It’s not hard to find politics on TV, the Internet, or the radio. Anywhere media exist, there’s a politics lifeline. One reason lies in the value of the lobbying industry in the USA. Another lies in the activist industry. How do you know what to believe, considering the media’s track record dating many many years in the past? News media’s record is sordid at best.
There are some fairly good sources, though, for you to dig up some semblance of truth about people who campaign for your vote. Considering the value of the lobbying industry—roughly $3.47 billion that we know of, and you can bet it’s far more than that—it might be a good idea to search for facts on your own. If you’re relying on ‘fact-checkers’ at social media sites, you’re often getting suckered because many of those checkers have their own skin in the game.
There are sources, however, you can turn to. Who funds your favorite politician? What legislation or policies did that politician promote or succeed in getting passed? What industries fund your candidate? Those are some questions I often ask myself when deciding my vote.
A fact check inspired this article. Statements were made about the increase in taxes on social security funds repaid to you after you and your employer paid taxes for more than a decade. In 1983 and again in 1993 Congress passed a draconian tax on those benefits—in essence, they passed a tax on a tax. Twice. Fact checkers did verify this, but the devil’s in the deep details for those who take time to read them.
Here are five sources that are more or less objective and their search engines return facts mostly devoid of the propagandizing so popular in all quarters these days. If you’re spending time as a keyboard warrior, maybe spend a little time reading first:
- Real Clear Politics is known for poll data, but the site also provides coverage of both sides of an issue. It’s the closest site to neutral I know of. All sorts of info there, from science to cartoons.
- Vote Smart is one of the most useful resources even if you’re not deep in the political weeds. You can search for info like the candidate’s bio, funding, ratings, and votes. Democrats’ presidential candidate Joe Biden has an extensive section simply because he’s been in politics for so long, including serving as US senator and as vice president to former president Barack Obama. President Donald Trump, Republican incumbent, is covered in detail there as well. The information isn’t returned as opinion, but as fact based on public records.
- Want to see who’s paying your guy or gal? Take a look at Open Secrets. You could spend all day doing searches there. Returns are a matter of public record, so there’s no pundit screaming her head off about one candidate or the other.
- Interested in seeing who gives what to politicians? Go to the horse’s mouth, the Federal Elections Commission. Just be sure you get the name and city right so you don’t yell at someone by mistake.
- Most of what happens on the Web stays at the Internet Archive, although some info does get omitted. If you think you remember something a candidate or pundit said, and you can’t find the source, try the free IA Wayback Machine. Most of the time it’ll serve up what you ordered.
If you’re really feeling froggy, you can go to the US House or Senate online and read legislation as it is written. Be warned, though. Most of that legislation is written to obscure mandates the public might find unpopular. Our nation’s population has little patience for reading these days, and that impatience has often led to some horrific legislative decisions that once enacted, haunt us forever.
For executive orders by presidents, check out the Federal Register and see what past and present POTUSes have written in their speechwriters’ own words.
Next time you’re fired up about an issue, instead of jumping on the Facebook meme train or yelling at the TV, do a little research first. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what you find. It’s all right there under your nose.
(Kay B. Day/Oct. 6, 2020)