'Government Takeover' of Health Care Named the Year's Biggest Political Lie

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PHOTOS: Is Obama Keeping His Promises? Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images

Our friends at the nonpartisan Politifact watch American politics in the way that would make most people’s stomachs churn. All year, they chronicle every bit of political discourse, every hysterical pundit and every government vow or rally cry in a sometimes quixotic effort to separate truth from fiction.

Now, in the traditional end-of-year retrospective, all the lies have been tabulated. And during a year of enormous whoppers, the site’s editors have identified the biggest deception of all:

The so-called government takeover of health care.

It’s possible to say that the Democrats’ 2010 health-care reform will increase government regulation, which it will. It’s legitimate to say that it may cost more than President Obama vowed, because it might. And it’s possible to have a constitutional argument, which several federal courts have done, about the legal mandate to purchase insurance.

But government takeover, according to the site’s scribes, is wholly inaccurate. It carries the implication that the U.S. health care system will begin to mirror those in the U.K. and Canada, where the government literally runs hospitals and employs doctors. That, ironically, is what the most liberal Democrats had wanted. But the law they got fell far short, thus making the “government takeover” meme a pretty big stretch.

Instead, it was used as an obvious scare tactic. "Takeovers are like coups," conservative message man Frank Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo to Republican leaders during the heat of the health-care debate last year. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

As for runners-up, Politifact’s staff indicts Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who famously claimed last month that Obama’s November trip to trip to India would cost $200 million per day, which it didn’t. There was also Florida governor-elect Rick Scott’s indignant accusation that the stimulus package didn’t create one single private-sector job (it has). And of course Rep. Charles Rangel’s textbook example of wishful thinking, telling reporters that “the ethics report [about his alleged violations] exonerates me,” which it did not.

Politifact has the whole list of half-truths and untruths on its site.

Is President Obama keeping his promises? Check out our gallery here.

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