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Jamison Foser

Author ››› Jamison Foser
  • More Anti-Union, Pro-GOP Reporting From The Washington Post

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Today's Washington Post article about the "offensive by Republican governors" against labor unions is a textbook case of nonsensical and slanted economic reporting, consistently putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the governors.

    Most notably, the Post adopts the bizarre spin that not raising taxes is a way to reduce deficits:

    The plain- spoken [New Jersey Governor Chris] Christie has emerged as a leader of a growing group of governors that is attacking yawning budget deficits by facing down public employees and promising not to raise taxes.

    I'm sorry: What? The Post credits governors like Christie with "attacking yawning budget deficits" by "promising not to raise taxes"? Bizarre. (And just try to imagine the Washington Post reporting that a "group of governors is attacking yawning budget deficits by promising not to cut spending.")

    Worse, the Post does not make clear that the Republican governors who are supposedly "attacking yawning budget deficits," like Christie and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, are actually pushing tax cuts that increase the deficit.

    Later, the Post reports:

    Though studies show that state employees are generally paid less than comparably educated private workers, public employees often enjoy more generous pension and health-care benefits, and these are at the root of the long-term budget problems confronting many states.

    In fact, "budget problems" do not stem from spending alone -- they stem from a gap between spending and revenue. In New Jersey, for example, the "root" of the problem is not "generous pension benefits" -- it's that a series of New Jersey governors have raided the state pension fund to pay for tax cuts. Essentially, Republican Governors have cut taxes, creating an unfunded liability in the form of the pension system, then pointed to the lack of funding as a reason to cut pensions. That's their prerogative -- if they prefer tax cuts to pension, they're free to pursue such policies. But the Washington Post shouldn't pretend the problem is simply "generous pensions" rather than Republicans taking money from the pension system in order to fund tax cuts.

  • Palin Insider: "We Could Normally Expect" Fox "To Repeat Any Coordinated Message We Sent"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Andrew Sullivan notes that a leaked manuscript of a proposed book by longtime Palin insider Frank Bailey contains some straight talk about Fox News and other conservative media:

    Bailey describes Palin's eventual media strategy: avoid any MSM interviews and get talking points out through surrogates. Who were they? Bailey names names: Bill Kristol, Mary Matalin, former Bush aides Jason Recher and Steve Biegun, GOP officials Nick Ayers and Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Greta Van Susteren, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. Then this sentence

    We could normally expect them to repeat any coordinated message we sent.

    Well, knock me over with a feather.

  • PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" Is On The Fritz

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Two recent PolitiFact assessments of statements about Wisconsin public workers are badly flawed -- both in ways that lend support to critics of public workers and unions.

    On Sunday, PolitiFact awarded a dubious "True" rating to George Will's statement that Wisconsin public employees would be better off than their private sector counterparts even after Governor Scott Walker's proposed benefit cuts. Here's PolitiFact's conclusion:

    [I]t's important to consider an employee's total package of wages and benefits when comparing public and private sector compensation. But that's not the issue before us here. Will clearly stated that he was talking about just the benefits side of the equation. And with regard to the changes Walker has proposed -- requiring greater employee contributions to pension and health care -- Will is right that they would still leave public employees "better off" than those in the private sector. We rate Will's comment True.

    So, PolitiFact's True rating is based on the belief that "Will clearly stated that he was talking about just the benefits side of the equation." But he didn't. Here's Will's statement, as quoted by PolitiFact:

    Will responded, "Donna, what you call the grassroots is a tiny minority of this tiny minority of Wisconsin people who work for the government. Three hundred thousand public employees in Wisconsin went to work -- while the teachers were clutching their little signs that say it's all about the kids, they're abandoning their classrooms, lying to their supervisors, saying they were sick, and going off to protest in defense of perquisites, which if the governor cuts them as much as he plans to do, would still leave them better off than their private sector" counterparts.

    Will said that cutting state workers "perquisites … would still leave them better off than their private sector" counterparts. The simplest reading of that sentence is that the word "them" refers to workers, not perquisites. In which case, Will was not "talking about just the benefits side of the equation" -- he was saying even if the benefits are cut, the workers will be better off than their counterparts. You can, I suppose, argue that the word "them" referred to "perquisites," though the word "they" had twice been used to refer to teachers in the same sentence, and though it would be odd for a wordsmith of Will's calibre to describe "perquisites" as "better off." You can argue that was Will's intent -- but it certainly isn't "clear," as PolitiFact claims.

