September 4, 2012

PolitiFact ‘Beclowns Itself’ in ‘Half-True’ Evaluation of Walker’s Factual Claim About State Unemployment

I really can’t do much with this one beyond relaying the absurd particulars involved in PolitiFact’s incredible conclusion that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made a statement which was only “Half True” about unemployment in the various states in his speech last week at the Republican National Convention.

On August 17, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics opened its monthly Regional and State Employment and Unemployment report as follows: “Regional and state unemployment rates were generally little changed or slightly higher in July. Forty-four states recorded unemployment rate increases, two states and the District of Columbia posted rate decreases, and four states had no change …” The Associated Press’s opening sentence in its coverage of the report’s contents was: “Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide.” After the jump, readers will see the awful statement Walker made in Tampa:

“Last month, 44 of the 50 states saw an increase in the unemployment rate.”

PolitiFact’s (cough, cough, wheeze, wheeze) “Truth-O-Meter” evaluated Walker’s statement as “Half-True,” because:

… many of the increases were so small that they were statistically insignificant. If something is statistically insignificant, that means it’s so small that you can’t be certain the change actually happened.

… And longer-term employment data, particularly the year-over-year statistics, shows that the labor market has improved, suggesting that the labor picture is more complex than Walker’s claim would indicate.

The web site’s definition of “Half-True” is: “The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.” Walker’s truthful statement merely repeating what BLS reported and AP relayed was made in a political speech, not an economic dissertation.

Following the illogic of PolitiFact evaluator Louis Jacobson, Walker would not (repeat: not) have improved his performance even if he had added the word “reported” (“Last month, 44 of the 50 states saw an increase in the reported unemployment rate”), because he still didn’t address “statistical significance,” and didn’t tell us how great things were a year ago (as if that matters in a statement about one month’s results).

I’ll end this with a quote from Charlie Sykes at WTMJ in Milwaukee at his post entitled “Politifact Beclowns Itself. Again”: “The Moral of the Story seems to be: What’s TRUE for the media (and, as seen above, the government — Ed.), becomes HALF TRUE when uttered by a Republican politician.”

Exit question: Does the “O” in Truth-O-Meter stand for “Obama”?

Cross-posted at


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