Wisconsin mainstream news media continue enabling the Walker job-creation double standard | WisCommunity

Wisconsin mainstream news media continue enabling the Walker job-creation double standard

What is it with Scott Walker and Wisconsin's mainstream media trying to have it both ways? They're doing it again with state job-creation statistics.

Back when he was campaigning in his recall election, Walker made a big point of rejecting monthly US labor statistics for job creation in Wisconsin, saying they were not showing the true story of how his policies were working. The monthly figures were poor. So, instead, Walker touted the better results from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics quarterly census data. Never mind that the quarterlies were as yet unverified when Walker took the unprecedented step of releasing them. Never mind, too, that his administration compounded its error by using the quarterly numbers after adding in those disputed monthly numbers -- i.e., counting individual jobs more than once, in many cases. Talk about your double-dipping.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state's biggest daily, continues to buy into Walker's forked-tongue rhetoric. Of course the newspaper editorially supported Walker, but its Politifact column did point out the Walker double-dipping. As Rick Unger of Forbes magazine noted during the recall election:

"As best as Politifact can figure it out, the Walker [campaign] ad takes the quarterly census numbers delivered by Wisconsin to the BLS for its 2011 numbers—those being the still unverified results which greatly revise the job count upwards for that year—and then adds in the monthly BLS numbers starting in 2012 (the monthly numbers being the ones that Walker argues are way off for 2011 but which are, apparently, more accurate for 2012 because the results are more favorable to Walker’s claims of job growth) to arrive at a job creation number of 33,200 new jobs in the state since Scott Walker became governor."

Skip ahead a year, and here we go again.

The Journal Sentinel's front business page headlined a story today saying Wisconsin gained 12,700 private-sector jobs in May to end two months of losses. That, the newspaper reported, was according to preliminary estimates released a day earlier by the state Department of Workforce Development.

Only in the story's final two paragraphs, buried on the back "jump" page, were readers provided the cavaet on monthly data discrepancies. Nor did the Walker administration hesitate to promote the numbers.

Meanwhile, the National Memo website (URL in links) had a somewhat more jaundiced view:

In the past year, Illinois added 40,300 jobs, Michigan added 32,300, Minnesota 22,700 and Iowa 11,900, .

And Wisconsin? It had 6,800 fewer non-farm jobs in April 2013 than April 2012.

That Scott Walker’s economic policies continue to fail is an intolerable fact to the right-wing machine, which hopes to export the governor’s anti-union, pro-corporate, public-service-slashing ways to other purple and blue states, until all 50 “laboratories of democracy” resemble Mississippi...

...The state has become a petri dish where we can examine exactly how the right is perverting democracy on the state level to create a society where corporations write their own laws that keep workers isolated and dependent on the whims of their employers. The dangers of dark money groups, conservative manipulation of the media and gerrymandering should all be put under the microscope after the disaster for workers in Wisconsin.

That's a national journal, but the Wisconsin news media remains far more circumspect regarding Walker's flaws. It still comes down to this: When the monthly numbers are bad, Walker eschews them and says the methodology is flawed, but when the numbers are good, as they have been very infrequently under this administration, Workforce Development goes right ahead and releases the information and everyone on the political right and most news media immediately accept it as gospel. The Journal Sentinel runs a story with an unequivocal headline that 12,700 jobs were created -- actually 10,400, if (as used to be customary) you don't count seasonal farm jobs.

Even if you believe the new data, which, if he were at all consistent, Walker could not, Wisconsin's unemployment rate remains around seven percent, and economic and job growth (economic shrinkage, actually) is among the worst in the nation.

The Wisconsin State Journal, which unfortunately headlined the new monthly figures as stopping a "brief" (!) job slide statewide, did manage to sum up the situation accurately in the actual news story:

Job growth has been a central theme for Gov. Scott Walker, who made a campaign pledge in 2010 to create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin before the end of his first four-year term if elected. With the May data included, the state's job growth since Walker was inaugurated in January 2011 is 48,900, according to the Current Employment Statistics.

Walker originally liked the quarterly reporting method better because early on in his term that method happened to be producing somewhat better results than the monthlies. But overall quarterly figures -- properly free of double-counted monthly numbers --  show even less job creation than the State Journal reported. And let's not forget how many public employees in this state have lost their jobs or taken serious compensation cuts under Walker. They aren't counted in these tallies, because, hey, they simply don't count. As one Republican once said, public-sector jobs aren't "real" jobs.

Whichever method you use to calculate job growth, Wisconsin remains way behind other states, much less Walker's own standard of achievement. He pledged 250,000 new jobs before the end of his four-year term, and has slightly more than 200,000 to go, even if you give him every benefit of the doubt and you believe the new monthly report, which reports Walker in the past has said were not to be believed.

Meanwhile, the apologist Journal Sentinel seems unwilling to pin the blame for poor job performance on Walker at all. In its most recent editorial on the matter the newspaper again asserted that governors really don't have that much direct impact on job creation. Oh, really? So if lots of jobs are created under his watch, Walker should get credit, but if Wisconsin's economy continues to tank, it's not on him? Come on.

To be fair, the newspaper did break ranks with Walker on the incredibly screwed up, underperforming Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation he created to replace the state's Commerce Department. However, despite continuing, serious problems with the state's foremost job-creation agency, the newspaper has spent most of its time worrying about why state schools and colleges aren't training enough new workers to fill vacancies in Wisconsin industry. Never mind that this particular "crisis" is being reported by industry itself, arguably in a bid to get more state training grant handouts, and never mind that the alleged gap itself is a matter in great dispute.

Nor are you supposed to take into account that, even if the skills/employment gap is true, it's Walker who made historic, $1.4 billiion budget cuts to public education. But in the Walkerverse, failure to educate an increasing number of Wisconsin children is just not his fault. It's those damn teachers! Which is why we are told we must create an expensive, parallel, private school system statewide, funding it with more and more tax dollars while continuing to cut public school spending and blaming everything else on all those lazy, noisome, feather-bedding educators.

It all makes so much more sense when you disconnect your brain's logic center.

Phrases and words come to mind when considering how Walker and his friends in the news media go about portraying these matters. Among them: Bipolar, cynical,  propagandistic, cognitively dissonant, and lying. So much for the classic tenets of journalism, not least among them a commitment to protecting the afflicted from the rapacious, projected desires of the comfortable, and of the authoritarians.


June 21, 2013 - 1:39pm