# Fact-Checking is Dead, Killed by Snopes over Biden’s Broken Promise of \$2,000 Checks

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I thought the \$2,000 check controversy could be allowed to recede into the disconsolate mists of time, as just one more Democrat betrayal, until I heard on The West Wing Thing that Snopes, “the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource,” had rated this claim:

In late December 2020 and early January 2021, President-elect Joe Biden and Georgia U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock misled the public with claims that winning both Georgia races would allow the immediate passage of “\$2,000 checks” for COVID-19 relief.

“Mostly false.” Since I remembered Warnock running on an actual image of a check with “\$****2000.00” printed on it, in authentic-looking IBM printer-style type, I wondered what sort of gymnastics Snopes had gone through. Before getting to Snopes, however, let’s ask ourselves — as ordinary voters — what Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock actually said.[1]

What did we mean by “a check for \$2000”?

I think all but a vanishingly small percentage of voters believes that this is what “a check for \$2,000” means: A \$2000 check is a check with \$2000 written on the amount line (and signed, dated, not, at least in the United States, scrawled upon a napkin. Let’s put this and other proposals for amount line in the form of productions. The dull normal believes that the amount line reads like production (1):

\$2,000(1)

While the amount line could theoretically be an arithmetical formula, I’ve never seen or heard of one:

\$1,400 + \$600(2)

Nor have I heard an amount line with a portion of the amount from one account, and another portion from a second account:

\$1,400Account A + \$600Account B(3)

Nor have I ever heard of an account line “with an asterisk” (or a bank paying attention to an asterisk if present).

\$2,000*(4)

* Terms and conditions apply

And for the sake of completeness:

\$1,400(5)

I am compelled to add Production (5) because of how matters turned out.

As we shall see, Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock all used Production (1) on the campaign trail. So did the press, So did voters. Subsequently, some Democrats proposed that Productions (2), (3), (4), and (5) were equivalent to Production (1), and that it is possible to mean Productions (2), (3), (4), and (5) while saying Production (1). So, absurdly, does Snopes. That’s not possible, because “checks” don’t work that way. But only Production (1) — “a check with \$2,000 in the amount line” — is, in fact, “a check for \$2,000.”

Did Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock promise a “a check for \$2000”?

They did, using the terms of Production (1). We’ve quoted them before, but for the record, let’s quote them again. First, here is Warnock, from one of his campaign ads:

Simple, direct, and to the point. Notice the amount line. Warnock and Ossoff ran as a joint ticket, so Warnock’s image is on Ossoff too. Nevertheless, here’s Ossoff on the Twitter, the day before the election:

And in print, on election day:

[OSSOFF:] We will be able to pass \$2,000 stimulus checks for the people next week.

And Biden on the campaign trail on election day:

[BIDEN:] By electing John and the Reverend, you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, the lives of people all across this country, because their election will put an end to the block in Washington of that \$2,000 stimulus check, that money that will go out the door immediately to help people who are in real trouble. Think about [? what it ?] will mean, to your lives, putting food on the table, paying rent, paying your mortgage, paying down the credit card, paying the phone bill, the gas bill, the electric bill.

And that’s not an exaggeration. That is a literal– that’s literally true. If you send John and the Reverend to Washington, those \$2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now. And if you send senators Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It’s just that simple. The power is literally in your hands.

By “that \$2,000 stimulus, Biden clearly means “a check with \$2000 written on the amount line.” There is one check, going out the door, not a \$1,400 check to top off the \$600 check that went out the door before, or the money Trump already sent plus additional money from Biden. None of that. One check, in the amount of \$2,000. The text could not be more clear.

Did people believe that Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock promised “a check for \$2000”?

We know that the press did, both before and after election day. In all cases, the text self-evidently means what normal people think it means: “A check with \$2000 written on the amount line” (Production 1).

(December 30, 2020) Distribution of \$600 coronavirus stimulus check started Tuesday; senators to revisit \$2,000 Wednesday New Orleans Advocate. (These are Trump’s checks, opposed by McConnell, supported by Schumer)

(January 1, 2021) Senate Democrats push for \$2,000 stimulus checks as clock winds down on 116th Congress CNN. “Schumer took to the Senate floor, saying, ‘The Senate can start off this new year by adding to that sense of hope by sending \$2,000 checks to struggling American families.’ He then pushed for a vote on \$2,000 checks, but was blocked when a GOP senator objected.”

(January 2, 2021) Congress wound down without \$2,000 stimulus checks. Here’s what could happen next. USA Today. “The House on Monday approved giving Americans weathering the coronavirus pandemic \$2,000 stimulus checks, but the measure never came to a vote in the Senate.”

(January 4, 2021) Georgia runoff could hold key to Biden stimulus checks Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(January 5, 2021) \$600 stimulus payments on the way; Where we stand on \$2,000 check AL.com. “The \$600 stimulus may be arriving but many people were hoping the second round would bring more – a lot more. Congress has been considering a \$2,000-per-person stimulus payment backed by the odd combination of both President Trump and Democrats.”

(January 5, 2021) In Georgia, Democrats close with populist pitch vowing \$2,000 stimulus checks NBC. “Their calibrated closing arguments centered on a pocketbook pitch to approve \$2,000 stimulus payments to Americans, a popular issue backed by Democrats and President Donald Trump but opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. In the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, McConnell torpedoed the checks in the Senate, though they had been approved with a bipartisan vote in the House.”

(January 5, 2021) Biden says electing Georgia’s Ossoff and Warnock would lead to \$2,000 stimulus checks CNN. No qualifications in the text.

(January 5, 2021) Biden says if Warnock and Ossoff are elected, “those \$2,000 checks will go out the door” Yahoo News. Ditto

* * * January 5, 2021: Election Day * * *

(January 6, 2021) Democrats retake the Senate with Georgia sweep Politico

Ossoff and Warnock campaigned vigorously on additional Covid-19 relief measures.

And at a news conference on Capitol Hill, Schumer acknowledged that “we sure did not take the most direct path to be here” — a nod to the party’s failures in a few Senate races from November. He added that once Warnock and Ossoff are sworn in, his first priority will be to move a bill that would provide \$2,000 stimulus checks to Americans.

(January 6, 2021) Biden gets to dream bigger with likely Democratic victories in Georgia Politico

Party members were jubilant about Warnock’s and Ossoff’s presumed victories, and they were already mapping out the legislative opportunities that control of both chambers of Congress allows. Biden’s Cabinet nominees are likely to get swift confirmation, and \$2,000 stimulus checks and expanded funding for states to distribute coronavirus vaccines are far more probable.

(January 7, 2021) With control of Senate, Democrats to act fast on \$2,000 checks Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “With Democrats on the cusp of controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will prioritize additional coronavirus relief for working Americans, including \$2,000 checks that were left out of the most recent stimulus.”

(January 8, 2021) \$2,000 stimulus checks on the table after Dems win control of Senate FOX. “‘One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the \$2,000 checks to the American families,’ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who will become majority leader, told reporters on Wednesday.”

(January 11, 2021) Joe Biden’s \$2,000 Stimulus Check Push Might Not Satisfy Calls for Relief Newsweek

(December 29, 2020) “\$2,000 Stimulus Checks Are Poorly Targeted and That’s Fine” Eric Levitz, New York Magazine. “Liberal critics of \$2,000 stimulus checks need to get realistic and stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

(January 12, 2021) \$2,000 Stimulus Check Calculator: How Much You Could Receive? Forbes. “Millions of Americans have received their \$600 stimulus checks—but hopes remain high for a \$2,000 stimulus check being sent out next.”

