Sunday, November 12, 2017

Scott Walker's numbers games; the legend grows

[Updated from 11/11/17] Two things are certain when Scott Walker throws around big numbers: He'll be on the high side, and/or the 'error' will play to his advantage.

*  I've pointed out in two recent posts here and here that while Walker repeatedly claims that the deal he struck with Foxconn will produce a company investment of $10 billion, the real number is $9 billion - - and that disappearing billion makes the $3.74 billion state and local subsidies for Foxconn much more valuable to the company.

The best explanation I've seen so far for the billion-dollar-bungle is provided by the Wisconsin State Journal in a single sentence at the end of a 31-paragraph story - - 

Though Walker and [Foxconn founder Terry] Gou agreed previously on a $10 billion investment by Foxconn, the contract only requires the company to invest $9 billion in the state to be eligible for tax credits.
- - however, I see nothing definitive about the discrepancy from WEDC, or from Walker.

So I suspect he will stick with the $10 billion figure because that round number makes a Governor-Look-What-I-Did sound super-competent.

* Update - - And note that Walker has been overstating the value of the plant and misrepresenting all potential 13,000 jobs Foxconn may eventually create as high tech since the day the deal was announced in July:
"Foxconn is bringing 13,000 high-tech jobs to Wisconsin."
Leaving aside the term high-tech, the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer is a long way from even breaking ground on a plant that was only announced the same day Walker made his statement. And the company itself has been more measured, saying the planned plant initially will create 3,000 jobs, "with the potential to grow to 13,000 new jobs."
But the 13,000 is more than talk. Foxconn is pledging a $10 billion investment and the state is offering $3 billion in incentives, with $1.5 billion aimed at the creation of 13,000 jobs.
Walker’s statement is partially accurate, but needs clarification -- our definition of Half True.
Here's another example:

*  Remember when Walker refused to take $810 million in available federal funds to build an Amtrak rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, along with stations and other improvements to the Milwaukee-Chicago service?

His refusal played politically and successfully to his suburban base anti-urban talk radio and helped elect him in 2011, with Walker saying state taxpayers couldn't afford the new line's projected $7.5 million annual operating cost.

Little did we know at the time that we were actually seeing an early version of the Walker numbers game.

What Walker left out of the equation was bottom-line-reducing impact of increased ticket revenue from new riders that would have trimmed the operating costs.

More importantly, Walker also didn't mention that available federal funds would further cut the $7.5 annual operating costs by 80-90%, as the Journal Sentinel reported.

...state officials have said they could have used existing federal aid to cover 80% to 90%, reducing the state share to no more than $1.5 million.
And Walker's selectively-spun effort to be Governor-Look-At-What I-Saved Didn't Save-You became even more painfully ridiculous when it was learned that when Walker rejected the federal funding he also tossed away millions of dollars in funding for improvements to the Milwaukee train shed and other improvements on the existing Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Urban Milwaukee nicely tracked a FUBAR $11 million which Walker's imperious partisan and ideological fight with the Obama administration over Amtrak added to state financing of the new Milwaukee train shed and passenger boarding facilities which Wisconsin could have had for exactly zero state dollars but for Walker's rejection of the federal dollars.

And if that's not enough to depress you, consider the additional $50 million state taxpayers lost in legal settlement costs and train equipment the state forfeited to Talgo, the train manufacturer whose factory in Milwaukee closed after the state broke its contract with Talgo, in the wake of Walker playing Governor-Who-Fought-the-Feds-and-Lost.

Or, simply playing the fool.

Updates - - *Care for another set of related examples? How about the Walker claim in a 2013 newsletter that his budgets and tax reforms would save the typical property owners Wisconsin $680 over four years.

The Journal Sentinel crunched actual data in official records and said the true figure was $239 - - less than half what Walker claimed - - so Pants on Fire:
But Walker’s newsletter doesn’t disclose that his number is hypothetical, misleading the reader into thinking that the median tax bill actually has dropped by $680. 
We rate his claim Pants on Fire.
I figure the paper came down that hard on Walker because two years earlier he'd run much the same numbers game on taxpayers and PolitiFact dinged Walker with "False" on that one:
To sum up, Walker claimed the 2011-’13 state budget will "save" the average homeowner $700 over two years.
If he meant a $700 tax cut compared to the past bills, that’s not in the cards at all. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects the typical homeowner would see a $55 increase in two years compared with 2010.
And even if he meant $700 less of an increase, his assertion is not based on an apples-to-apples comparison of his budget vs. the old law. The real figure is not yet known, but we do know that the approach Walker cited was designed in a way that puffs up the "savings."
The claim, with its shorthand presentation, rates as False.
You know, fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, your pants are flaming.

*  And it's vital to remember that Walker played the same game when he was Milwaukee County Executive, from claiming budget reductions on his watch even though spending went up repeatedly, and making the audacious claim that he'd reduced county debt by 10%-30% when the true figure was an increase of 85%, as One Wisconsin Now had documented.

*  But my favorite example of Walker's self-promoting number-inflation?

When he claimed after nearly two years in office that he'd already created almost 100,000 new jobs - - which, of course was Pants-on-Fire false, as PolitiFact explained:

...we determined that as of the Nov. 15, 2012 monthly report, which covered October 2012, the state created 25,411 private sector jobs under Walker’s watch...
Walker said the state has created "just under 100,000" jobs since he took office. He arrived at that number by combining full and partial years of census data.
However, several within his own administration, including his primary spokesman, have said that is the wrong way to measure jobs -- you can’t combine partial and full year data sets. As one aide said: It would be "misrepresenting the truth."
By his administration’s own yardstick, his statement is false. We think it’s ridiculous to -- after private admonitions -- publicly present it this way. Pants on Fire.

Did I mention that he still hasn't created the 250,000 new jobs he promised after four years in office?

Keep a sharp lookout for any and all numbers he throws out on the 2018 campaign trail - - from jobs to Foxconn spending to any data point in between - - because there will be a good chance his numbers are wrong but somehow make him look great again.


No comments: