Category Archives: Bomblefact

Can Bill Nye Claim He Has a Ph.D. on His CV?

On John Oliver’s new show Last Week Tonight, Bill Nye starred in a cameo as a top expert on global climate change — at least as decided by bookers on television shows.

Which got me thinking — what is the etiquette on going by Ph.D. when you didn’t earn one?

Two friends who have attained a Ph.D. weigh in, with one saying: “Technically, honorary doctorates aren’t Ph.D’s at all” while another comments “His doctorate is on par with Kermit the Frog’s.”

What do you think? Is it fair for Nye to claim he has a Ph.D.?



Letter to the Editor: Congress Right to Prevent Windfalls

To the Editor:

I strongly disagree with Elizabeth Helms regarding the Windfall Elimination Provision. For once, Congress enacted good policy and even named it appropriately.

In 1983, Congress passed H.R. 1900. This bill’s purpose was to shore up and reform Social Security in an effort to prolong its existence.  The Windfall Elimination Provision does what it says — prevents public employees from getting a windfall from social security that they should not get and did not earn.

Many government workers, I presume like Ms. Helms, did not pay into Social Security during her 17 years of public service. She instead received a pension from the state. Later, she paid into Social Security when she found another job. During my five years in public service, I paid into Social Security because of the same reforms.

Social Security is not a “we’re all in the same boat” game — with everyone receiving checks for the same amount. It is a system based on wage replacement through a formula called the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings or AIME.

Because the system — as reformed — lowers the AIME replacement percentage for workers who didn’t always pay into Social Security, this is somehow an injustice?

It was interesting Helms invoked the unions’ victory in repealing Gov. Kasich’s reforms — since she is calling on our state legislators (even though this is a federal law) to repeal a 29 year old reform. Nearly 3 decades later, some people can’t handle reform.

Even if Ms. Helms magically convinces Congress to grant her wish, it won’t matter much since Social Security’s trust fund runs out in 23 years.

Jim Swift

Alexandria, Virginia

Readers, you can learn more about the WEP here.


BombleFact: Food stamps

I got this email and it’s short and sweet.

Subject: Isn’t It Ironic?

The Food Stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of Food Stamps EVER.

Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and NOT learn to take care of themselves!!

Here, we’ll analyze three facets of this simple and to the point email.

1.) Are food stamps being used now more than ever? Yes. Nearly 15% of the U.S. uses food stamps. (If you’re interested, here are the eligibility requirements). In the past few years, some food stamp users qualify for them due to disaster assistance. However, even if disaster assistance did not count towards the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) it would likely still be at the highest level ever due to a.) the economic downturn and b.) rising food prices.

Here’s a chart:

2.) Is the Park Service part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture? No. The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

3.) Does the National Park Service encourage us “not to feed the animals” because they may grow dependent? Yes. Numerous NPS websites encourage visitors not to feed the animals because first and foremost, it’s something that will probably result in you getting a ticket if you get caught. But, simply put, the NPS does in fact urge us not to feed animals because it can make them dependent.

What are some of the other reasons?

“If animals are fed human food, they won’t “harvest” natural seeds and the tree population will decline.” (source)

“Never allow your children to feed any animal. On occasion, javelina have been known to bite children who get too close.” (source)

“Feeding wildlife interferes with their natural diet and is harmful to their health.Please don’t feed the animals.” (source)

“Human food is harmful to wild animals” (source)

“The problem is one of human behavior–people feeding wildlife, people not disposing of trash properly, people leaving food unattended at campgrounds and rest stops, and people leaving food scraps behind. Food reward that animals associate with humans can result in their loss of fear of humans. This change in behavior may lead to property damage and human injury. For the animals involved it may mean negative health effects or overpopulation resulting from unnatural food sources, dependence on a seasonably unreliable food source, and greater susceptibility to predators and vehicle collisions.” (source)

I give this email a “Mostly True” because it got the simple fact wrong that NPS is part of Department of Interior, not the Department of Agriculture. It is important to get all of your facts correct, and failing to do so can undermine the credibility of an email that is forwarded on to strangers.

But, when it comes to food stamp usage and animal dependency, those points are both facts.


For further related reading, check out this post at SNOPES.

BombleFact: Does HCR Impose a new 3.8% Tax on Home Sales?

I recently got an email asking if President Obama’s Health-care law imposes a new 3.8% tax on home sales

Here is the text:


The National Association of REALTORS is all over this and working to get it repealed, before it takes effect. But, I am very pleased we aren’t the only ones who know about this ploy to steal billions from unsuspecting homeowners. How many REALTORS do you think will vote Democratic in 2012?

Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That’s $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It’s in the health care bill and goes into effect in 2013.

Why 2013? Could it be to come to light AFTER the 2012 elections? So, this is “change you can believe in”? Under the new health care bill all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% Sales Tax.

If you sell a $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 tax.
This bill is set to screw the retiring generation who often downsize their homes. Does this make your November and 2012 vote more important?

Oh, you weren’t aware this was in the Obamacare bill? Guess what, you aren’t alone. There are more than a few members of Congress that aren’t aware of it either.

I hope you forward this to every single person in your address book. VOTERS NEED TO KNOW!!!!!

So, is it true? While it is loosely based on a factual and logical interpretation of the law’s potential tax effects, it is not true that it will apply to all home sales.

The tax is not a tax on home sales, per se, but it can apply to the sale of homes. If you’re familiar with the 15% capital gains tax, this is essentially a new additional 3.8% capital gains tax for some wealthier individuals, small business owners, and folks who have seen their property values skyrocket.

Starting next year in 2013, the new tax will apply to those making $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly). Essentially, it is a revenue raiser that will make the capital gains rate 18.8% in some cases.

How could it apply to home sales? When an individual sells their home for a profit, the money they make over their initial buying price is a capital gain. Tax law does provide for a $250,000 per-person ($500k if you’re married and filing jointly) exclusion for the capital gain for primary residences. Vacation and secondary homes are subject to the new higher capital gains tax with no $250k exclusion. Important to note this applies to the capital gain, not the value of final sale, like the email infers. Capital gains taxes are levied on gains.

So, to say this applies to all home sales is just plain false. But it will apply to some home sales, including individuals that aren’t necessarily very wealthy, like people who moved into an area that has seen home values skyrocket and move when they’re older.

How it might apply:

  • A single guy making $200k a year in New York City sells his weekend home (not primary residence) for a $45,000 gain.
  • A married couple in Phoenix sells their primary residence that they bought 40 years ago that has gone up in value from $40,000 to $2.6 million because the city has grown outward and driven their property values higher.

Another factor to consider is that median home prices aren’t terribly high (most homes are under $200k), not to mention that a large amount of people have lost value in their homes due to the recession. The likelihood of a massive capital gain on the sale of a primary residence (above the $250k per person exemption) is not very likely.

More to the point, the law is likely to raise taxes on small business owners’ capital gains, and it will also apply to wealthy individuals (like Warren Buffett who wants a tax increase) who get much of their income through capital gains. The new tax will apply to high-income earners for interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, and rents.

I personally don’t think this is good tax policy, but it’s worth pointing out that much of what is being said about it is false.


Introducing BombleFact

Yesterday I joked on twitter that “I think I am going to start a bomble “truth o meter” like politifact.”

Today, I decided that I would do just that, because let’s face it, there’s a bunch of malarkey out there on the interwebs. I will take custom requests for rulings, but I think I am going to focus on email forwards and facebook chain messages.

What qualifies me to do this? Nothing, except the fact that I own a webpage. Seriously though, I do have some relevant experience in fact-checking bullshit claims since that has been pretty much something I’ve done in some function or another in my professional life.

Rather than make a new contact form or email, if you want to submit something, send it to me any way you normally connect with me. If you don’t know me, use this form.