(January 13, 2021) \$2,000 stimulus checks: Here’s who might qualify WREG (Memphis, TN). “President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil a coronavirus relief plan Thursday that includes the largest direct payment yet: \$2,000 for most Americans…. While a \$2,000 check might sound nice, many people are left wondering whether they’d qualify.”

We also know that Democrat activists on the campaign trail believed that Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock said, and mean, Production (1). From the Daily Mail, reactions after \$2.000 in the amount line morphed into \$1,400 (Production 5):

Some Georgia voters have been left unimpressed by what they see as semantic trickery, with one person who canvassed for Democrats saying he felt he had “lied to people” when he promised them \$2,000 payments. I’m a man of principle and morals and I feel like s**t. I lied to them,” Rogelio Linares told Mediaite. Accusing the Democratic leadership of a “betrayal of the working class”, Linares said that “people are very mad about it” after the \$1,400 plan was unveiled. “At the doors, I was literally telling people, \$2,000 checks, you can rely on this’ he said. Another voter who supported Ossoff and Warnock, Rachel Kahn, said she felt the \$2,000 promise had been misleading. “In my opinion as a person who does marketing, advertising, and public communications as my job, I would confidently say their messaging implied an additional \$2,000, not \$2,000 minus \$600,’ she said. Oscar Zaro, another Democratic voter, said many people in his district had turned out for Ossoff and Warnock because of the promised \$2,000. “They really underestimate just how much people are hurting economically,” Zaro said of congressional Democrats.

Kahn’s “implied” is far too weak. Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock did not “imply” that checks with \$2,000 in the amount line would go out; that’s what they said, because what they promised couldn’t have possibly meant anything else to any normal person. Having laid the groundwork, let’s turn to Snopes.

How does Snopes perform its gyrations?

Nobody was confused but everybody was wrong, until Snopes after the fact straightened them out. Apparently. The Snopes post is lengthy, but to its credit, clearly laid out. First, their gyrations conclude:

What’s False

However, these promises [from Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock] were always made in the context of legislation blocked by the Senate in late December that attempted to raise the per person payment from \$600 to \$2,000. Because \$600 checks were already being distributed by the time Biden and the others entered office, the addition of \$1,400 would fulfill the campaign promise of \$2,000 per person COVID-19 stimulus payments.

In other words, Snopes urges that Production (1), a check with “\$2,000” in the amount line, and Production (2), a check with “\$1,400 + \$600” in the amount line, are equivalent. Try that the next time you make a deposit at your bank, and let me know how using a formula instead of a number works out for you. Further, if you will look at the examples I gave, you will see the Ossoff and Biden both promised \$2,000, with no qualifications, the day before the election, and on Election Day itself. The promises were in no sense made “always made in the context of legislation blocked by the Senate in late December,” unless you believe that a context where Congress is in session is the same as the context where Congress is in recess, a proposition as absurd as the proposition that \$2,000 = \$1,400.

It takes a lot of labor to go so wrong, so here are some of the ways that Snopes contorted itself to each this conclusion.

First, Snopes sets up a straw man:

Those arguing that Biden et al. broke a political promise by proposing \$1,400 checks on top of the already approved \$600 ones misrepresent the political debate surrounding COVID-19 relief efforts. Until the “broken promise” talking point emerged, the two political “camps” were the \$600 advocates (most congressional Republicans) and the \$2,000 advocates (Trump and most congressional Democrats). At no point was there ever a “\$2,600 camp.”

Whoever made the claim that there was a “\$2,600 camp”? And since when did a promise depend on the existence of “a camp”? Beyond the debaters’ points, what matters when a promise is made is understanding of the parties that make it. The “political debate” in Washington is completely irrelevant to the promise that Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock made (“\$2,000 check”) and the promise that voters, and the press, understood (“a check with \$2,000 in the amount line”). Here, Snopes proposes that Production (1) and Production (4) — “\$2,000*,” where the asterisk is not “Terms and conditions apply” but “subject to the political debate in Washington.” Come on, man.

Snopes goes on to handwave:

Looking back at the statements made by Biden and others, references to “\$2,000 checks” must be to these legislative efforts — including those advocated for and voted on by Ocasio-Cortez. Because the Senate cannot “block” legislation that has not yet been proposed, Biden’s reference to “the block in Washington of that \$2,000 stimulus check” clearly refers to the Senate’s unwillingness to take up the House amendment upping the \$600 checks to \$2,000.

No, “the block in Washington” does not “clearly refer” to “the Senate’s unwillingness to take up the House amendment upping the \$600 checks to \$2,000.” First, no voter on earth would believe that. Snopes assumes that Georgia voters and canvassers are following a complex legislative process in detail, as if they were Beltway wonks. Second, the “and others” besides Biden, novice Senators Ossoff and Warnoff, are as likely to have followed the debate in detail while consumed by campaigning as voters were. Third, Biden must have known that there is no reason a new bill could not be introduced, given Democrat control over both the House and the Senate; past legislative history is irrelevant. Fourth, Snopes proposes that Production (1) and Production (3) — \$1,400Biden + \$600Trump — are the same. Come on, man. How does a \$1,400 check topping off a \$600 check translate to a check going “out the door”? All of the messaging was for a singular, \$2000 check under a Biden presidency, not \$1400 from Biden and \$600 from Trump.

And finally Snopes obfuscates completely:

Because Biden and Ossoff’s statements are consistent with the package Democrats ultimately proposed, but because their timeline for getting those payments out the door was too optimistic, we rank the claim that Biden’s proposed \$1,400 checks are a broken promise as “Mostly False.”

(“Biden and Ossoff’s statements.” What’s Warnock? Chopped liver?) First, “their timeline for getting those payments out the door was too optimistic” translates to “I couldn’t deliver what I promised,” at least for the “out the door” part. Glad we’ve got that clear. Second, voters didn’t vote for an ultimate proposal; they vote for what candidates put before them; what Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock actually promised, in their own words. Third, once again Snopes is claiming that Production (1), “\$2,000,” and Production (4), “\$2,000*” are the same; in this case, the asterisk is “consistent with the package Democrats ultimately proposed, which turns out to — surprise! — Production (5), “\$1,400,” in the amount line. It’s not complicated[2]:

Conclusion

Back in the day, before The Platforms and private equity combined to destroy the news business, we didn’t need standalone “fact checkers” like Snopes; each institution was strong enough to check facts all on its own, without outsourcing anything to a tiny outfit like Snopes. I can’t imagine why Snopes went to all this trouble to obfuscate promises that were perfectly clear when they were made. Except, possibly, for threats of censorship or deplatforming by liberal Democrats newly enamored of such things.

NOTES

[1] To be fair, Snopes doesn’t omit any of the evidence I’m about the present; it’s their interpretation I take issue with.

[2] See, e.g., Kieran Healy, “F*ck Nuance.”

This entry was posted in Guest Post, Media watch, Politics on .

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

1. skk

This is amazing, of course 2k is 2k
Yeah snopes went downhill sufficiently three years ago- sufficiently for me to stop recommending them as the fact check go-to, I’d been recommending them for 2 decades or so.My recollection, is that’s about the time David mikkelson’s divorce settlement, was going thru on the qt.
Almost as if he was trying to ruin the brand to weasel out of the settlement. Yeah, I know mostly false.:-)

2. MP

I had always understood this as they were going to increase the checks sent from 600 to 2000. It seems like they couldn’t get their shit together fast enough to increase the 600 to 2000, so instead they sent the 600 right away, and another 1400 once they got their shit together.

And yes, my bank account will look similar if I deposit one 2000 check vs one 600 and one 1400 check.

I think there are plenty of things to criticize the administration for and this seems like a distraction.

1. Bill Smith

The balance in your checking account is not a check. And it would have looked different if you had deposited a 2000 check into it after the special election.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> The balance in your checking account is not a check.

