Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wisconsin Politi-fail backs Walker over Trump, reality

I haven't had a chance to get to this, so I want to do it here. You may remember this statement from the current GOP front-runner about the fiscal record of the current Governor of Wisconsin, who is one of the contenders to Donald Trump's current No. 1 status.
"Wisconsin’s doing terribly. First of all, it’s in turmoil," Trump said. "The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion."
So the Journal-Sentinel's Politifact took a look at Trump's claim, and not that this should shock you, Tom Kertscher and company slanted their analysis to favor Governor Scott Walker.

Basically, the J-S cops out for Walker by saying that Trump's comparisons are "apples and oranges," and plays word-tense games, trying to imply that "turns into" means that Trump was talking about the same year's budget. The other copout the J-S tries to pull is that they say budget figures were merely future projections and not finalized numbers.
That’s because the standard for projections made in the months leading up to the next budget cycle is to include all the funding requests made by state agencies -- even though, in reality, those requests always get trimmed. That serves to temporarily inflate the actual picture.

In the end, the 2015-’17 budget approved by the Legislature and signed by Walker in July 2015 was balanced -- just as every other Wisconsin state budget is.
That's an absurd point, because Trump was clearly illustrating how the budget projections changed from one budget to the next (this happens all the time when we compare deficits/ surpluses over different years), and just because state law says a budget must be "balanced", it doesn't mean that there aren't many ways to game that figure, like how Walker and WisGOP have done by assuming $1.1 BILLION in unspecified lapses over these next two years. And how is Trump's comment any different than the "I inherited a $3.6 billion deficit" zombie lie that Walker peddles to this day, which unlike the $2.2 billion deficit from last Fall, included every worst-case scenario, with no provision for increased revenues?

In addition, Politi-"fact" does the classic passive voice trick of saying "tax collections grew at a slower pace than had been projected." Well you know why that happened? BECAUSE REVENUES WERE BLOWN ON THE TAX CUTS WALKER APPROVED OF! That revenue shortfall wasn't out of Walker and WisGOP's control, and is in heavy contrast to Minnesota, who recently another $555 million in unanticipated revenue from this fiscal year because they're doing better than expected.

So what's the conclusion from Politi-"fact"?
There was in early 2014 a projection of a $1 billion surplus heading into the 2015-’17 budget period. Late in 2014, there was a projection of a $2.2 billion shortfall -- the difference between expected revenues and the amount of money being requested by state agencies. But the shortfall was never a deficit -- and some of the surplus was consciously spent by Republicans, as tax cuts.

For a statement that contains only an element of truth and ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, our rating is Mostly False.
Actually, the numbers are basically correct, and are a result of tax cuts and other fiscally irresponsible measures that Walker signed off on, which to me should score at least a "half-true" (in other words, based on actual data, which is well above the Donald's usual blabbing).

It is also telling that the JS Politi-"fact" never takes into account Trump's statement about "the roads are a disaster because there is no money to rebuild them," which also plays into the state's budget situation. This would have actually added to the budget shortfalls, because not only does the Transportation Fund rely on over $500 million in borrowing (which the J-S claimed couldn't be done in Wisconsin's budget), there is a provision to increase that figure to $850 million if the projects are later approved by the Joint Finance Committee. And the gap between projected expenses and revenues in the Transportation Fund is projected to get larger, due to the effects of deferred maintenance over the next two years and no laws in place that will raise revenues coming into the Transportation Fund.

But then that would mean the J-S wouldn't have the chance to make it look like out-of-stater Donald Trump was talking unfairly about their local boy Scotty. So they give it the "Mostly False" rating to allow local dimwits to assume "oh, Trump's just lying and we don't have to think about Walker's record," allowing Walker to play victim to the rubes. It's so cynical, and so obviously slanted.


  1. Good observation Jake!

    It is useful to recall the equivocation that Politifact used in judging whether Walker actually "inherited a $3.6-million deficit." Remember that Walker used the identical accounting approach that Trump recently used when he portrayed himself as a fiscal genius.

    Politifact's conclusion in that case? "We rated False a claim by Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan, who is now a member of Congress, that Walker’s $3.6 billion estimate was "a bogus figure." Outside experts agreed that Walker’s number was reasonable...In any event, here’s bottom line #1: That $3.6 billion shortfall that preceded Walker’s first budget is best compared to the projected shortfall Walker faced in his second budget. That number was actually a positive one -- $177 million, according to Walker administration reports...Walker says in his book that "the $3.6 billion deficit we inherited has turned into more than a half-billion-dollar surplus."

    There’s some truth here, in that Walker cites accurate or close-to-accurate numbers that show a turnaround from red to black in two years." Rating: half-true,

    My how analytical standards slip at Politifact.

    Dr. Morbius

    1. Funny that. It's almost like they want a certain outcome or something. Good catch Doc