    So, basically, the entire premise of PolitiFact's assessment is flawed. There's little reason to reason to give Will the benefit of the doubt that he was referring to how well off workers are in terms of benefits only. And there's no reason to think he was "clearly" doing so. Finally, even if he was doing so, he was being misleading -- as PolitiFact notes, "[I]t's important to consider an employee's total package of wages and benefits when comparing public and private sector compensation." In so noting, PolitiFact refers to a previous fact-check by its Wisconsin bureau, which indicates that when considering both wages and benefits, state employees make less than private sector counterparts.

    That PolitiFact Wisconsin entry was deeply flawed, too -- and also in a way that benefited critics of unions. PolitiFact Wisconsin awarded an entirely unjustified "false" rating to Wisconsin AFT president Bryan Kennedy's statement that state workers earn less than comparable private sector employees. We needn't go into much detail here -- a simple glance at PolitiFact's conclusion is enough to see that it is not justified:

    In sum, Kennedy did not provide evidence that supports his claim, which itself provides only a partial look at the debate. If any more evidence emerges, we'll review it. In the meantime, we rate Kennedy's claim False.

    That paragraph makes clear that, at worst, Politifact should declare Kennedy's claim unproven, not "false." Indeed, by PolitiFact's standards, its assessment of Kennedy's statement is itself false. See, PolitiFact did not prove its claim, therefore -- by PolitiFact's logic -- its claim is false. But I reject PolitiFact's flawed logic, so I won't declare it's assessment "false." Just unjustified.

    But that isn't the only flaw in PolitiFact's reasoning. Let's take a look at Kennedy's statement, as presented by PolitiFact:

    On the "Upfront with Mike Gousha" public affairs program, Gousha asked Kennedy if state employee unions "have a perception problem with the general public."

    "Well, I think that there's been talking points used by those who don't like government to continually bash us and make us look as if we're the haves and we're really not," Kennedy replied during the Dec. 5, 2010 show.

    "If you look across the board, we're averaging about 8 percent less than if we all worked in the private sector. Some of our people make half or a third as much as they could make if they worked in the private sector."

    Now, here's PolitiFact's summary of Kennedy's statement and the supporting evidence he provided PolitiFact:

    He said Wisconsin state employees are "averaging about 8 percent less" in pay than if they worked in the private sector. But the figure he relied on was from a national study that combined pay and benefits.

    Notice that the words "in pay" aren't in quotes? That's because Kennedy didn't say them. PolitiFact is hitting Kennedy for supporting a specific comment about "pay" by providing information relating to "pay and benefits" -- but Kennedy's statement did not specify that he was referring only to pay. PolitiFact just inserted that on its own. Here, let's look back at the Kennedy statement in question, as quoted by PolitiFact:

    "If you look across the board, we're averaging about 8 percent less than if we all worked in the private sector."

    See? He didn't specify "pay" as opposed to "pay and benefits."

    Finally, PolitiFact complains that though Kennedy provided a study showing that state workers make 7.6 percent less in pay and benefits than comparable private sector employees, and 11 percent less in pay alone, the study was national in scope. Ok… but Kennedy never said the 8 percent figure referred to Wisconsin state employees alone, rather than national figures for state employees.

    In short: PolitiFact altered Kennedy's actual statement, pretending he was more specific than he actually was. Then it completely failed to disprove even that altered statement. And then it declared the altered statement to be false, based on an apparent belief that "unproven" and "false" are synonymous.

    Note also that both PolitiFact pieces baselessly narrowed the scope of discussion to a portion of compensation rather than total compensation, even though it acknowledges that it is more useful to compare total compensation, and even though it wasn't clear in either case that the statement being fact-checked referred to only a portion of compensation. In other words, PolitiFact assessed less relevent claims than the ones actually made. Weird.

  • Rasmussen Is Terrible (Continued)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over at On Faith, the Washington Post's religion microsite, Brad Hirschfield writes about a Rasmussen poll that "indicates that 65% of Americans favor prayer in our nation's public schools," and asks: "So why not give the people what they want?"