Somehow the Democrat messaging on this has made people unable to see the simplest things that are right in front of them, things that they do every day. A “check for \$2000” doesn’t necessarily have \$2000 in the amount line… Who writes checks, or cashes them, that thinks that way?

2. Aomoa

How about “there’s plenty to criticize the Biden administration for, including this completely valid criticism too”.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> How about “there’s plenty to criticize the Biden administration for, including this completely valid criticism too”.

There is, but this is a critique of Snopes.

3. Lambert Strether Post author

> And yes, my bank account will look similar if I deposit one 2000 check vs one 600 and one 1400 check.

There seems to be an ability to look at what the words actually say. Promising a check for \$2,000 in the amount line is not the same as promising (or delivering) two checks, one for \$1,400 and one for \$600. This is certainly true if you have the sort of bank that games the order of check cashing in order to screw up your balance and charge you fees.

Your comment also claims that a promise for a check with \$2,000 in the amount line can be met by with a check for \$1400 in the amount line, and the retrospective claim of intent to top up the \$600 that you already cashed.

The amount of money your account is irrelevant to the actual promise, and also Biden owes you six hundred bucks.

1. Pelham

Absolutely and definitively — although this could also be said about every other aspect of the promises made.

The downsizing lie is a pattern, though. For instance, Biden promised \$7 trillion for infrastructure during the campaign, and that has since turned into \$2.25 trillion, only a small fraction of which anyone in his right mind would describe as infrastructure.

These lies are always worth calling out — repeatedly and in detail — to maintain any possibility of public sanity in light of the increasingly apparent fact that our elites believe themselves regally entitled to deceive us on any subject at any juncture for any reason. And one has to include so-called fact checkers among the PMC guardians keeping the rabble at bay.

1. QuicksilverMessenger

and MP also tells us that it was understood that we would get “another 1400 once they got their sh*t together.” No – the promise was 2000 when you get these 2 elected, nothing about “getting their sh*t together”.
It’s like you didn’t read Lambert’s article

2. sheila

It was a great post. A keeper, because it documents the promises.

But, so sad that we even need to have such a post. When did we get so dumb? We need basic “everyday economics” classes in primary school. E.g., to show kids a check, a bank statement with transactions and a balance, teach them how to budget, etc.

4. tegnost

Wondering where did you get the information?
Is there a link ​from the relevant time period you have to someone explaining that?
Maybe it was there and I just never saw it…

1. ChiGal in Carolina

I understood this too. So did Dave Dayen in one of his 1st Hundred Days emails. He traced the origin of the \$1400 to a move AOC made in the House to supplement the original \$600.

I wish Lambert would give it a rest. His mind is a terrible thing to waste.

1. Yves Smith

Sorry, this is totally disingenuous.

The \$600 checks started being sent on December 19 and the mailing finished Jan 15.

Biden does not get to take credit for a Trump Administration \$600, add his \$1,400, and say it’s his \$2000. Why are you willing to give Biden credit that he in no way, shape, or form deserves?

And Dayen’s book Chain of Title is similarly all wet on timetables and giving credit where credit is due.

2. Geo

Even if the timetables you mention align (and I’m not going to dig around or read Dayen’s book and do the work to see) it is clearly deceptive to claim \$2K when you mean “additional \$1400 on top of what Trump has given you” – also makes for a bad campaign slogan.

Also, the payments were over three months apart!!! Most people I know got their \$1400 this week. Does anyone’s landlord or utility provider do their math that way?

Did they put our aid on layaway?

3. Lambert Strether Post author

> He traced the origin of the \$1400 to a move AOC made in the House to supplement the original \$600.

This is silly. The legislative history is completely irrelevant wonk fodder. What matters is the promise that Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock collaboratively made to the voters. That’s a “check for two thousand dollars,” which means, by Production (1), “a check with \$2,000 in the amount line.” That’s what any normal person means, and that’s why the political appeal was potent.

“Original” begs the question, and smuggles irrelevant legislative history into the post. I answer Dayen’s special pleading in the post:

Fourth, Snopes proposes that Production (1) [\$2000] and Production (3) — \$1,400Biden + \$600Trump— are the same. Come on, man. How does a \$1,400 check topping off a \$600 check translate to a [\$2,000] check going “out the door”? All of the messaging was for a singular, \$2000 check under a Biden presidency, not \$1400 from Biden and \$600 from Trump.

Personally, I don’t view definitively crossing Snopes off my already-too-short list of trusted sources as a waste of my mind. Your mileage my vary.

The bright side is that I now I can cross of Dayen along with Snopes. (Not his writers, of course, at least not automatically>(

5. Geo

Since we’re grouping payments many months apart does Biden also get credit for the \$1,200 stimulus check from last year? Does that mean Biden got us \$3,200 instead of \$2K?

If true they should have campaigned on \$3,200 checks in the Georgia races.

6. PHLDenizen

So the “adults in the room” with whom we were supposed to blessed in return for our votes — with their promise of competent governance, expert messaging, deftly and nimbly achieving the total erasure of the alleged and singular abomination that is Trump, particularly the lies and fabrications — are just as unprincipled, disorganized, and dissembling as Team Trump. The fact Snopes didn’t even know it was confirming.

2k check. Lie. Unfscking the humanitarian crisis at the border. Lie. Closing gitmo. Early, but still a likely lie. Pulling out of the MENA sandbox. Lie. Taking surplus military gear out of the hands of LEO? Lie. Reforming LEOs nationwide to prevent the gleeful, unapologetic, and immunized murder of civilians? Lie. Student loan debt knockdown? Lie. Undoing the purposeful annihilation of the futures of young black men, imprisoned on bulls*** possession charges? Lie. I’m sure you’ll counter with he’s only been in office X days and “can’t boil the oceans” or some other businessbabble dimwitticism, but Biden has “Joementum” only in the early days of his administration and 2022 isn’t looking particularly great for maintaining his minuscule majority, so it’s either front-load his presidency with aggressive, transformative legislation or just give up the ghost.

Furthermore, your having “always understood” means you exhibit a level of fascination with the machinations with Beltway shenanigans that only someone with adequate free time in a relatively well paying gig could afford. Broke single mothers don’t have the time or inclination to engage in such navel gazing. Nor do the now permanently under- or unemployed citizens of GA, to whom 2k face value checks were promised. Precarity is the enemy of the well-informed citizenry whose paucity the neoliberals bemoan. It’s revoltingly condescending (and perfectly in line with the Dem nomenklatura) to keep pissing on the heads of the people who failed to move to the wokest, innovative-ist coast with an Apple laptop and a desire to code, code, code. Or manipulate symbols. Or whatever other non-value-added gigs are deemed virtuous in this day and age.

It’s smug. It’s myopic. It’s dehumanizing. It’s insulting. It’s unhelpful. And, to add to pile of D lies with an unlimited ceiling, it’s certainly not the big tent party. There’s no imagination or empathy. No ability to understand a reality that occupies a sphere outside your own.

That said, I’m going to continue donating to and volunteering for Fetterman’s PA senate race (who, IMNSHO, is the most interesting politician right now, not AOC — sorry, Lambert) and keep Larry Krasner in the Philly DA’s office. Philly has problems, but Larry isn’t one of them. Philly has an particularly racist and authoritarian element, but i still like the city better than NYC in many ways. SEPTA, despite all the s*** it gets, is great.

Also need to throw some coins in Lambert’s cup. I’ve been a derelict.

7. James Simpson

When someone promises me \$2,000 and then sends me \$1,400, saying “Hey, didn’t someone else send you \$600 a while ago? That’s included!” I would never believe a word they say again.

