Truth In Advertising

We all know about the laws. They’ve been around for almost a hundred years. Consumer safeguards against misleading product and service ads. Constraints on “buyer beware”. Protection when we can’t really know if we’re being given the straight story.

There’s no similar shield against the misrepresentations of political candidates. The right to free speech trumps truth because no thinking voter could possibly believe anything political candidates say. As far as elections are concerned, it’s pretty much let the dozing dog beware.

But what about requiring truth from our elected officials? Like when they present complex bills consisting of thousands of pages of convoluted regulations, shouldn’t truthful disclosure be required? What about stopping the non-stop shell games engineered to mislead the unwary?

Nancy Pelosi recently said, “we have to pass [Obamacare] so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” The Speaker Speaks. Pelosi is one gutsy lady because hers is among the most productive fog machines. Here’s the point, Madam Speaker, in a democracy it’s not truth after advertising. It’s honest, upfront revelations.

The necessity for truth in political advertising is underscored by three recent examples. The value of the Stimulus, the cost of Obamacare and the repayment of the GM loan. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors periodically releases reports on the impact of the Stimulus on jobs. The latest one attributes 2.8 million jobs, created or saved, to Stimulus spending. These reports are perfect examples of blowing smoke. Stimulus Fact Check, Stimulus Claims.

Last week, the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released his evaluation of the true cost of Obamacare. In direct opposition to the President’s pre-passage assurances, the Actuary’s report documents increasing Obamacare costs over the next 10 years. It also warns of dire financial consequences for seniors and the high risk of early insolvency for some of the coverage options. Obamacare Costs. Obama’s claim of lowering costs? Mirrors reflecting more mirrors.

And then there’s Ed Whitacre, GM’s Chairman, with his prime time ads about GM’s early repayment of two loans – $6.7 billion in TARP funds and another $1.4 billion owed Canada. Ed earnestly implies that the loans were repaid from revitalized GM earnings. In fact, all the money came from a separate TARP fund. So, in paying off Canada, GM merely increased the debt it owes U.S. taxpayers. And, the Obama Administration, as holder of the TARP purse strings, knows all about it.  Bailout Pays For Bailout. Primo sleight of hand.

How do we guarantee truthfulness in political advertising? Since politicians have a perennial conflict of interest with the truth, what about independent reviews? Like the CMS Actuary’s report, only in advance. That assessment would have delayed the final vote on Obamacare only by a month. Now we know what the hurry was about.

Until now, voter protection from untruthful politicians was the ballot box. But, that’s an after-the-horse-has-left-the-barn solution. Untruths have already won. Damage has already been done. With increasingly complicated political and economic realities, where’s the harm in knowing the truth before it’s too late?

See you on the left-side.