Monday, June 11, 2012

Truth or Consequences -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's Half Truth and Lies


Factcheck.org is, as I see it, the best public policy center for assessing the truth of, as Al Franken said in the title of his book, the lies and the lying liars that tell them.  I am pasting Factcheck.org's assessment of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's fiscal claims.  It is as follows:

In his ad, Walker says in the three years before he took office, “Wisconsin lost 150,000 jobs” but that now, “employer confidence is up” and “since the start of the year, Wisconsin has added thousands of new jobs.”

It’s true that Wisconsin lost nearly 150,000 jobs in the three years before he took office. More precisely, Wisconsin lost 145,000 between January 2008 and December 2010, the month before Walker took office. The entire country was reeling from the recession, and the percentage of jobs lost in Wisconsin mirrored the percentage of jobs lost nationally (both losing a little more than 5 percent).

Now, for the second part of Walker’s claim, that “since the start of the year, Wisconsin has added thousands of new jobs.” Do you see what he’s done there? Walker has skipped entirely over 2011, his first year in office, and instead referenced job statistics for the first two months of 2012. Even so, the ad was barely true when it came out, and less so today after some unfavorable data for March. Between January and February, Wisconsin added 10,100 jobs. But then the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Wisconsin lost 4,500 jobs in March. So now, there’s been a net gain of 5,600 jobs in 2012.

But if you look at the jobs picture since Walker took office, Wisconsin has lost a net 14,200 jobs. In fact, Wisconsin has lagged behind the rest of the country in the recovery. While Wisconsin has lost jobs during Walker’s time in office, the country as a whole saw jobs increase by 1.8 percent.
Needless to say, Wisconsin is not on track for Walker to keep his campaign promise to bring the state 250,000 new jobs by 2015.

As the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund correctly pointed out in a , in 2011 recent ad, “Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state. Dead last.” That fact was also featured in an ad from the Barrett campaign. From January 2011 to January 2012, Wisconsin lost a net 12,700 jobs. According to a review by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, that was the worst performance among all 50 states.

Walker: “We wiped out a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes.”

Walker’s claim that “we wiped out a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes” is also dubious. The state Constitution requires a balanced budget. And it’s true that Walker offered a balanced budget using the cash accounting method. However, using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) accrual accounting methods, there is a $3 billion deficit in each of the next two years. We won’t bore you with the differences in accounting methods. It’s perfectly legitimate for Walker to cite the cash accounting figure in his ad, but that may confuse some folks who may remember that Walker cited figures using an accrual accounting method when he argued for cuts in state health programs, because that made future deficits look worse.

Next, did Walker balance the budget without raising taxes? Walker did not propose any general tax increases, and he implemented several corporate tax reductions. But his claim that he didn’t raise taxes is not entirely true. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau labeled two tax credit reductions as tax increases. One measure reduced the earned income tax credit for people with two or more children, a change projected to net the state an added $56.2 million over two years. Another reduced the homestead tax credit, bringing the state $13.6 million over two years. Walker argued those were spending cuts, not tax increases. But suffice to say, those who got those credits before, and don’t now, probably consider them to be tax increases. Walker also raised tens of millions of dollars by increasing a number of fees.

The moral of this story is beware of Republicans toting "facts" as often their "facts" are not the truth and their untruths, indeed, have consequences
in extremis for our nation.