Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pro-WisGOP Wisconsin "Politifact" won't give you the entire truth

I have long suspected that the Journal-Sentinel’s Polit-fact Wisconsin is in the bag for Scott Walker and his corporatist WisGOP agenda (leading me to call if Politi-crap and Republi-fact), and I received more verification of this today. Dave Umhoefer and the fools at Politi-crap let their boy Scotty slip away with a cherry-picked claim about Wisconsin Incomes, when a rudimentary check of the bigger context shows the dishonesty and failure that has become a hallmark of Scott Walker’s governorship.

First, let me give you Politi-crap’s “analysis” and “investigation”.
So is it possible that by another economic measure -- the state’s total personal income -- the Badger State is gaining faster than all of its neighbors?

Gov. Scott Walker made that claim July 30, 2014 on his campaign Twitter account:

Wisconsin is #1 in the Midwest for personal income growth over the year. (US BEA Q1 2013 over Q1 2014)
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) July 30, 2014

In the tweet, Walker cited U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates comparing the first quarter income total for 2014 to those from the same quarter one year earlier.
Those numbers come from this release, which came out in late June. Politi-crap says the numbers check out, so therefore, there is nothing else to discuss.
Among those 12 states [that could be identified as “Midwestern”], Wisconsin’s 3.33 percent income growth led the way, topping Ohio (3.12 percent) and Illinois (3.08 percent.)

Minnesota and Iowa were toward the low end at 1.6 percent and 1.13 percent, respectively.

Nationally, Wisconsin’s increase fell below the overall U.S. growth (3.55 percent) and trailed growth in 20 states. The top five states -- Oregon, Colorado, Texas, California and Washington -- ranged from 4.5 percent to 5.35 percent….

Our rating
Walker tweeted that "Wisconsin is #1 in the Midwest for personal income growth over the year."

The governor correctly identified a good-news trend that has seen Wisconsin boost its status from a laggard to a leader on total personal income, including wages, property income and government assistance.

We rate the claim True.
And now let me give you….the rest of the story. The part that Politi-crap chose not to mention.

Scott Walker has been governor of Wisconsin longer than 1 year, and perhaps it’s important to look at how we got to where we were in Q1 2013- when the time frame of Walker’s claim began. Let’s go back and see how the state has fared since Walker took office at the start of 2011, and compare that with the 6 other states that were originally part of the Big Ten (what I generally define as the “Midwest”). And when you look at this chart, it gives a very different impression than the one Walker and Politi-crap gave.

See that red line on the bottom? That’s Wisconsin under Walker. It’s DEAD LAST for income growth over the last 3+ years. The growth in income for the last 12 months doesn’t override that horrible performance. Basically, Walker’s tweet would be like a Cubs fan saying his team was “the best in the NL Central” because the Cubs had the best record in the division over their last 10 games going into play today. That may be true, but it didn’t change the fact that THE CUBS ARE STILL IN LAST, and no fan of the first-place (!) Brewers would want to change positions with them right now.

But you might think that Politi-crap was just being lazy and literal, and that’s why they allowed Walker’s claim to slip by with a “True” rating, without explaining the bigger context. The problem is that Politi-crap didn’t give Mary Burke the same benefit of the doubt earlier this year when the Burke campaign ran an ad criticizing Walker’s failures in job creation.

First, here’s the ad.

In that ad, there’s a reference to the state’s unemployment rate going from 4.8% in the time when Burke was Commerce Secretary, to 6.2%, which was based on the most recent numbers available at the time the ad ran in early March 2014. So Politi-crap did their “analysis” of that statement.
Burke said that "under Walker, unemployment’s up," from 4.8 percent to 6.2 percent. (actually, Burke’s ad said this, notice how Republi-fact slips that in to imply Burke is the one saying it)

Burke (actually Burke campaign manager Joe Zepecki) 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.
HOLD ON A F***ING SECOND! Under Walker, unemployment WAS up compared to the 4.8% rate that existed when Burke was in office. And it’s still higher at 5.8% today (in fact, we just found out it went up 0.1% in July). The ad’s statement is definitely dishonest and out of context, but so was Walker’s “best income growth in the Midwest claim”, and Republi-fact said that 100% “True.”

What’s with the disparity? Maybe the Burke ad isn’t a 100% true, but any honest analysis would give it at worst a “Half-true” or “Mostly false” for using an out-of-context stat to make it look like there is higher unemployment in Wisconsin since Walker took office. But the numbers are correct- unemployment is higher now in Wisconsin than in the mid-to-late 2000s. Explain to me why Scott Walker gets to cherry-pick stats and Politi-crap lets it pass, but when Mary Burke’s campaign does it, it’s “false and ridiculous”?

I can find only one legitimate answer to this- Politi-fact Wisconsin and Dave Umhoefer are being told to slant these ratings for the 2014 race. We know that the J-S is firmly in the tank for Walker, having endorsed him twice for governor and having spent years constantly muddying or covering up his numerous examples of failed policies, dishonesty and corruption under the charade of “he said, she said.” Even with Politi-crap grading on the curve, Walker rates as one of the biggest liars in the country, even by GOP standards, as noted by James Rowen at the Political Environment.

So if Politi-crap gives their boy Scotty a couple of out-of-context and meaningless “Trues”, and reaches for some absurd “Pants on Fire” or other negative ratings for Burke, they can allow the average dope to cop out and say “See, there’s no real difference”, and diminish the legitimate issue of Walker’s rampant dishonesty and corruption. Which plays right into WisGOP’s hands.

Politi-crap’s act illustrates disgusting behavior by JournalComm’s newspaper, and a whole lot of us see through it. To portray this obvious bias as “objective analysis” should get these guys slapped with an FTC complaint under truth in advertising laws, and I think we should let their new bosses at Scripps-Howard let them know that things like this are a big reason why this paper has destroyed almost all of the statewide credibility for political reporting that it once had. If Dave Umhoefer had an ounce of pride, he would admit his inability to do his job, quit spreading Politi-crap, and go back to being a beat reporter. Or he’d go public and say he is being told to skew his ratings in favor of Walker and WisGOP by his corporate lapdog editors - George Stanley and David Haynes- and then resign with honor.

Either way works with me, Dave. What’ll it be?


  1. I downloaded the dataset from BEA and ran the numbers. From 2010Q4, Walker's starting point, to 2014Q1, WI ranks DEAD LAST among those 12 "midwest" states, and 44th nation wide.

  2. I just wanted to know where you got your graph from for the 3 year analysis. I can't seem to find it anywhere else on the internet.

  3. Reuben- I just did an Excel spreadsheet using the BEA info, which you can click on in the article. It's my own chart, but you are more than welcome to copy and use it.