    But because the Rasmussen poll in question is (predictably) terrible, it provides no reason to believe "the people" don't already have what they want -- indeed, it provides no real indication of what it is that they want. Here's what Rasmussen asked:

    Do you favor or oppose prayer in public schools?

    There's really only one way to respond to that question: What does that even mean?

    Does it mean voluntary, independent prayer by students during free time?

    Does it mean voluntary group prayer organized by students during free time?

    Does it mean voluntary prayer organized by faculty?

    Does it mean compulsory prayer led by faculty during class?

    Does it mean compulsory prayer to a specific god led by faculty during class?

    It could mean any of those things, and more. And students can already voluntarily pray at school, so the Rasmussen poll results give us absolutely no indication of whether people favor a change in current law.

    In other words, the Rasmussen poll results are completely useless. The moral of the story, as usual: Ignore Rasmussen polls. Also: Be wary of purported experts who rely upon such obviously shoddy polling to make their case.

  • George Will's Dishonest Assault On Unions

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    If there was an award for disingenuous sanctimony, Washington Post columnist George Will would be a runaway favorite for his assault on organized labor:

    This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election.

    Absurd. Wisconsin union members are simply seeking to influence the legislative process. That doesn't constitute an effort "to repeal an election" any more than does the Chamber of Commerce lobbying on behalf of tax cuts, or the National Right to Life Committee lobbying on behalf of restrictions on abortion. Individuals, interest groups and businesses attempt to influence the legislative process every day -- but Will singles out only union members as trying to "repeal an election" by doing so.

    Will, continuing directly:

    A minority of the minority of Wisconsin residents who work for government (300,000 of them) are resisting changes to benefits that most of Wisconsin's 5.6 million residents resent financing.

    Again, disingenuous nonsense. The workers' central complaint is not that they face "changes to benefits," but that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is attempting to drastically limit their collective bargaining rights, as is made clear by a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article headlined "State workers willing to bend on concessions, not bargaining rights":

    State workers signaled Monday they could accept benefit cuts proposed by Gov. Scott Walker even as they prepared to battle with Walker over his plan to cut most of their union bargaining rights.

    Will continues is assault on reality by praising Walker's "fiscal seriousness."

    A few days after President Obama submitted a budget that would increase the federal deficit, he tried to sabotage Wisconsin's progress toward solvency. … Walker, by a fiscal seriousness contrasting with Obama's lack thereof, and Obama, by inciting defenders of the indefensible, have made three things clear…

    In fact, Walker has pushed tax cuts that make Wisconsin's budget deficit worse. Will criticizes Obama for submitting a budget that would increase the federal deficit, then praises Walker for "fiscal seriousness" in contrast to Obama, even though Walker has pushed tax policy that would … increase his state's deficit. Clearly, then, Will's real interest is not "fiscal seriousness" -- it's scoring partisan points, justifying budget-busting tax cuts, or both.

  • Attention, Suckers: WND Has A 10-Step Program For You

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    WorldNetDaily offers readers "10 easy steps" to become an "eligibility activist":

    It probably won't surprise you to learn that nine of the ten steps require you to send WND a check.

    Step one offers readers "the most in-depth primer on the subject ever compiled," for the low, low price of $7.95. Step two asks for a "donation of $2 or more." Step three is a sales pitch for a $17.99 DVD. Step four instructs readers to buy a yard sign for $19.95. Next step: Purchase a $19.99 t-shirt. Step six requires the purchase of a $4.00 pack of postcards. Step 7: Purchase bumper stickers at a minimum of $2 each ($5.95 if you prefer a magnetic bumper sticker for easy removal.) Step 8 is easy: Sign a petition. Finally, a reprieve from the financial shakedown! But it doesn't last long: WND readers who want to become "eligibility activists" are next asked for another donation. Finally, completion of the 10 steps requires the purchase of a $22.95 book from WND.

    WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah explains: "It's time to step up the pressure … If you want to encourage me to keep up the fight, please follow this 'how to become an eligibility activist 10-point program.'"

    Total Cost: At least $96.83 (not counting those two donations.)

    Gee, you don't think WND's relentless birtherism is just a shameless attempt to con gullible readers out of their hard-earned cash, do you?

