Sunday, September 29, 2013

The numbers don't lie, but the Guv sure does

With the release of this week's Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages yet again showing Wisconsin in the bottom half of the U.S. for job growth (click here for the always-awesome interactive chart), the Walker Administration has now decided to raise its game. They are lying and deceiving at higher levels of mendacity.

Here's the first one, where Walker tried to resurrect a zombie lie on Friday.
"These numbers are March to March, and in March of last year, we were still three months out from the recall election," Walker said at a press conference in Chicago, where he appeared at an economic forum. "And as I point out repeatedly, employers in the state were basically frozen until they knew what would happen in that election and the uncertainty it caused."

In reply to a question about Wisconsin's jobs growth, from a Chicago news organization, Walker added this elaboration:

"There's no doubt in our first two years, because of the protests, the recalls, that they had an impact early on. Much as there is concern nationally about the impact of Obamacare and the impact it has on employers, they just wonder with uncertainty."
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. And one glance at the QCEW private-sector job numbers for Wisconsin proves this.

Every year more people are working in Wisconsin in June than March because of Summer tourism and related seasonal employment. But a larger number of people dropped off the work rolls in the 9 months AFTER the recall than in the same time period for the 2 years before it.

QCEW change in raw Wis. private-sector jobs
Jun 2010-Mar 2011 -67,954
Jun 2011-Mar 2012 -68,107
Jun 2012-Mar 2013 -81,761

So the we had an increased drop of 13,600 jobs in the time after the recalls vs. the same time period in the previous two years. The same reality shows in the seasonally-adjusted job charts. Let's use both 6 and 12-month intervals after the June 2012 recall, and the intervals before that.

Change in Wisconsin jobs, seasonally adjusted

Dec 2011- Jun 2012 +15,700 all, +18,800 private
Jun 2011- Jun 2012 +34,600 all, +37,600 private

Jun 2012- Dec 2012 +9,800 all, +5,000 private
Jun 2012- Jun 2013 +25,800 all, +25,600 private

You can see that hiring hit a wall after the recall, and didn't pick up compared to the same time period before the election. In fact, there is more proof that Walker winning the recall stopped job growth in Wisconsin, instead of ramping it up.

Also, there's a WisGOP talking point of "look at the last 4 months of job growth." And while those last 4 months look impressive, with more than 35,000 jobs added, isolating those 4 months is a classic case of cherry-picking. It conveniently leaves out the jobs bomb in April, when more than 20,000 jobs were lost in Wisconsin. If you change the last 4 months of job growth into 6 months, the stats look like this.

Job change in Wisconsin, Feb 2013- Aug 2013
All jobs +9,100 (average +1,517)
Private sector +14,700 (average +2,286)
1-year rate: +18,200 all, +29,400 private

Not really much different than we had before, so unlike what Scotty said on Friday in Chicago, I don't see any evidence that there'll be a "significant increase" in the pace of job growth in Wisconsin by the end of the year.

And here's the second big lie by Walker and company that got exposed this week. The GOP oligarchs at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce have been running hundreds of thousands in ads claiming Wisconsin's economy is doing well and crediting Gov. Walker for this allegedly strong performance. I pointed out some of these out-of-context deceptions earlier this month, but someone a whole lot higher up in the food chain also called out Walker and the WMC for their lies late last week.
Walker and WMC have also been quoting the Philly Fed’s “Leading Indicator," a 6-month forecasting of the Coincident Index for each state, to say Wisconsin’s economy is projected to show the second-largest improvement in the country.

“We do not consider state rankings based on the coincident and leading indexes to be valid,” says Paul Flora, Senior Economic Analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in an email to the Cap Times.

Flora says the differences in the various state economies influence the relative change in the index from month to month. He says an older, mature economy, such as New York, tends to experience smaller percentage changes than a smaller, younger economy, such as North Dakota.
Now, I also have extensively quoted the Philly Fed's state indexes over the last couple of years as proof of Walker's failures, but I've always done it as a point of comparison with other states, and done it from a common starting point in time, with all states starting at 0. As mentioned previously, what makes the Walker folks so dishonest about how they use these numbers is that they cherry-pick the last 3 months, and ignore the longer-range time that puts those numbers in perspective. You know, like how Wisconsin is dead last in the same index in the Midwest since Walker took office over 2 1/2 years ago.

Don't get me wrong, a good short-term uptick is a nice thing to have, but it doesn't change the fact that the overall record is horrible. Basically, falling for WMC's BS is the equivalent of getting excited because the Brewers have had one of the best records in the NL for their last 21 games (14-7). Just because that stat is true, it doesn't mean the Brewers still won't finish well below .500, and it doesn't change the fact that the franchise had a lousy year. The strong finish also shouldn't be a reason you should consider the Brew Crew to be playoff contenders in 2014.

Unfortunately, we're a lot more honest in this country when it comes to discussing sports than we are in discussing politics. But our media needs to remember that there are not "two sides to the story" when you are talking about raw numbers, be they in job creation, or in comparing the figures in an index over time. You can debate why something did or did not happen, but Scott Walker can't be running around saying Wisconsin job creation picked up after the June 2012 recall elections WHEN THE ACTUAL NUMBERS SHOW IT DID NOT.

Walker, WisGOP, and WMC would never float these lies if our state's media would simply DO ITS JOB AND CALL THE WALKER FOLKS OUT when they try to slip these things by them. We need to pound this reality into the public sphere, and ridicule the weak-minded people who fall for these clear lies, to show bystanders how wrong these people are, and to give a higher authority to FACTS AND HISTORY. If that means a full-frontal attack on right-wing radio stations and media that continue to display these deceptions and lies as fact, then that's what it takes.

As someone who makes a living partly due to data and formulas, I resent the Wisconsin GOP trying to spin things that are clearly proven false by the numbers. And our voters and our media should be equally insulted that this dishonest Administration views them as gullible suckers.

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