When Mitt Romney claims, as he did in a private talk at a fundraiser for well-heeled donors, that 47 percent of Americans do not pay income taxes, where can one check his math? When President Barack Obama tells David Letterman and his audience that he doesn't know how much the national debt is, what's the best place to get the latest number? When a member of Congress claims federal spending has been cut to the bone, what's the best place to check that claim?
Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Sunlight Foundation are launching Econocheck, a new site to point reporters and the public to data sets that can help answer those questions and more. Econocheck provides quick links to statistics on employment, taxes, government spending, inflation, healthcare, housing, income and wealth, plus helpful advice on using and interpreting them.
Econocheck is not a fact checking site, but rather a resource for those who want to find out more about the statistics politicians rely on when seeking votes, But it has uses beyond that.
Four years after the financial market meltdown and the recession and job losses that came in its wake, voters continue to rate the economy as their top concern as the 2012 election approaches. That concern will most likely extend far past election day, as the sluggish recovery has yet to produce significant increases in jobs, household income, a revitalized housing market and middle class prosperity. Econocheck is not just a resource for fact checking politicians–it can be used to provide statistical support for stories documenting the economic hardships Americans face.
Econocheck is still a work in progress, and draws on research done to build a series of consumer-oriented mobile applications using government data to help citizens learn about their communities. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the first two Apps, Sunlight Health and Upwardly Mobile, are available for iPhones and Android phones.