3. Tom Stone

I’m surprised that Snopes didn’t argue that \$1,400 is more than \$2,000.
Taxes, you see.
I wonder if anyone has mentioned to snopes that treating people with open contempt doesn’t usually work out well?
And there’s this weird legitimacy thing too, most people seem to lose trust in leaders and organisations that consistently lie to them.
It’s one way to unite the populace but perhaps not the best way.

1. Geo

I love XKCD. I wish I was smart enough to understand most the humor but somehow I still find it funny.

1. Randall Flagg

Agreed on my mental ability to understand it as well, but the line on the memo does it for me.

4. Glen

The downside – the American MSM is unable to report even basic facts right anymore.

The upside – the lies the American elites try to tell us are no longer believed by the majority of Americans.

1. LawnDart

Glen, I wish I could, but I don’t share your optimism– I feel that it is premature.

I forget the writer (and I am too lazy to research it right now– enjoying effects of Covid shot #2 (it kinda sucks)) who stated that the Soviet Union collapsed when people quit believing in it. To me,, this kinda seems to rhyme or parallel the current trajectory of USA, albeit slowly (at the moment).

Reportedly, approximately 150,000,000 Americans voted in the last election. Tell me that they don’t believe that this two-party system doesn’t constitute a democracy or representation of the people’s will: they believe the lie, and they act accordingly.

As a non-believer, an apostate such as yourself may unwittingly endanger themselves by making their beliefs too public. Just wait for the upcoming commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of USA’s 9/11 to fully appreciate the bovine intelligence of the herd, and the gaslighting, the shameless lying, of the so-called “elite, fully abetted by the MSM.

1. Acacia

Are you thinking of Alexei Yurchak, by chance? He wrote a book called Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation, in which he advances the concept of hypernormalization.

Riffing on Yurchak’s concept, Adam Curtis made a documentary called HyperNormalisation (2016), which explores the idea that Yurchak’s argument about the Soviet Union could be useful for understanding what’s currently happening in the West. Recommended viewing.

Finally, my hat goes off to Lambert for making the deep dive into this \$2,000 cheque malarkey, and setting the record straight. I had already sh*t-listed Snopes some years back, but it’s still nice to have my suspicions of their dishonesty confirmed. Bookmarked!

1. LawnDart

Yurchak did make a similar observation, if he was not the originator of the quote that I paraphrased.

The Curtis movie is freely available on YouTube I see, and it runs a little more than 2-hours. But I think that it might be better to read Yurchak’s book first to draw one’s personal conclusions or understanding of the concept of hypernormalization– the book definitely made my reading list, and I thank you for that.

2. Jeff

Glen, Media hasn’t lost the capability to report accurately. They’ve lost the interest due to the profit incentive to make their audience feel good about themselves so they keep coming back for more.

The majority of Americans do trust the media they watch, and that’s why it’s easy to gaslight em.

5. Tom Doak

From a scientific paper on my Google search for “Who watches the watchmen?”:

When the Roman poet Juvenal asked ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ (‘Who watches the watchmen?’) he was questioning the integrity of guards posted to ensure his wife’s fidelity.

With Snopes, though, it’s more a matter of who is trying to [family blog] us over.

1. drumlin woodchuckles

Who watches the watchman-watchers?

And who watches the watchman-watcher watchers?

And etc.

6. Alternate Delegate

Thank you for nailing this down, Lambert.

I know it sometimes feels like there’s no point in bothering, no one is going to see all the collected evidence – but we do. Others could see it, if they cared to see it. Maybe they will. At some point.

It’s worth it.

1. ChiGal in Carolina

What would be “worth it” is beating the drum for another check for those in need, and after that another.

This is outrage signaling.

1. tegnost

What is the basis for another check? What is the argument you want to see made for more checks? If they cared they would have raised the min wage. IMO there won’t be any more checks. Get a vax and get a job. Why do you see it differently and who is going to “fight” for you on this point? Bernie? He lost and the people who won don’t like him, which is no to say he won’t do anything, but he’s not going to change the world for you either.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> This is outrage signaling

I don’t see why. I was wondering about crossing Snopes off my list of trustworthy sources. Now I can. It’s a short list, now shorter.

1. doug

and I thank you for wading through it.
I had no idea Snopes was calling it this way.
Up is Down.

2. Randall Flagg

Getting the best education imaginable from both the caretakers and commentators on this site. Thank you all.

3. James P.

Please write another article of this depth and tell us who is still on your list of trusted sources. That would be much more useful than just knowing that Snopes is not on it.

1. The Rev Kev

I suspect that Lambert’s personal list of trusted sources printed would merely become somebody else’s target list for harassment and smears.

2. tegnost

From the first sentence…
“I thought the \$2,000 check controversy could be allowed to recede into the disconsolate mists of time, as just one more Democrat betrayal, until ”

Snopes put out a claim, then lambert considered it. As he says, it was pretty much over until they brought it up. In this day and age, you’re not going to get a trusted source. That’s one of the great values of NC. It’s an ecosystem. Venture in and find some of the many truths available, remembering the internet is a hostile environment

3. judy2shoes

@James P.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I think NC staff are trying to teach us how to fish. I much prefer this approach as opposed to being spoon fed what to think and whom to believe. YMMV.

1. James P.

I don’t think my question is related to fishing for myself. I just think you can learn a lot about a person by knowing who they trust. I now know that Lambert trusted Snopes until this week, but he is not willing to divulge any other source that he trusts. His silence on this question is also informative.

4. km

Start by looking for admissions against interest.

If the WaPo were to run an article stating that the russiagate conspiracy theory was 100% pure Grade A USDA Prime Bull, I would take that more seriously than another round of breathless and unprovable assertions based on Super Secret Anonymous Sources.

5. Lambert Strether Post author

> tell us who is still on your list of trusted sources

Well, it’s a mental list and it evolves. So, I don’t think so. And it would also include a lot of really boring items like “Hellenic Shipping News” (an example picked for obscurity, not because it’s way more trustworthy than anything else).

1. James P.

So Snopes was still on your trusted list until this week? And that’s all you’re willing to say about that?

7. Alfred

I got whiplash from the get-go. Newsweek “Joe Biden’s Change of Heart on \$2,000 Stimulus Checks Shows Power of Bernie Sanders Works ” 1-5-21

Biden’s shift from endorsing legislation with no checks to now promising \$2,000 checks follows a relentless campaign from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has pushed the wildly popular idea of \$2,000 checks for most of the last year. His crusade was boosted by House progressives who also supported the measure—and their effort received a late, unexpected boost from President Donald Trump, who threatened to hold up stimulus legislation without more direct aid for workers.

The campaign ultimately reduced its ask to a second round of \$1,200 checks and was supported in Congress by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. It successfully pressured lawmakers to include checks in the stimulus bill that passed Congress. However, Biden’s influence once again pushed Democrats into accepting less than they had initially sought, ultimately reducing the checks to just half that.

When Trump suddenly signaled his support for \$2,000, House Democrats quickly passed separate legislation for that amount.

In the Senate, Sanders was backed by five Democratic lawmakers who voted to sustain his filibuster of the defense authorization bill to try to force a vote on the \$2,000 checks. That tactic was short-circuited by Republican senators and more than 40 Senate Democrats who sided with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in motions to shut down the filibuster. Among the Democrats helping shut down the filibuster was vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.

As Sanders spotlighted the \$2,000 checks legislation on Capitol Hill in the last month, Georgia Democrats Warnock and Ossoff began campaigning on the initiative.

This past week, Warnock ran an ad with the line, “Want a \$2,000 check? Vote Warnock.” Ossoff, meanwhile, tweeted on Monday that “We can pass \$2000 relief checks for the people, but we have to win this Senate election.”

