"Government Takeover" Is PolitiFact's "Lie Of The Year"

December 17, 2010 11:11 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Tea Party sign

One of the most troubling aspects of the current political environment is the Republican Party's reliance on hollow talking points to address serious issues. Whether it's wrongly calling the expiration of the Bush tax cuts "the largest tax increase in U.S. history" or dishonestly claiming that a bill to crack down on Wall Street is a "bailout" for the banks, Republican leaders have proven over and over again that they care more about rhetoric than reality.

This was especially evident during the health care debate, when Republicans insisted that reform was a "government takeover," a phrase inspired by GOP pollster Frank Luntz. Even after President Obama agreed to drop the public option, the government-run alternative to private insurance, conservative lawmakers stuck to their script. Last night, the nonpartisan PolitiFact.com named the "government takeover of health care" talking point its "Lie of the Year":

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year.
Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections. [...]

By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

As PolitiFact notes, the phrase "appears more than 90 times" on incoming House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) website, it was "mentioned eight times" in the House GOP's "Pledge to America," and shows up "more than 200 times" on the Republican National Committee's website. Meanwhile, members of Congress like pull-string politician Mike Pence (R-IN) repeated the line endlessly in the media:

In 2009, PolitiFact awarded "Lie of the Year" honors to Sarah Palin's "death panels" scare. Here's hoping that conservatives don't try to extend the streak in 2011 (yeah, right).