Friday, March 7, 2014

Whiny WisGOP and Polit-crap can't stand the (half) truth from Burke!

Mary Burke has finally emerged with her first major TV ad of the 2014 campaign, and it's led to the Wisconsin GOP complaining about what's claimed in the ad. And given that it involves job figures, we have a lot of that information at our disposal, so let's do some fact-checking of our own for both parties.

First, here's the ad.

After the ad hit, the Wisconsin GOP complained that the ad was untrue, quoting this part from a Washington Examiner story on the ads.
In [Scott Walker's] three years [as governor], unemployment dropped from 7.8 percent to 6.2 percent at the end of 2013 and he claims he turned a huge deficit into a budget surplus.

But that’s not the story told in the first ad from his Democratic foe, former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke. “Under Walker, unemployment is up,” says her ad, which shows a graphic with an up red arrow beside “6.2 percent unemployment.”

According to her spokesman, Joe Zepecki, while the ad doesn’t say it, Burke is making the comparison between Wisconsin unemployment rate today and when she was commerce secretary nearly 10 years ago, from 2005-2007.

While some see it as an apples-to-oranges argument, Zepecki emailed: “4.8 percent is the highest the annual average unemployment rate ever was during Burke’s time at Commerce. Under Scott Walker it’s never been lower than 6.2 percent. Compared to when she was secretary, unemployment is up.”
Yes, the claim is dishonest, because it compares the pre-recession bubble times that Burke served under to the post-recession time that we're currently in. But are Zepecki's numbers correct?

THEY ARE, as this information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. When Burke served from January 2005- November 2007, unemployment was between 4.6% and 4.85% EVERY ONE OF THOSE 35 MONTHS, with the average annual rates being between 4.6% to 4.8%. Today the unemployment rate is 6.2% in Wisconsin (or 6.3%, as apparently last year's surveys just got benchmarked), so technically Zepecki is correct, that unemployment is higher under Scott Walker than when Mary Burke was Commerce Secretary.

Yes, it's a bullshit way to do it, but you know who knows how to tell half-truths and spin stories as well as anyone? SCOTT WALKER. Here's Scotty pulling the same "lie by omission" tactic IN THE SAME PRESS RELEASE CRITICIZING THE BURKE CAMPAIGN.
Walker, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, recently bragged: “After losing more than 133,000 jobs and 27,000 businesses during Gov. Jim Doyle’s last term, Wisconsin added more than 100,000 jobs and 15,000 businesses during my term as your governor. That’s a shift of more than 230,000 jobs and 40,000 businesses. The unemployment rate that was 9.2 percent four years ago is now 6.2 percent. Wisconsin is working again, but there is still more work to be done."
That "9.2 percent four years ago" comment is intentionally deceptive, because it leaves out that half of the drop in Wisconsin's unemployment rate happened before Walker was even in office.

Wisconsin unemployment rates
July 2009 9.2%
Jan. 2011 7.7% (-1.5%, Walker takes office)
Dec. 2013 6.3% (-1.4%)

Seems like sketchy politics as usual by both sides- not lying, but not really telling the whole truth. Which is what made today's Wisconsin Politi-fact's "analysis" of Burke's ad all the more infuriating. Politi-crap gave the ad a "pants on fire" rating, claiming
...without stating any comparison between Burke and Walker, the ad claims unemployment is higher under Walker and provides figures indicating an increase from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent. But the rate was much higher than 4.8 percent when Walker took office and it has gone down, not up, during his tenure.

Our rating
Burke's [ad] said that "under Walker, unemployment’s up," from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent.

Burke [campaign] defends the claim by saying 4.8 percent is a reference to when she served as state commerce secretary, which was several years before Walker became governor. But the ad gives no indication that that is the comparison she is making.

Moreover, during Walker’s time as governor, unemployment started at 7.7 percent, not 4.8 percent. And rather than trending upward, the rate has steadily dropped to 6.3 percent.

For a claim that is false and ridiculous, we give Burke a Pants on Fire.
"False and ridiculous?" The impression may be false, but the data is certainly true- the unemployment rate is higher today than it was in the mid-to-late 2000's. If the narrator had said "unemployment is higher" under Walker instead of "unemployment is up", would you rate it differently, Politi-crap?

Compare this to the Politi-"fact" analysis of the Republican Governor's Association ad that is referenced in the Burke campaign's commercial, and tell me which ad is more blatantly dishonest.
In one TV spot entitled "Backward," the RGA asks: "Who’s Mary Burke?"

It’s answer: "Burke was a senior member of the Doyle administration that left Wisconsin with 130,000 fewer jobs, and a $3 billion budget shortfall." The ad concludes: "Mary Burke would take Wisconsin backwards."...

There’s an element of truth, but the ad ignores the critical fact that Burke also worked in half of Doyle’s first term, when 86,000 jobs were gained. Employment also rose in the narrower time frame when Burke worked for Doyle over parts of his two terms.

And in any event, the role of these two officials in those losses and gains is very limited, given national economic realities of the time.

We rate the ad’s claim Mostly False.
So associating Mary Burke with results that happened after she left the Doyle Administration is "Mostly False", but giving the TRUE (if misleading) statement that unemployment is higher now than it was during Burke's tenure at Commerce is a "False and Ridiculous" claim, resulting in "Pants on Fire". ARE YOU SHITTING ME?

Right on cue, as if they were working with Politi-crap to knock down Burke's ad, the Walker campaign used the absurd "Pants on Fire" rating to whine to local TV stations and ask that the ad be pulled off the air, claiming "Failure to remove this false and misleading advertisement at this critical juncture would indicate a reckless disregard for accurate factual reporting." Yes, the same people who consistently lie by omission, and work in concert with Koch front groups who use actors and GOP activists to make false claims about Obamacare in their ads, these are the people now asking that dishonest ads used against them be pulled off the air.

There's a five-letter word that comes to mind when it comes to people like this that love to dish it out, but sure can't take it. Starts with P and ends with Y. If the Burke campaign is truly in it to win it, they'll take the advice of one of my favorite choirs and America's most trusted news man, and say the following to the Walker campaign, the whiny WisGOPs, and Politi-crap.


  1. The crux of PF's position is:

    "But the ad gives no indication that that is the comparison she is making."

    i.e. that the 4.8% unemployment rate is from her time as Commerce Secretary rather than the start of Walker's term.

    The thing is, the only other direct comparison the ad makes (a few seconds earlier) is of the number of jobs in Wisconsin now and.... during her time as Commerce Secretary. So PF's claim is false.

    It would have been far clearer had the ad been edited better and the two comparisons not been separated by the highlighting of RGA ad spending, but it boils down to a subjective call on PF's part, not one based on fact.

  2. Exactly. While the Burke ad plays a bit fast and loose with the truth (they should have simply said "we got the job done while we were in office, and Walker hasn't."), Politi-crap goes out of its way to make a comparison that isn't necessarily there.

    Compare it to the ways that they soft-sell the RGA ad's claims and frequently let Walker get away with similar omissions and distortions, and it's hard not to call BS on them.

  3. She'd be far better off sticking to cold, hard facts. Not fast and loose. More credibility, harder hitting. Pleanty of material on Walker's tainted "path to prosperity".