Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wisconsin State Journal- sinking to new depths with election article

I was just going to do a breezy Sunday note, and then my girlfriend and I had brunch and we had to stumble upon the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal. And just when I thought the Lee Enterprises moutpiece couldn't go further down on Scott Walker, they did.

Read this pile of crap from Clay Barbour on Walker without wanting to throw your phone or computer. Seriously, I dare you.

Let's go over Barbour's claims in the article's sidebar, shall we?
Balanced the state's budget and closed a $3.6 billion hole without a widespread increase in taxes, and without relying on one-time funds to cover big gaps.
ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. 1. The budget deficit was never $3.6 billion, that was a number the Walker Administration threw together to create the impression of a budget crisis. As I mentioned yesterday, the real structural deficit was less than half that, at $1.74 billion. 2. We know the budget isn't balanced, as evidenced by the news that came out this week showing the Walker Administration borrowed $558 million over the last 16 months, and kicked the expenses into future years. The Walker budget also built in $899 million in unspecified lapses for this budget, and has several ballooning tax credits and backloaded expenses that'll create masssive budget deficits for 2013-15 and future bienniums. Only a Walker campaign worker would believe this budget is balanced.

And 3. Using the weasel word "widespread" is intentionally done to give cover for the fact that Walker did raise taxes on certain groups of people. Page 3 of the LFB's budget tax change rundown shows this, as the state's Earned Income Tax Credit was cut by $56 million, and refusing to index the Homestead Tax Credit for inflation raises taxes for those people by another $13 million. In addition, Walker's budget builds in $107 million in tuition increases for UW System schools, and I'd like to Clay Barbour tell a parent sending their kid to college that higher tuition isn't the same as a tax increase on them.

Here's two other whoppers from Barbour's article, both relating to jobs.
• Presided over a sustained drop in unemployment, which now sits at 6.7 percent, the state's lowest mark since 2008.

• Is way off pace on his 2010 campaign promise to bring 250,000 to the state by 2014. According to the latest, unofficial numbers, the state has added 33,000 jobs since Walker was elected. Official numbers from the federal government put Wisconsin last in the nation in job growth in 2011.
Note that Barbour leaves out that the U.S. has also dropped in unemployment since Walker took office, from 9.1% to 8.1%, which is the same 1.0% drop that we've seen in Wisconsin, and unlike Wisconsin, the U.S. has done it with a growing work force. The U.S. work force has grown by 1.165 million since January 2011, while Wisconsin actually had 800 fewer people in the work force in the same period. Remember, unemployment is based not only on number of respondents saying that they're working, but also who is in the work force looking for work. So let's take Wisconsin's alleged job growth that this survey shows, and then add in the 0.76% growth in the work force that the rest of the nation has, and see what our unemployment rate would have been.

Wisconsin unemployment April 2012
Wisconsin reported April 2012 rate- 6.7%
Wisconsin April 2012 rate with U.S. work force growth- 7.4%

So Barbour is intentionally deceptive for trying to credit Walker with the unemployment drop, because the main reasons for the drop are the Obama recovery raising all parts of the U.S. and Walker driving people into retirement and out of the state.

Second, Barbour buries the "last in the nation" job growth number further down in the sidebar, while having the unemployment rate drop mentioned at the top. He also accepts Walker's sketchy, unverified jobs numbers. The only people that buy those numbers as legitimate are Walker supporters and campaign workers, but Barbour uses it as a false equivalency to the "apples-to-apples" report that the BLS uses. And by the way Clay, Wisconsin wasn't just last place in 2011, it's also in last place since Act 10 was passed in March 2011, and the decline didn't start until the Doyle-Dem budget was replaced by Walker policies. So yes, this goes directly on Scott Walker's record, and it is an objective FAILURE. When Barbour pulls the false equivalency game, it is being done to intentionally muddy the waters and favor Walker.

But why would I be surprised that Hat Boy Barbour would write a pro-Walker article? Barbour was a co-writer on the disgraceful WSJ article in March that described as "underwhelming" this smoking gun video of Walker lying to the Oshkosh Northwestern in 2010 about his plans to remove collective bargaining rights.

This video is especially damning when you realize that Walker was forced to admit this week that he was working on Act 10's collective bargaining restrictions the day after his November 2010 election. And it's not like that plan came out of the sky on November 3, either. Hmm, wonder why crack WSJ reporters Clay Barbour and Mary Spiccuza or any Journal-Sentinel reporters haven't touched this issue when it's been out in the public for 4 days now? (Dylan Brogan broke the story for 1670AM WTDY on Thursday).

Then again, maybe Clay's just following the orders of his bosses, as State Journal owner Lee Enterprises is allied with a group that bought over $1 million in ads supporting Walker, and has busted unions at several of their work places. And of course, the State Journal infamously went against the wishes of 69% of Dane County voters and endorsed Walker in 2010 (and are probably setting things up to do so again in the mealthy-mouthed fashion the Journal-Sentinel did last week).

Look, we know the State Journal and Journal-Sentinel are in the bag for Walker, and have been intentionally ignoring big stories like Walker's many lies and deceptions over the last 16 months and the $558 million in borrowing his administration pulled. But to take Walker claims at face value and uncritically print this propaganda without any critical analysis is a dereliction of jouralistic duty. When you write down what politicians say and do "he said, she said" pieces with no digging into the claims, you're not a journalist, you're a transcriber. And you're defrauding the unsuspecting public that shells out money to buy your product.

Which is why I don't pay a cent for the State Journal or the Journal-Sentinel, because they aren't newspapers, they're accomplices in spreading propaganda. I'd encourage you to do the same if you haven't done so already, because when you're dealing with corporates, all they understand is the hit to their bottom lines.


  1. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Barbour
    might respond to you if you sent a few of your analyses of Walker's budget and unemployment number manipulations directly to him for refutation. I'd bet a substantial amount he would not respond in the paper (or even acknowledge publically)----but even a private response would be illuminating, even if a blanket denial.

  2. I sent a bit of a nastygram via Twitter to him and copied in this article. We'll see if he responds. I'm guessing he's taking the Memorial Day weekend off. Clay, you're more than welcome to respond on any of these figures...if you even have a clue about what they are (don't laugh, lots of media members don't know the details on what they're reporting on).

    The silence on the $558 million in borrowing is deafening, however. That thing's been public document since Thursday, so they have to know.

  3. Actually, Jake, it's been public for a lot longer than that (Sen. Vinehout has been on the budget fallacies since early last year.) It just wasn't 'in your face' obvious until she had LRB to put the info into one succinct memo by asking very specific questions.

    Her request to the LRB, and subsequent letter to the JFC and press release, left no 'wiggle room' for the media to deny what Walker is doing with this budget. By failing to cover her work, the MJS and WSJ have exposed themselves: they are not independent truth-seekers, but propagandists.

  4. Feeling Blue, Seeing Red- Correct- they are choosing not to report things that are in plain sight. I wonder if it'll take national media coming to town this week to hold the J-S and State Journal into account.

    Of course, we're the ones that can really show them up by voting in big numbers for Barrett, and telling these papers- "We don't accept the story you've been trying to sell to us."