The Oregonian and PolitiFact – Bending Over Backward Not To Give A Republican Credit

Posted on November 30, 2011 by

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PolitiFact has just submitted another entry in a long line of evidence of bias in their analysis.

This time, it’s the Oregonian’s man on the beat, Charles Pope.

Mr. Pope has decided to dissect this statement on the website of Oregon’s only Republican Congressman, Greg Walden:

“When the bill was signed into law, the White House promised that the stimulus would increase by 44,000 the number of jobs in Oregon by December 2010,” he says on his official congressional website. “Unfortunately, even with the stimulus, since the bill was signed, the number of jobs has actually decreased by 18,300 through July 2011.”

Now, this seems like a pretty straightforward statement, easily confirmed. Heck, it doesn’t even seem like an overly political statement, especially given some of the extreme rhetoric emanating from both sides of the aisle.

Would you believe it took Mr. Pope 928 words to complete his dissection, and he found a way to label this statement only Half True?

It’s True (to coin a phrase). One might think the post would end with this:

Walden supports his claim with a study by the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. That study relies on federal statistics and, sure enough, both the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oregon Employment Department show that Oregon had fewer people working in July 2010 than February 2009.

When the stimulus was signed into law in February 2009, 1.643 million people in Oregon held non-farm jobs, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July 2010, after billions of dollars of stimulus spending had been dispersed, the number of non-farm jobs in Oregon was 1.625 million.

That’s a loss of 18,000 jobs which is the number Walden cited.

Unfortunately, we’re only about 1/3 of the way through the article at this point. (Charles, I said “about”, so that’s gotta be at least Partly True.)

The rest of the article consists of several analyses and citations, all of which pretty much say something like this:

The most recent came Nov. 22 from the Congressional Budget Office. It says the stimulus is responsible for adding between 500,000 and 3.3 million jobs nationally.

But the CBO, which is nonpartisan, also says its reports, “do not provide a comprehensive estimate of the law’s impact on U.S. employment, which could be higher or lower…”

Among the reasons is that “some of the jobs included in the reports might have existed even without the stimulus,” and that the reports do not “attempt to measure” the number of indirect jobs.

So, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was inherently imprecise, and as we all remember, the target quickly changed from “jobs created” to “jobs created or saved”. Estimates of jobs “created or saved”, as cited by Mr. Pope himself, range from 500,000 to 3.3 million nationwide. Statistically speaking, that’s a tad outside the margin of error. Mathematicians call that difference “an order of magnitude”.

So let’s summarize. Republican Congressman Walden has a precise statement on his website that is backed up by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Oregon Employment Department, the Congressional Ways and Means Committee and the CBO. Reporter/analyst Charles Pope agrees that the figure is correct and unassailable by fact. Mr. Pope subsequently does a bunch of research trying to refute this statement, and because of the murky nature of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the only logical conclusion is that Congressman Walden must also be murky and therefore gets a grade of Half True.

Charles Pope, we hereby grade your PolitiFact hit piec … err … analysis as Pants On Fire.

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