Re Sen. Vinehout's budget-deficit analysis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel simply refuses to take "yes" for an answer | WisCommunity

Re Sen. Vinehout's budget-deficit analysis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel simply refuses to take "yes" for an answer

Every so often -- too often, for serious journalism -- Politifact Wisconsin publishes something that reeks. Today's noxious smell in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel concerns a ruling on comments by State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), a possible candidate for governor on her party's ticket. The scholarly dairy farmer (she's a former university professor) recently blogged here at Uppity Wisconsin and wrote a guest opinion column for the Madison Capital Times in which she said about state spending: "Because of Gov. Scott Walker’s budgeting, a greater percentage of general fund tax dollars is "going to pay off debt than ever before in our history."

The crack team at Politifact (no, we're not implying they're crackpots or even crackheads) cogitated on this, ran it through the office meatgrinder, and after much sophistry and parsing concluded that Vinehout was telling only a "half truth." While her statistics were spot on, Politifact said, she "left out" other information about the contribution of past governors in helping create the large state debt.

Except, of course, that Vinehout in her column and an earlier blog here on Uppity Wisconsin had also written this:

"In the depths of the recession, Gov. Jim Doyle delayed debt payments to gain cash and keep government going. In the 2011-’13 legislative session, Gov. Scott Walker did not pay an even larger amount of debt payments coming due. Because debt payments were not made, more money goes to pay off debt in (the 2013-’15) budget than ever before," Vinehout wrote.

Walker’s 2013-’15 budget, she added, "pays that price in a greater percent of tax dollars going to pay off debt than ever before in our history."

Even Politifact had to accept that her claim was statistically true, although you could almost hear the huffing and puffing of editors: But, but... she blamed it on the guy we endorsed!

We''ll leave it to readers with strong stomachs and too much free time to read Politifact's curious analysis and then compare it to Vinehout's rather more (ahem!) journalistic commentary (URLs below). You might, if you're having a very bad hair day like the Politifact crew, conclude that Vinehout was telling half truths, or, if you're more reasonable, you might conclude that Politfact's report is itself half full of bull snot. But there's a third option on this fine Labor Day: You could ignore the details, kick back, crack open a refreshing Wisconsin brew, and reflect on the increasing evidence that the Truth-O-Meters at our state's largest newspaper are too often grossly out of calibration with fair play, and reality.

Politifact's strongly implied "They all do it" is hardly a counter to Vinehout's stipulation that, indeed, and especially including Walker, governors all do it. With Walker, it's the same old same old, except that, as it turns out, he's on political steroids. Like George W. Bush in 2001, Walker took an up-ticking economic recovery inherited from his predecessor and quickly squandered it with tax cuts for the wealthy and other silly spending decisions. And that's the political truth.


September 2, 2013 - 12:35pm