What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 4, 2014

So How Misleading IS Governor Corbett's Ad? Lots.

First, here's the ad:

And here's the text:
Tom Wolf's record on jobs is a car wreck.

While Wolf served in Harrisburg as the state's top tax collector, our taxes went through the roof. (Text on screen: Wolf fought for a sales tax INCREASE Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2/21/07)

And higher taxes led to 152,000 PA workers losing their jobs and unemployment going up almost 50%.

Fortunately Tom Corbett came along and cleaned up Wolf's mess.

Corbett lowered taxes, creating 150,000 new jobs, and PA's unemployment rate dramatically fell.

Tom Corbett: Driving Pennsylvania towards a brighter future. ”
So, how much of that is actually, you know, TRUE?

Oh, not so much, as it turns out.  Let's take a look at the second sentence.  There's a serious voice intoning a serious charge with a reference to news article (presumably) plastered on the screen as back-up.

Funny thing, though, when you track down the actual article being referenced, here's what you find:
The nominee to be Pennsylvania's top tax collector defended Gov. Ed Rendell's call to increase the state sales tax yesterday, despite criticism from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia legislators who said the regressive levy would have a negative impact on lower-income residents of their cities.
But wait, this part of Corbett's ad was supposed to be about how when Wolf was tax collector and the article's about his nomination for that job.  How can one be used in conjunction with the other?  Simple answer: it can't, unless your intent is to mislead.

And what happened to the sales tax increase that nominee Wolf was defending?

Abandoned by Governor Rendell a few months later:
Gov. Rendell announced this morning that he is abandoning his push to raise the state sales tax, crediting a "soaring" Pennsylvania economy for producing more than $500 million in unanticipated revenue.

Through mid-June – two weeks shy of a complete fiscal year – Harrisburg has taken in $502 million more in revenue than first projected, negating, for now, the need to increase Pennsylvania's 6 percent sales tax by 1 percentage point, Rendell said at a Capitol news conference.
Doesn't that complicate the next sentence of Corbett's ad?  That's the sentence about how Wolf's "higher taxes" led to so many job losses.  Funny, they never discuss how 152,000 Pennsylvanians lost their jobs due to the sales tax that nominee Wolf defended but Governor Rendell later abandoned due to a "soaring" economy.

Isn't that misleading as well?  I mean unless they were referring to other taxes.  But if they were why didn't they say so?  Sloppy at best, misleading at worst.  We deserve better.

And about those 152,000 jobs - factcheck.org took a look at the number and found it, well, misleading (my term, not theirs). Here's how it begins:
A new radio ad from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett boasts that he “created 150,000 new private sector jobs,” a feat called “remarkable” in a Web ad on his campaign website. Not really. Pennsylvania ranks 46th out of 50 states in the rate of private sector job growth during the three years Corbett has been in office. In fact, the growth rate is less than half the national average.
Here's the funny about Corbett's "job growth":
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania has added a net 138,300 private sector jobs between January 2011, when Corbett took office, and December 2013, the latest figures available. The December figures are projected, and Corbett’s office said it looked at the numbers from January 2011 to November 2013, which show a net gain of 151,100 private sector jobs.

Corbett’s comments focus on private sector job growth. During his time in office, the number of government jobs has declined by a net 42,000 (most from local government jobs). When looking at all jobs, including government jobs, Pennsylvania has gained 96,300 total jobs under Corbett – a 1.7 percent job growth over three years, ranking the state 46th in total job growth among the states.

Corbett’s numbers on private sector job growth are accurate, or pretty close if using December figures. But a much different picture emerges when the job growth is put into a national context. [Emphases added.]
So there's not so much job growth, is there.  At least according to the folks at factcheck.org.

But let's get back to the ad.  Was Wolf responsible whatever rising unemployment and tax rates when he was tax collector.

Another fact checking organization, this time politifact, says no. First on those "job killing" taxes:
We did find a basis for the ad’s claim that 100,000 Pennsylvania jobs were lost during Wolf’s tenure. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed Pennsylvanians rose by 150,000 between April 2007 and November 2008.

However, the problem with this part of the claim is that it’s a stretch to blame taxes in general -- much less Wolf specifically -- for the loss of these jobs (especially their "killing," in the ad’s overheated rhetoric).

We asked Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist, how much straight-line causation we can draw between tax policy and those job losses.

"Basically none," Sinclair said, saying the much bigger factor during that period was the national economic downturn, which officially became a recession almost halfway through Wolf’s tenure.

While she acknowledged that tax policy can affect job growth, Sinclair added that "economists disagree wildly on the ‘job-killing’ effects of taxes. So, confidently drawing any line of causation is impossible. And throw in that the entire country lost about 2.3 million jobs over that period. I don't think it was the high taxes of Pennsylvania that caused the job losses."
And then whether he was responsible for the taxes in the first place:
Why does this matter? Because the ad said that "on Wolf’s watch, taxes were high." This suggests that Wolf is to blame for the state’s overall tax structure, rather than just for proposing marginal expansions. In reality, most of the state’s tax structure was already well-established before Wolf was even sworn in, so it’s a stretch to lay the blame for "high taxes" at his feet.

Second, the ad overhypes how much impact Wolf had on tax policy as revenue secretary. While Wolf certainly engaged in at least some advocacy, as the newspaper articles noted, his job duties were exclusively administrative, not policy-setting.

The secretary’s job, according to the department’s website, is to "administer the tax laws of the commonwealth in a fair and equitable manner." Raising taxes or creating new ones is up to the governor and the Legislature (which during his tenure had one chamber controlled by the Republicans).
So how much of Corbett's information in his "Toy Story" ad was accurate?

Very very little.  And that makes it very very misleading.

We deserve a better Governor and a better campaign than this.

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