Under pressure, Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler issued last-minute statements of general support for the \$2,000 checks, but never actually pressed McConnell to allow a vote on the proposal. Perdue had previously opposed the entire concept of direct stimulus checks.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

The only whiplash is from how fast Snopes moved to protect Biden.

Now, to be fair, if I looked that world from the wonk’s perspective, I might think the legislative history is important. But the wonk’s perspective is not important. To them, a check for \$2000 is clearly “a check with \$2000 written in the amount line.” I imagine there’s no outrage simply because the list of Democrat betrayals is so long.

It would well be that a wonk starting from the evidence would end up where Snopes did, out of algorithmic instead of conscious bias. But again, the wonk’s perspective is not important.

1. Alfred

Not sure where you are coming from with the “wonk,” but I was just adding this as flavor, not to take any thunder from what Snopes did. Thanks for your excellent analysis, and for taking the time.
The fact that Dems and Reps were using pennies to jerk us around to the lowest amount that would put them over the top, and then Snopes joining their theatre….

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> Not sure where you are coming from with the “wonk,”

Definition from The District Policy Group:

The Meaning: An expert or someone steeped in the details of a particular issue area or field, e.g. policy wonk. Sometimes used as a compliment (“She’s a real health policy wonk”) and sometimes used as an insult to suggest someone is a nerd (“I would never date such a wonk”).

What it Means: Washington, DC is filled with wonks – people with deep expertise in specific policy issues, who sometimes speak in a vernacular often not understood by people outside the Beltway. Hence, the need for our Dewonkify™ glossary!

Note this is from a company that actually labels itself as being “From the District”!

NC readers may have a somewhat different understanding of what “steeped in the details,” and “deep expertise in specific policy issues” mean than The District Policy Group has. Somebody like Jon Gruber of ObamaCare infamy is a wonk. People like Yglesias and Klein are wonk-adjacent. Lots of wonks work in cubes on K Street. Lots of wonks also work for NGOs.

Note also the “sometimes speak in a vernacular often not understood by people outside the Beltway.” When people insist that “\$2,000 check” is to be understood only in terms of a policy discussion over a bill that ultimately did not pass, they are appropriating the plain meaning of words as understood by voters for “a vernacular often not understood by people outside the Beltway.” People like Matt Bruenig are wonks, but in a good way.

8. rowlf

Nice job with the research Lambert. I have to string beads as my day job and this post was top notch.

Good on ya. Dee mak.

9. Procopius

I’m afraid people are not going to care much about it next year. I’m going to care, so maybe that’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and leads to a wave election like 2010. Imagine a Senate with 61 Republicans. On the other hand, even though I resent the Hell out of the lying and gaslighting, I’m not going to vote Republican next year.

1. Mike

Amen says the church.

On Main Street all I’m hearing is that “Man, I’ve not only gotten a \$600 check , but now a \$1400 check. I can pay my rent and my utilities and my insurance premiums and buy a little more food.” In the street they’re not concerned with how we got here. They care only that they got some assistance NOW.

Now it is a concern that the politicos will make a mountain out of a molehill issue such as has been discussed in this blog post, but that is a whole different problem. Look at it like an emergency first responder: this victim needs resuscitation – NOW. Do it.

10. William Hunter Duncan

If Trump said the Sun rises in the East, Snopes and WaPo would say it was a falsehood because he said it in June and the Sun rises in the North-East.

If Biden said the Sun rises in the West Snopes would declare it mostly true because most of the time he clearly gets it right, and you know, the President has a grueling schedule.

11. Fern

I have a file of misleading, agenda-ridden examples of “fact checks”. The standard drill is to find an example that phrases a key revelation that’s unflattering to their favorite politicians or causes in an overly broad or emphatic manner and then to knock it down, implying that the entire revelation is wrong.

Examples:
SNOPES:

FALSE: Nobel Committee Regrets Obama Peace Prize
Rumor: The Nobel Committee has expressed regret for awarding the 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama.
https://www.snopes.com/news/2014/09/14/prize-fight/

But in fact, it’s basically true:

Here was the headline from BBC:
“Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34277960

POLITIFACT:

“Barack Obama put a permanent stop on this military aid to the Ukraine – he never allowed it to go.” FALSE

But in fact, Obama did withhold military aid to Ukraine, resisting both congress and his own administration:

https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2019/oct/25/matt-gaetz/matt-gaetz-says-obama-permanently-stopped-military/

AP news:

“Both the Obama administration and the Trump administration had expressed concerns in the past that injecting more weapons into the conflict was unlikely to resolve it, especially considering that Russia is well-equipped to respond to any Ukrainian escalation with an even stronger escalation of its own. Sending lethal weapons to Ukraine also creates the troubling possibility that American arms could kill Russian soldiers, a situation that could thrust the two nuclear-armed nations closer to direct confrontation.”

https://apnews.com/article/e2d29e7cc9b84b808a928f49875d2bca

The Hill:
“But the president made clear he is hesitant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, a step advocated by some members of Congress.”

The Brookings Institute:

The {Obama} administration rejected lethal military assistance {to Ukraine}. In our meetings last year with senior U.S. officials, it was apparent that the White House’s main concern was escalation: that the Russians might out-escalate the United States, or that U.S. leaders would find themselves on an escalation ladder that would end up with the Eighty-Second Airborne Division deploying to Donetsk.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/03/18/the-obama-doctrine-and-ukraine/

USA TODAY fact check:

Headline: Fact check: Biden leveraged \$1B in aid to Ukraine to oust corrupt prosecutor, not to help his son {False}.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/21/fact-check-joe-biden-leveraged-ukraine-aid-oust-corrupt-prosecutor/5991434002/

This is clearly an opinion, not a fact. No one can possibly know what was really going on inside Joe Biden’s head at the time. It’s entirely plausible that he did it to help his son, and it’s plausible that he didn’t.

12. Starry Gordon

I think the numbers you might want to look at are not 1400 and 2000 but 2022 and 2024. I assume the Democrats are uncomfortable with power and the responsibility that comes along with it, and _want_ to lose the upcoming elections in those years. Then they can get back to collecting from donors and signaling virtue without doing much of anything. I suppose on their way out they could start another endless war. Everyone likes those.

1. KLG

Precisely their intention. Anyway, Warnock is up for election to a full term in 2022. Not the way to bet.

13. drumlin woodchuckles

The MSM, the West Wing Liberals, the Silicon Valley Lords of Platform, etc. will continue to center ” fact-checking”. They will keep it zombie-alive ( ” zombalive”?) as long as they can.

We may end up saying, ” Fact-checking isn’t dead. it just smells that way.”

14. LawnDart

With it, Lambert has effectively illustrated how Snopes has managed to mortally wound its image as an authoritative, non-biased fact-checker. At least amongst those who don’t overlook such things.

Another fine example of institutional rot…another sacred cow turned into hamburger. Well done.

15. The Rev Kev

Snopes is supposed to be one of the official fact-checkers now but I would just as soon get my facts from Bellingcat. The fact of the matter is that in 2022, Republicans will be able to tell people that you can add up the Trump checks (including that \$600 one) and compare it to the total amount that the Democrats gave people and Trump gave much more. And Snopes won’t be able to twist that fact successfully. People will remember. Diddling with the tax codes instead won’t win many votes.

But when you drill down a bit, this whole saga is misleading. Every major industrialist country gave their people money to get through the pandemic with their scaled-back economies except one – the United States. And those amounts of money were on a continuous basis so that at the other end, there will still be an economy for those countries to reboot up again. The US basically threw people to the wolves and fobbed them off with pocket change every now and then with no serious talk of a UBI. But trillions are being pushed through to the top end of town instead. And people will remember that too.

1. James P.

“And people will remember that too.”

So, what will they do about it? Vote Republicans back in and expect that will fix the trillions being pushed though to the top end of town?