  • The Definition Of Insanity: WND Columnist Claims Fox Is Protecting Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Conspiracy theories don't get any more bizarre than this: WorldNetDaily columnist Jack Cashill claims conservative media, including Fox News, are acting as a "firewall" protecting President Obama:

    Two days after the debut of my book, "Deconstructing Obama," last week, I contacted the producer of a popular conservative radio show with a large national audience.

    ...

    "Mine is the first book to address the birther issue in a serious way." I wrote. "It also addresses the authorship issue. Right now, the book is something of a grass roots sensation. I need to push it up the food chain."

    Here is the e-mail I received back in full: "Thanks for the offer, but we make a point to steer clear of these topics."

    The "topics" in question, if explored intelligently, will almost certainly undo Obama's re-election bid, but producers and their hosts, as was obvious here, worry overly about their own imagined credibility.

    To be fair, the host referenced above does not work for a network owned by multi-media mogul Rupert Murdoch, but several of Murdoch's most prominent hosts on Fox News have made a point of shunning both issues as well.

    Although Murdoch may not be responsible for the conservative media firewall around the White House, no one is more capable of tearing it down.

    There are, of course, a few obvious problems with this theory. First, there is no "birther issue." Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Second, Fox isn't participating in a "conservative media firewall around the White House," it's leading a vicious campaign against the White House. Finally, Fox isn't "shunning" birtherism -- it's promoting birtherism.

    Cashill Flashback: WND Columnist: Barack Sr. Isn't Obama's Father -- Maybe It's An "American Black"

  • Dept. Of Ridiculous Comparisons

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post just can't let go of the myth that the 2009 stimulus package was an act of partisanship by Democrats:

    The GOP plan to fund the government through September is an assault on bedrock Democratic priorities. It imposes substantial spending cuts that would alter the role of government in nearly every area of society - from education and human services to transportation projects, foreign humanitarian aid and medical research. Gone, too, are an array of federal environmental regulations and consumer-product safety measures that private industry has long opposed.

    ...

    House Republicans also gave up an opportunity for bipartisanship. The bill passed a divided House at 4:40 a.m. Saturday; after five days of debate, not one Democrat supported it. By eliminating dozens of government programs, Republicans drove away those Democrats most inclined to vote with them - moderate Blue Dogs. The result harked back to Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan, which passed a bitterly divided Congress two years earlier, almost to the day.

    Got that? The House GOP budget, which "is an assault on bedrock Democratic priorities" abandoned an "opportunity for bipartisanship" by driving away Democrats -- which "harked back to" the stimulus. Except there's one big difference: Obama and Democrats made the stimulus smaller than many economists thought it needed to be, and included $288 billion in tax cuts, in part in an effort to win GOP support. Republicans waged an assault on bedrock Democratic priorities; Democrats included bedrock Republican priorities. Other than that, though: Totally similar.

    Later, the Post "reports":

    Republicans, many of whom were elected on mandates to slash spending, said the cuts are painful but necessary.

    The Post offers no facts to substantiate this dubious assertion. To the extent that last year's elections constituted a "mandate" for anything, polling before and since strongly suggests Americans are more concerned about jobs and the economy, though the Post has had some difficulty remembering this.

  • NYT Hypes GOP's Deficit-Cutting Rhetoric; Ignores Its Deficit-Increasing Priorities

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Under the header "Deficits Reshape the Debate as Republicans Jockey for 2012," The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny devotes 1,300 words to the purported "opportunity" Republicans have to "cast President Obama as a weak leader" due to the deficit:

    The growing profile of the issue has given Republicans an opportunity to cast President Obama as a weak leader, unwilling or unable to confront the tough issues, and has added fuel to the conservative drive for smaller government.

    Those themes were at the heart of appearances over the last week by a number of leading Republicans, all of whom pushed the idea, to varying degrees, that the nation needed to have a serious fiscal debate. And with fiscal issues playing out in high-profile ways in Congress and in statehouses, they will be called on to take more specific positions.

    And in those 1,300 words, Zeleny never gets around to mentioning that the most high-profile Republican initiative this year -- the attempt to repeal last year's health care reform legislation -- would actually increase the deficit.

