aren't job-creating small-business owners.

President Obama's mother didn't really fight to get health-insurance coverage as she was dying.

And there was plenty more spin and deception in 2011. Obama claimed he pays a lower tax rate than a teacher. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann endorsed a claim that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Vice President Biden claimed that rapes quadrupled in Flint, Mich., after police layoffs there.

And that's just some of the nonsense we debunked.

Below, our analysis of one major claim from each party. For our full rundown of the worst political whoppers we encountered during the year, go to our site, FactCheck.Org. And get ready for more in the presidential election year about to begin.

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Republican Whopper: 'Job-Killing' Health Law

The truth first: The best economic analysis of the new health-care law points to the loss of a "small" number of low-paying jobs - starting in 2014. That's when firms with 50 or more workers will be required to provide health insurance coverage to employees or pay a penalty.

The Congressional Budget Office also says the law will lead to fewer people who want to work - or who want to work as many hours as they normally would - because they'll be better off financially, or won't feel the need to stay on a job they don't like just to keep their health coverage.

But you would never know that if all you listened to was the constant repetition of the phrase "job-killing" by Republicans bent on repealing the law before it takes full effect.

We first wrote about this in January, when we noted that House Republicans were attaching the "job-killing" label to the law, and offering only misrepresentations of the evidence to back up their slogan. But the bogus claim has been repeated all year. On Dec. 10, presidential candidate Bachmann claimed a study showed the United States would "lose 1.6 million jobs over five years if we keep 'Obamacare' " - referring to a business group's study that did not examine the new law and that showed nothing of the sort. We also found the worst part of Mitt Romney's first TV spot wasn't its out-of-context editing that caused Obama's campaign to label it "dishonest," but its more substantive claim that the new law is "killing jobs."

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Democratic Whopper: GOP Would 'End Medicare'

First, the truth: The budget plan Republicans pushed through the House in 2011 would have radically changed Medicare in the future - for workers now younger than 55. Starting in 2022, the GOP plan called for new Medicare beneficiaries to buy private insurance with the help of federal subsidies.

But the plan would have continued the present Medicare system indefinitely for those now getting benefits, and also for all those who turn 65 during the next decade.

Even so, the truth didn't stop Democrats from misrepresenting the proposal shamelessly to scare senior citizens and win elections. They tested this tactic in a May 26 special House election in New York state, running ads accusing the GOP candidate of endorsing a plan that would "essentially end Medicare" and that would amount to "cutting benefits for seniors" - claims that were far from the truth.

It worked: Democrat Kathy Hochul won in a district that normally leans Republican. So the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rolled out even more misleading "robocalls" in 13 other House districts to soften up the Republican incumbents for 2012. The calls claimed the GOP House members had cast a "vote to end Medicare."

One independent liberal group even posted a widely seen Internet video of a man pushing a white-haired woman in a wheelchair over a scenic cliff. It ends by asking, "Is America beautiful without Medicare?"

The truth is that not all Democrats think changing Medicare in the way Republicans proposed is tantamount to murdering granny. In fact, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon joined Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin on Dec. 14 to offer a bipartisan plan that was a modified version of the GOP plan Ryan had authored earlier. And the New York Times noted Nov. 28 that there was growing support among some Democrats for reining in Medicare costs through a "premium support" system similar to the GOP plan if accompanied by enough safeguards.

But falsely claiming any such change is an "end" to Medicare has already helped win one election for Democrats. So we suspect this whopper may be making our list again a year from now.