1. tegnost

As of today trump doled out more than biden.
The repubs are going to have a hard time catching up with the trillions to the top since 2008
accomplished by the dems

2. Basil Pesto

they will vote Republican or abstain not because of some expansive political outlook, but because they’re not the most recent party of the two available options to fuck them over with penny-ante bullshit. It’s that simple.

2. Victoria Hanks

Exactly – money was and is needed on a continuous basis in the U.S. I get the point about fact checking and the necessary business of parsing the exhausting details to uncover facts vs. lies but the central point most of us care about is really obvious: it was promised in plain English in multiple broadcasts and we didn’t get it – not even one payment of \$2000. It’s really kind of a so what at this point – ok duh – so if I got the \$2000 that’s better than \$1400 but that one time shot that was a product of massive congressional constipation didn’t do diddly for most people.

16. Randall Flagg

Getting the best education imaginable from both the caretakers and commentators on this site. Thank you all.

17. James Simpson

The corporate media will support anything Biden says or does. The new infrastructure bill is hailed as transformative and vindication of their hero-worship, yet it’s only a relatively small amount larger than Trump’s CARES Act. Like its predecessor, the marginal relief from poverty it provides is taken from government borrowing, not from taxing the wealthy oligarchs who rule the USA, and it’s only temporary.

18. anon y'mouse

yes, the post is correct. snopes has had strange motivations for many of their conclusions over the years, especially about anything tinged by politics.
the larger point is why aren’t we decrying the entire thing?

“elect 2 and get \$2k”—2 specific people into 2 specific positions. not vaguely “enough for us to take over the congress and pass the laws which will get you more support checks” which would be the standard formulation for such an appeal.
yet water in a waiting-to-vote line is obviously wrong. because? because it is being considered an inducement.

no one seems to be making this point at all.
note: i am not saying they shouldn’t have passed and sent \$2k after the election. they should have sent it periodically, even monthly, all of last year.

1. Larry Gilman

Nobody’s making this point because promising to act for the public good if elected is not vote-buying. In the case of stimulus checks, people who voted against the candidates who promised the checks are also getting the checks. If that’s vote-buying, down is up.

This is a separate issue from whether voters will lied to about the amount of the check. (They were.)

1. anon y'mouse

it’s just an indirect form.

“if you do x, we will give you y.”

if you were to approach a voter and say “vote for Ted and you’ll get \$100” it would be most clear, and i believe is illegal.

that’s really not a different thing than was -promised- here, just using the gov’t for the payoff. they didn’t say “vote for us and we will work to obtain economic relief”. their explicit statement was a reward for the voter in exchange for votes for 2 specific seats.

it would have been much better, and technically not vote buying if they had said “get these guys in there and then we can vote on more economic relief payments” and simply left the amount vague. that would be in keeping with your argument, and with their later “interpretation” of what the amount should have been.

19. st33ve

“Nobody was confused but everybody was wrong?”

Sorry, no.

I probably consume more online daily news than is good for my mental health — with browsing the NC link roundup near the top of my priority list — and I read lots of year-end stories, from many sources, about the second round of stimulus.

And there was never any doubt in my mind that the “\$2,000 check” references were references to \$2,000 instead of \$600, not \$2,000 in addition to \$600 (for a second-round total of \$2,600).

So if the stimulus was successfully increased, people who hadn’t gotten any payment yet (like me) would get \$2,000, and people who’d already received the \$600 payment would get a supplemental \$1,400.

That’s what I thought was under consideration, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the majority of news consumers thought was under consideration.

Because of the awkward timing in terms of the initial check deliveries (to some recipients), I can understand that quite a few people could have been “confused” by the simple, campaign-slogan-style references to a “\$2,000 check.” If Lambert had been in charge, maybe the billboards would have had two alternative checks pictured (one for \$1,400 and one for \$2,000). Would that have made things clearer?

In any case, and with respect to the “lie” allegations, I’d be surprised if any significant percentage of the Democrats referring to \$2,000 in their campaign-related statements had a deliberate intent to mislead voters into thinking they’d end up with a total of \$2,600 in the second round. And FWIW, I was never misled.

1. Larry Gilman

Viz. candidate’s picture of a Treasury check with “\$2,000” on the amount line. Only sophistry can make that into anything but a promise of a Treasury check with “\$2,000” on the amount line.

As for whether a “lie” was involved, you argue there was probably no intent to deceive voters. However, to abandon or modify a promise while denying that one is doing so is to lie even if the promise was originally made without intent to deceive.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> to abandon or modify a promise while denying that one is doing so is to lie even if the promise was originally made without intent to deceive.

Yep.

2. tegnost

the check should have said 1400.

As to
I’m pretty sure that’s what the majority of news consumers thought was under consideration.

show me one mainstream, or any other source, article that states some form of “this is in addition to the 600 you already got.” ESP is not real.

1. st33ve

Show me one mainstream article (or campaign statement) that refers to the figure of 2,600. If the intent was to have voters believe that the “second round” would add up to that, wouldn’t at least a few people have referred to that total?

Also: It was understood that if the higher stimulus ended up going into effect, some people would already have received their 600 payments at that point, and some people wouldn’t have, so there was going to be a complication with different check amounts. It wasn’t going to be a simple same-amount-check-for-everybody thing in any case.

FYI, I was in the first round of mailed-payment recipients (I got a debit card), and received my 600 on January 19. Nobody who received an actual \$600 paper check had received one before the Georgia elections.

1. tegnost

There was no reason for anyone to talk about or include the \$600 any more than the payments before that.
A quick fact check shows us that the \$600 checks were on the way in 2020, which means people at the least knew they were coming on new years eve, and some, particularly people in programs like food stamps had it right away

“The initial direct deposit payments may begin arriving as early as tonight for some and will continue into next week. Paper checks will begin to be mailed tomorrow, Wednesday, December 30.”
https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/treasury-and-irs-begin-delivering-second-round-of-economic-impact-payments-to-millions-of-americans

And no, you didn’t come up with anything other than your feelings, there should be at least one obscure citation re the 600, otherwise it’s just another campaign lie and if we’d left it at that this thread would’ve ended yesterday

2. st33ve

show me one mainstream, or any other source, article that states some form of “this is in addition to the 600 you already got.”

From CNBC, Dec. 29:

The amount of the stimulus checks could change. Even as \$600 checks are going out, Congress is still battling over increasing the economic impact payment amount to \$2,000 for individuals.

If the \$2,000 checks are passed, the IRS will top up checks that have already been issued as soon as possible, it said Tuesday.

1. BERNARD J KARPF

st33ve,

actually, i did receive my check for \$600 on 1/4 PRIOR to the Ga election. It looks like the Ga dem’s won on the 6th of January.
But, in essence, i agree with you that the battleground was centered about the \$2k figure. I never expected more. But i closely watch the news.

I take the writers point though, that many people do not, and perhaps, can’t, follow the news cycle and its nuances. Certainly the dem’s played games with the truth to a substantial extent.

Although, i think you are right on the 2k figure, i just don’t want to defend the democrats. I have to think they knew they were sending a mixed signal on purpose. They could have ‘spelled’ out the 2k figure was an aggregate amount, HAD ONE rec’d the \$600.

3. ChiGal in Carolina

Agree; this post and most of the comments are an exercise in outcome bias, as Edgeman below also illustrates.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> this post and most of the comments are an exercise in outcome bias, as Edgeman below also illustrates.

This is the definition of outcome bias:

Outcome bias arises when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events, without regard to how the past events developed. Outcome bias does not involve analysis of factors that lead to a previous event, and instead de-emphasizes the events preceding the outcomes and overemphasizes the outcome. Unlike hindsight bias, outcome bias does not involve the distortion of past events.