    Bizarre, isn't it? The New York Times spends 1,300 words on Republicans accusing President Obama of being a weak leader unwilling to confront tough issues and saying the nation must have "a serious fiscal debate" -- but can't bring itself to mention that the GOP's top priority would increase the deficit. It's reporting like this, not "the growing profile of the issue," that "has given Republicans an opportunity."

  • CNN Takes Ownership Of Dana Loesch's Lies

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I'm curious: Is there a lie a conservative guest could tell on CNN that would disqualify her from subsequently being hired by CNN? I ask because CNN recently hired Dana Loesch as a contributor, after Loesch repeatedly lied to CNN viewers as a guest. And I'm not talking about little white lies, I'm talking about what may be the single greatest lie in the past three decades of American history: The up-is-down claim that broad-based income tax cuts increase government revenue.

    Now, before we get to Loesch, let's spend some time on just how completely, incredibly false that claim is. It's so false, we can convincingly debunk it with one arm tied behind our backs -- that is, by relying solely on the testimony of pro-tax-cut conservatives.

    This Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paper notes that Edward Lazear, chairman of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, "I certainly would not claim that tax cuts pay for themselves." CBPP further noted that "N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors and a Harvard economics professor, wrote in his well-known 1998 textbook that there is 'no credible evidence' that 'tax revenues … rise in the face of lower tax rates.' He went on to compare an economist who says that tax cuts can pay for themselves to a 'snake oil salesman trying to sell a miracle cure.'" (Mankiw also once wrote that Reagan advisers who claimed that tax cuts would raise revenue were "charlatans and cranks." In 2007, he stood by that assessment, writing "I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't.")

    CBPP also noted that President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors concluded that, "although the economy grows in response to tax reductions … it is unlikely to grow so much that lost revenue is completely recovered by the higher level of economic activity." And that the Economist magazine wrote of the claim that President Bush's tax cuts would pay for themselves, "Even by the standards of political boosterism, this is extraordinary. No serious economist believes Mr. Bush's tax cuts will pay for themselves."

    Here's Time magazine on claims that tax cuts pay for themselves: "If there's one thing that economists agree on, it's that these claims are false. We're not talking just ivory-tower lefties. Virtually every economics Ph.D. who has worked in a prominent role in the Bush Administration acknowledges that the tax cuts enacted during the past six years have not paid for themselves--and were never intended to."

    Not satisfied? Alan Viard, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and formerly a senior economist in President Bush's CEA, told the Washington Post in 2006: "Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There's really no dispute among economists about that." The same Post article noted that "Robert Carroll, deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax analysis, said neither the president nor anyone else in the administration is claiming that tax cuts alone produced the unexpected surge in revenue. 'As a matter of principle, we do not think tax cuts pay for themselves,' Carroll said."

    This FactCheck.org piece notes that the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee On Taxation both concluded that the Bush tax cuts reduced revenue, and that Rob Portman, director of Bush's Office of Management and Budget, acknowledged as much. And more: Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson: "As a general rule, I don't believe that tax cuts pay for themselves." Reagan CEA Chairman Martin Feldstein: "It is not that you get more revenue by lowering tax rates, it is that you don't lose as much." Andrew Samwick, former chief economist for the CEA during the Bush administration: "No thoughtful person believes" tax cuts increase revenue, "Not a single one."

    Finally, Brian Riedl, the Heritage Foundation's lead budget analyst, has acknowledged that the 2001/2003 Bush tax cuts cost $1.7 trillion of the projected surplus -- and Riedl was defending those tax cuts.

    In short: Even staunchly conservative advocates for tax cuts acknowledge that they don't increase revenue -- and call people who claim otherwise "charlatans and cranks" and snake oil salesmen peddling a "miracle cure."

    One such charlatan is new CNN hire Dana Loesch. Back when she was just a regular guest on CNN, she routinely claimed that tax cuts increase revenue -- and even that it is "illogical" to say that tax cuts could conceivably reduce revenue. Now, even if you somehow believe -- and, remember, no serious person does -- that until you get to zero percent taxes, every tax cut either maintains or increases revenue, you still have to acknowledge that cutting taxes to zero would reduce revenue. But Dana Loesch doesn't: She claims it's "illogical" to say that tax cuts ever reduce revenue. Here's what she has said on CNN: