Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 16, 2010

DON'T BOTHER PAWLENTY WITH FACTS, HE HAS A CAMPAIGN TO RUN.... Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) isn't making much of an effort to hide his presidential ambitions, and to that end, he's writing op-eds like these that bash public-employee unions.

That's annoying enough on its own, but what really rankles is the blatant dishonesty.

"The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or 'strong back' jobs," Pawlenty wrote. "They work for government, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming 'industry' left in our economy. Since January 2008, the private sector has lost nearly 8 million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000."

At least to me, there's a higher standard for accuracy when it comes to published pieces. It's easy for someone to get tripped up during an interview, and flub a detail that hasn't been checked, but when writing an op-ed for a national newspaper, there's an expectation that the author -- especially someone who intends to be the president of the United States -- will try to tell the truth.

It matters, then, that Pawlenty was blatantly lying.

In January 2008, total private-sector employment in the United States stood at 115,562,000. By November 2010, the most current month available, that number had sunk to 108,278,000 -- a drop of roughly 7.3 million jobs. That pretty close to the "nearly 8 million" figure that Pawlenty cited. (Almost two-thirds of those job losses, incidentally, happened while George W. Bush was president.)

But Pawlenty's public-sector figures were problematic. The BLS has a category called government employment -- which encapsulates local, state and federal employment, just as Pawlenty had defined it. Over the same period, the number of government jobs went from 22,379,000 to 22,261,000 -- a decrease of 118,000, rather than an increase of 590,000, as Pawlenty had written.

At first we were flummoxed about how Pawlenty got the numbers so wrong. We called BLS to make sure we weren't overlooking another data set that measured the same subject, and spokesman Gary Steinberg confirmed that we were using exactly the same numbers he would use.

We also looked at federal employment trends over the same period, on the guess that Pawlenty might have meant to refer to federal jobs, rather than all government jobs. By this calculation, the number of jobs did increase, rather than decrease, but the amount was only one-sixth of what Pawlenty had indicated. Over that period, federal employment rose from 2,739,000 to 2,837,000 -- 98,000 jobs in all.

When PolitiFact asked Pawlenty's office to explain the error, the governor's spokesperson refused to comment. Imagine that.

I guess this is the kind of campaign Tim Pawlenty intends to run -- the kind that flubs facts, misleads the public, and avoids accountability.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Just know this: when a Republican speaks, he/she is lying.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on December 16, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The other question it raises is how much longer print journals are going to continue to burnish their reputation for mendacity and malfeasance by publishing these lies and promoting the lying liars who tell them.

Posted by: thebewilderness on December 16, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, yeah.

But would you want to have a beer with him?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 16, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many temporary census workers there were at the peak? Or perhaps t-paw is totaling all temporary census workers -- who, of course, are no longer employed in that capacity.

Posted by: hoipolloi on December 16, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

when writing an op-ed for a national newspaper, there's an expectation that the author -- especially someone who intends to be the president of the United States -- will try to tell the truth.

One would hope or imagine that when writing for a national paper there is an editor to check facts before they are published, especially from someone who intends to be the president of the United States.

Posted by: martin on December 16, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Even if some media outlet had the balls to call Pawlenty on this, they'd do it "he said/she said" fashion and never tell their viewers/readers who was right (that, after all, would be taking sides, and we can't have that - especially if it makes Republicans look bad).

Posted by: Doctor Whom on December 16, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

What's worse is how he demonized state and federal workers. Somehow we're all "lazy" or want benefits we aren't entitled to (because clearly if we were worth a damn we'd be working for the private sector, right?) and are all overpaid.

It's all complete and total bullshit. All of it. I make about 2/3's (or less) of what I'd make in the private sector. I do it because I care about what I do and think higher education is important.

What's next? is Pawlenty going to suggest that we give up our health care plans and be required to have health care savings accounts? What a jackass.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 16, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Tim Pawlenty is a republican! Need more be said?

As republicans:
- We lie
- We know that we lie
- Our corporately owned media will never challenge our lies
- We pay no price for lying
- We will continue to lie

Why should you expect us to not lie?

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on December 16, 2010 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Attempts to add his quote supporting cap and trade to the comments of his blog have been unsuccessful. Three of us have tried and they seem not to get past the censors.

Posted by: pheski on December 16, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

401(K)'s are predictable? For the employer maybe, but try telling that to a recent retiree who has experienced substantial and unpredictable losses in his retirement accounts.

Posted by: wordtypist on December 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Whoa..you had better subtract the air controllers and DHS employees, who aren't unionized at all if I remember correctly. It's the janitors who clean congressional office who have a union. And we all know they are horrifically overpaid.

Posted by: Mudge on December 16, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't W still in charge in Jan 2008, anyway?

Posted by: Todd for Vermont House on December 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wish someone in Congress would read into the Congressional Record a list of the most blatant and egregious lies the Republicans have told each year. Just for the historical record. Someday people might want to know why the U.S. went down.

Posted by: Sagacity on December 16, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm curious as to how he comes up with the initial statement:

"The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or 'strong back' jobs," Pawlenty wrote. "They work for government..."
Where are the figures to support this assertion? Nowhere to be found in the op-ed, that's for sure...

- PonB

Posted by: PonB on December 16, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I guess this is the kind of campaign Tim Pawlenty intends to run -- the kind of flubs facts, misleads the public, and avoids accountability.

That will separate him from the rest of the GOP field how, exactly?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 16, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Pawlenty may not intend to but will run the type of campaign that ends either shortly before or after the Iowa caucuses due to lack of interest from voters.

Posted by: JMG on December 16, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I read this in my hometown newspaper. The saddest part is reading the comment section in that paper below the lies. Or any factual article in that rag for that matter.

Posted by: Dumn on December 16, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

An update - I did the five minutes worth of research so you don't have to! :-D

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is true that the number of union members in government (7,896,000) is higher than the number in private industry (7,431,000). However, 2009 is the first year that this has been true in the last 10 years. Government union membership has been steadily increasing during that period (from 7,115,000 in 2000) while private industry union membership has been falling steadily (from 9,219,000 in 2000).

Therefore, the statistics have nothing to do with what Obama has or has not done, but are much more the result of GOP union-busting during the period. Go figure...

- PonB

Posted by: PonB on December 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Even if private sector jobs had not increased, it's still complete bullshit to lay it at Obama's feet.

Apparently Pawlenty has amnesia with respect to events between 1999 and today.

Posted by: karen marie on December 16, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The editorial was published in the Wall Street Journal. As a Murdoch owned enterprise facts do not matter as much to them as to the rest of the world.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 16, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's possible that Pawlenty was using outdated figures from the peak Census month. If he did, then his statement was technically true but misleading as opposed to just wrong.

Posted by: sacman701 on December 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Huh. Given that this is a prominent right-wing politician writing an op-ed containing lies, I automatically assumed it was in the Washington Post. But it's good to see the WSJ is holding its own.

Posted by: somethingblue on December 16, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The explanation is in the article linked to on Steve's post, part of it here:

After a bit of online research, we found a reference to the mysterious 590,000 number in -- of all places -- a fact-check by our colleagues at PolitiFact Ohio.

It turns out that on Aug. 10, 2010, they analyzed a statement by Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, that "since the president became the president, we have lost 3.3 million jobs in the private sector. But you know who's done okay and who's not complaining today? The public sector. We've gained 590,000 public sector jobs."

LaTourette's number for private-sector job losses at that point was spot-on. But PolitiFact Ohio found fault with his public-sector numbers. Here's what they wrote:

"In January 2009, there were 2,803,000 federal employees. By May, there were 3,396,000 federal workers. That’s a gain of 593,000, putting LaTourette on the money. But here’s the problem. BLS makes clear, the White House makes clear, and every major news report makes clear when these numbers are released each month that the stimulus had little to do with the growth of the federal workforce. Most of it -- 559,000 new jobs from January 2009 through May - came entirely from the temporary buildup of Census workers. And many of those jobs have already disappeared. ... Exclude all the Census workers hired from January 2009 through May 2010 and total federal hiring comes to only 34,000, not the 590,000 figure that LaTourette cited."

You can read more details at that link, if you're so inclined, including a further explanation of why this was a grossly misleading foray by Pawlenty into lie territory.

Posted by: President Lindsay on December 16, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Wall Street Journal was, for a very long time, renowned for the accuracy and depth of their news reporting -- but their editorial pages have long been among the most delusional and counterfactual of any "news" enterprise.
With their acquisition, of late, by Rupert the Murdoch, it's hardly surprising that their op-eds would go down the same paths as their editorial pages, and all the other NewsCorp "products" worldwide, had long trod.

Posted by: smartalek on December 16, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I guess according to Timmy we can add public service workers to the people we are supposed to hate. So lets sum up for the republicans. We should all hate public employees, gays, lesbians, Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, women, trial attorneys, poor people, and union members. Did I miss anybody?

That's why I tend to favor democrats. I only have to hate rich people and christian fundamentalists.

Okay people, lets give those pitchforks and torches a rest.

Posted by: DK on December 16, 2010 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

I don't hate rich people and Christian fundamentalists. But I hate those people who use their money and power. I also tend to favor in democrats.

Posted by: Sherman Unkefer on December 18, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK
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