If you’re going to make a claim like that, prove it.

1. ChiGal in Carolina

From fallacyinlogic.com:

Outcome bias is the tendency to judge a past decision by its result instead of looking at the quality of the decision. In other words, one mistakenly takes into account only the ultimate outcome, without looking at what information was available at the time when the decision was being made and what factors or events led to that outcome.

In my estimation this fits. It’s all about the moving target and them not tweaking the message to keep up, imho. Maybe that will turn out to have been a miscalculation, dunno. Depends on how many share the perception they were “had” and regret that the result of the Georgia vote was McConnell lost the Senate.

But again, I would rather focus on the need for repeat checks like every other damn “first world” country provided for its citizens!

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> It’s all about the moving target and them not tweaking the message to keep up, imho.

Come off it. There’s no evidence for your view except the baseline assumption that the Democrats are acting in good faith. And when you say “Depends on how many share the perception they were ‘had'”, clearly you’re giving them no incentive to act in good faith, since the goodness of their act depends solely on its consequences (i.e., breaking promises is good if you can get away with it.

On outcomes bias:

In other words, one mistakenly takes into account only the ultimate outcome, without looking at what information was available at the time when the decision was being made and what factors or events led to that outcome.

The voters were looking at all the information they needed. The plain meaning of “\$2,000 check” is “a check with \$2,000 in the amount line.”

You’re illicitly smuggling in the same basic assumption that Democrat policy wonks do: That voters have to be policy wonks and study a complex legislative history in order to understand the plain meaning of words on the campaign trail.* (If Biden had said “It’s raining,” Democrat loyalists would not advise voters to look out the window; they would say that voters need to understand the legislative history of a bill before House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, because there’s a controversial pending bill about the National Weather Service. It’s just amazing.)

NOTE * If Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock had been using the classic dodge of “fighting for’ — “I’ll fight for a \$2,000 check” — then there would be no problem. Everybody understands that phrasing is mere puffery. It’s the simplicity and directness of their promise that got Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock into trouble.

4. Lambert Strether Post author

> And there was never any doubt in my mind that the “\$2,000 check” references were references to \$2,000 instead of \$600, not \$2,000 in addition to \$600 (for a second-round total of \$2,600).

Well, it takes chutzpah to imply that you consume more news than I do, kudos for that, so let’s call it a wash. When I heard “\$2,000 check” — because I really have a simple mind — I thought “a check with \$2,000 written in the amount line,” because that’s what those words mean. Whatever the words “\$2,000 check” may mean, “a \$1400 check to top off a \$600 check you’ve already been sent” is certainly an edge case, a post facto Rube Goldberg device-style rationalization so typical of Democrats. But we don’t have to rely on our own interpretations: I provide quotes, including one from Senator Cori Bush, that support the only sane interpretation of the words.

> I’m pretty sure that’s what the majority of news consumers thought was under consideration.

Then you should provide contemporaneous evidence from voters, as I did in the post — which I assume you read — and not post facto rationalizations from Beltway wonk types like Dayen.

> I probably consume more online daily news than is good for my mental health — with browsing the NC link roundup near the top of my priority list — and I read lots of year-end stories, from many sources, about the second round of stimulus.

Translating; You’re a complete edge case. Granting Democrat good faith, apparently that level of effort is what it takes to penetrate Democrat obfuscation. No normal voter would do that. They would rely on the plain meaning of Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock’s words. As Cori Bush, I, and the Georgia voters and canvassers I quoted did.

20. Edgeman

While I agree that the campaign messaging should have been more clear, I think someone who was following closely should understand they meant the total was to be \$2000 and not an additional \$2000. As Snopes mentioned, the Dems were advocating increasing the \$600 to \$2000 before the amount was settled. The House passed legislation to increase it on Dec. 28. It would be weird to think they were fixated with sending a check with \$2000 written on it to the point that they would be willing to increase the total expenditure after the \$600 was passed. The failure to update their messaging after the point Trump’s stimulus couldn’t be changed seems more like a mistake than an intentional change. If in December, Biden had said “I’m going to do xyz next year” and then kept saying “I’m going to do xyz next year” into January, you wouldn’t think he suddenly shifted his goals from 2021 to 2022, you’d think he made a mistake.

I considered the picture of the check to be a simplified marketing device similar to how lottery or game show winners are sometimes seen with a giant “\$1,000,000” check even though those payments are typically paid out in installments. Many people received the previous stimulus “check” as a direct deposit, so I don’t think anyone should have understood that a stimulus “check” meant a literal physical check. Just as a “check” is a non-literal short-hand for “we’re giving you money”, a “\$2000 check” is non-literal shorthand for “we’re giving you a total of \$2000.”

If progressives really thought it was meant as a single \$2000 check, then show me their reaction when the shift from \$2000 total to \$2600 occurred. I would expect some impressed reactions if they really thought Biden decided to up the total amount from what he was previously advocating. This seems more like a “gotcha” than an expression of what they really thought at the time.

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> campaign messaging should have been more clear,

The campaign messaging was crystal clear: A check with “\$2000” in the amount line. That’s what a \$2000 check is.

> It would be weird to think they were fixated with sending a check with \$2000 written on it to the point that they would be willing to increase the total expenditure after the \$600 was passed.

What’s really weird — besides the weirdness that the process of actually writing, or cashing, a check seems to be of no moment to Democrat operatives* — is the assumption that past performance, in this case the legislative history, dictates future results, in terms of the amount of the check ultimately sent. Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock all conveyed forcefully that voting Democrat would change the process, not allow it to role inertially along, so that whatever AOC said when the Democrats didn’t have the majority somehow became the baseline for what Democrats delivered, when — having won Georgia partly based on the brilliantly simple message of “\$2,000 checks” — they did have the majority.

> The failure to update their messaging after the point Trump’s stimulus couldn’t be changed seems more like a mistake than an intentional change.

I agree that even an extremely well-funded campaign in an existentially important Senate race could make a really stupid mistake, as opposed to letting a false but more appealing message ride. These are, after all, Democrats.

> If progressives really thought it was meant as a single \$2000 check, then show me their reaction when the shift from \$2000 total to \$2600 occurred.

First, we don’t do assignments. Second, the reactions I do have were a number of stories that only appeared after the election, where some Democrat “experts” began to walk back Biden’s promise of \$2,000.

We’re at the point where Democrat loyalists are insisting, apparently in full belief of what they’re saying, that when Biden said “those \$2,000 checks will go out the door” he meant “that \$600 check Trump already sent out the door will be topped up by an additional check for \$1400 that I will send.” The resolute refusal to recognize the plain meaning of words is very telling.

NOTE * Perhaps they have people to handle check-processing duties.

2. Harold

“> campaign messaging should have been more clear,”

“Campaign messaging should have been more truthful”

Fixed it for you

21. h2odragon

Now that Snopes found the straw to break your back… will you re-evaluate previous occasions when you’ve relied on their “fact checks” to influence your opinions? Its a tough thing to do; we have this tendency to trust the things we think we know.

22. km

Wait wut, you thought Snopes was going to do anything besides service Team D?

You were joking, right? Sometimes it’s hard to determine sarcasm over the internet, I get it. The joke must have been on me.

23. Jeremy Grimm

Was the promise a check for \$2000? It all depends. In the immortal words of President Bill Clinton:
“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

I guess Snopes just ain’t what it used to be. The \$2000 shrinking to \$1400 + weasel words has potential as an initial estimate for how much to derate the value of Biden promises. Unfortunately I believe that estimate might prove quite a bit on the high side as the Biden Presidency hits its stride. But I am less concerned whether the check is \$2000 or \$1400 than how little living expenses and accruing debt either amount covers — they do help and \$2000 helps more but I fear it still leaves an uncomfortable number of members of the US Populace caught squeezed between a rock and a hard place by the Days of Corona. A true Democrat has no need for facts when there is plenty of spin and gloss to enjoy.

