PolitiFact’s “False” is False
March 16, 2012
Every Monday we post a tax map on our blog. And usually every week, the e-mail complaints roll in that the map isn't comprehensive enough. For instance, when we posted our sales tax map showing Tennessee has the highest rates, residents complained that we should note that they don't have an income tax. (We do, on the income tax map; we don't on the sales tax map because it's a sales tax map.) Most of our maps have footnotes, sources, and links to other maps, but they're maps. They're not research reports. (We have plenty of those, of course.)
PolitiFact earlier this month rated our recent state-level beer excise tax map as "false" not because it has any inaccurate information, but because it "only" looks at state-level beer excise taxes. I was surprised since we didn't hold out the map to be anything more than that. Yes, the map does not have other taxes that go into the price and sale of beer, like production taxes, sales taxes, and local taxes. All those things are important, but no one should expect a beer tax map to be a comprehensive look at all elements of a state's taxing system.
When I read the PolitiFact critique of our map, it's clear to me that their author doesn't understand the difference between excise taxes and other taxes, or that our map looks at just one tax and is not a comprehensive look at the entire tax system of a state. Since PolitiFact doesn't actually question our numbers but instead questions why we didn't include other semi-related numbers, the "False" should really be "True But Not Comprehensive." They ought to correct their conclusion.
Update: PolitiFact has changed its "False" to "Half True." We thank them for the correction but maintain that our map is True.