24. BERNARD J KARPF

1) There are plenty of problems with Bidens admin. I don’t’ think this is one of them.

2) I believe, anyone paying attention, should have been aware that 2k was the amount of the payment, in total.

3) I agree with Snopes

1. Yves Smith

Huh? \$600 came from the Trump Administration. Biden and Ossoff can’t take credit for that. Yet you appear so investing in not questioning the official narrative that you allow Team Bidento depict a Trump Administration payment as theirs to get to \$2000.

1. BERNARD J KARPF

Yves, i believe the issue was, always, 2k checks. The negotiations were, as usual, politicized, w/some democrats (and perhaps gop) ‘attempting to stupidly steer’ the subsidy away from the perceived well-off. I recall, they were using the 2019 tax return, which may not have reflected the financial reality of those in 2020. They should have shipped the 2k out the door to everyone who satisfied the requirements, and made some measure to claw back money if the people rec’g the monies had earned too much…… the messaging, everything, was ass backwards, i think that is how i remember it.

I don’t think it was the Trump \$600. It was a negotiation that produced that figure. With Trump chiming in, at the last moment, for the popular 2k.

If people want to believe that the Keystone Cop democrats promised \$2600 in stimulus, i believe its an error, but small potatoes. In the end, the important part was that the checks went out the door – and -they did issue a goodly amount of UInsurance. That was successful.

They extended UI till August and topped it off with a \$300PUA — which meant — most people, on unemployment, are receiving \$650/wkly and most even more then that. With the 2k per person and dependent allotment, it decent settlement for all the pain they gave the unemployed.

Facebook, actually has a NY unemployed posting board — i visited it. Those people, had the equivalent, of bamboo being placed under their fingernails, not once , but twice, with the reluctance of politicans to issue the necessary assistance.

Here is from a CNBC article i fished out from December:

“The amount of the stimulus checks could change. Even as \$600 checks are going out, Congress is still battling over increasing the economic impact payment amount to \$2,000 for individuals.

If the \$2,000 checks are passed, the IRS will top up checks that have already been issued as soon as possible, it said Tuesday” https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/29/600-stimulus-checks-are-on-the-way-heres-who-will-get-them-first.html

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> “The amount of the stimulus checks could change. Even as \$600 checks are going out, Congress is still battling over increasing the economic impact payment amount to \$2,000 for individuals.

So now the line is that Democrats get to substitute a random CNBC story for Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock’s plain words? GTFO.

Even worse, for the Democrat loyalist obfuscation and bad faith, is this sentence: “The amount of the stimulus checks could change.” So why not change the amount to what the Democrats promised on their way to winning Georgia?

2. Lambert Strether Post author

> 2) I believe, anyone paying attention, should have been aware that 2k was the amount of the payment, in total.

First, it’s a neat trick to blame the voters for misunderstanding perfectly clear language. (It’s also amazing to me how many people are unwilling admit how a check gets written, and what sending a check “out the door” must mean. A real lesson for me.)

Second, the “paying attention” language again smuggles in the the assumption that legislative history matters and that voters should have to study it.* Legislative history (what AOC, or whoever, said to whom when) does not matter because if the Democrats got control of the Senate, they can make the history they want). I mean, is it your position that Georgia voters should send Democrats to Washington so they can pass bills that were compromises when Republicans were in power? GTFO! Second, voters should not have to study legislative history at all. They have real lives. It is up to the candidate to add any necessary qualifications. Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock did not, and so the “\$2000 check” is an unqualified promise with a plain meaning (a check with \$2000 in the amount line, as any dull normal, non-contortionist human being understands it to be.

* During the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s season, and during a pandemic too, I might add.

25. MC

Another vote that it was quite clear that the total amount would be for 2000, not 2000 + 600. I didn’t know a single person that thought the later, or that this was even an issue until today. I think its quite disingenuous to suggest there was an expectation of 600 being send out by the Trump admin, and 2000 from Biden.

1. Yves Smith

I am sorry, that is complete and utter nonsense. I was aware this was an issue. What you have really said is you and everyone you know isn’t very attentive.

The \$600 check looks to different tax years (2018 and 2019) for eligibility than the \$1400 payment (2019 and 2020). The third payment also has tougher means testing. The people who were eligible for only the third stimulus payment (the one touted at \$2000 but now \$1400) by virtue of variable income and now qualifying due to the change in tax years used for determining eligibility hwould most assuredly notice the difference. The \$600 and \$1400 checks also had different means testing rules. Gah.

See here for the rules for the first two checks:

https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/how-much-was-the-first-stimulus-check-your-tax-return-2020-may-need-the-total/

And the rules and commentary on the third, the \$1400:

The requirements for the third payment have changed significantly from the first and second checks. For example, there are new income limits and rules for age, citizenship and tax status that can affect the size of your payment. We’ll walk you through what those qualifications are to help you determine whether you should expect a check — or whether you’ll be completely left out. (And here’s how to calculate the amount to expect.)

https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/stimulus-check-qualifications-find-out-if-youre-eligible-for-1400-or-more/

1. BERNARD J KARPF

i concur. There were 2 packages. Each having their own rules. One was for \$600 and the other for \$1400. It was handled that way because the Congress can’t find their butt with both hands.

And the dem’s advertised it as people OBTAINING a 2k check once the populace deliver their Senators into office. All handled poorly, perhaps on purpose to confuse or mislead voters. I dunno.

I think the real question will be Sept 2021. For many years, well prior to the Covid virus, the gov’t has been allowing financial engineering, printing money and commencing wars to create an impression of growth, in this country. Once the virus is gone, with 30tr in debt, so much business closed up, consumers strapped, ….. what the heck are they gone use to -re-create an impression in growth?

When i was growing up, i recall, Dick Gregory, saying, ‘why do we have to shove democracy down the Vietnamese throats — why don’t they just come here and steal it, if its so good?”

Well, why hasn’t the USA just stolen those Chinese programs, of 1, 5, 10, 50 year Leap Forwards these many years, its free to steal. Instead of watching as the Chinese keep ‘lapping’ us each year in progress?

1. Lambert Strether Post author

> the dem’s advertised it as people OBTAINING a 2k check

As I’ve been saying. A \$2,000 check is a check with \$2,000 written in the amount line. We agree (although I would say “promise” not “advertise,” if only because the language they used is so simple and clear. Brilliant messaging, in fact.)

> I think the real question will be Sept 2021.

Let”s look forward and not back, lol. No, the real questions is whether Snopes is a reliable fact-checker (no) and whether Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock made and broke a promise (yes).

Of course, some may argue that promise-breaking by Democrats matters only if there are consequences in the next election, but that’s a separate issue.

2. bob

We agree, the emperor has lovely clothes.

Does that type of behavior make you any friends or do you only know people who work for you? Agreeing with someone in order to disagree with them is the best way to prove you are part of the PMC.

I’d also like to add that this one time at band camp…

26. Lambert Strether Post author

The political class discovered under Trump with the CARES Act that sending people checks really works. (The CARES Act actually reduced poverty.) Who knew:

So, by contorting themselves into incredibly strange mental states in order to deny the plain meaning of words — a “check for \$2,000” is, we are now given to understand, not a check with \$2,000 written in the amount line, a concept previously unknown to science, let alone economics or personal finance — Democrat loyalists not only make themselves ridiculous, they undercut the political value of any future checks that will be sent. Suppose Biden writes checks for \$10,000 to put against student debt (silly, but bear with me). Now everybody gets to ask “But will the check really be for \$10,000?” And they will be right!