PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

PolitiFarce

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on October 30, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel signed up with PolitiFact a few weeks ago. It’s been pretty much a farce since the beginning. Of course, that doesn’t stop either side from using them when they agree with them and rail against them when the meter goes against them.

But like I said, it’s pretty much a farce that has been proven wrong time and time again. Or, the allegation that they examine don’t have anything to do with the problem.

For example, on October 5, they did a “fact check” on Scott Walker’s claim that he gave back $370,000 of his salary. Why they checked that is anyone’s guess, since I don’t know anyone who was arguing about it. But in doing their “fact check,” they missed the real question, that being: What did he promise and how does this match up.

The actual promise that Walker had made was that he would reduce his salary. The fact is he didn’t. In fact, it went up. Also, by not actually reducing his salary, allowed Walker to give himself what is basically a $50,000 raise, even as the economy started to spiral the toilet and as he was laying off hundreds of county workers.

But this isn’t even the most egregious example.

On September 30, they did a “fact check” against a commercial by Tom Barrett, pointing out some of the consequences of Walker’s inept management of the county.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitFarce crew gave it their worse label, “Pants on fire.”

It appears the bulk of their complaint stems from Barrett’s campaign using artistic license to add Walker’s pictures to headlines from their paper. Since they didn’t actually include the photos, they called this a misrepresentation of what they wrote. And now that their dander was worked up, they weren’t done.

In their first example, they said that Barrett was lying because he used the headline about the money being squandered by the Wisconsin Shares, or day care, program. “Why, we never even mentioned Walker’s name!” they pronounced in their outrage. Oddly, in the very same article, they admit that the County had something to do with the child care program, but tried to minimize it.

Except they were wrong in doing so.

On October 19, 2009, State Representative Tamara Grigsby sent a letter to Walker pointing out that Walker was taking money from the State to run the their part of the child care program, but was leaving that money unspent, sometimes as much as $1.4 million in just one year. Meanwhile, the 38 of the other 71 counties were overspending the amount because of the money being spent fraudulently or recouping the money that had already been misspent.

To make matters even worse, the letter also points out that Walker had left the Fraud Unit vacant by more than one third of the positions. If you doubt the significance of this, or actually think it’s a good thing, saying Walker is saving tax payers some money, consider the matter of Cindy Jaeger.

Cindy Jaeger was a county employee working in the fraud unit. She retired two years ago, but no before making quite the standard:

Cindy is damn good at her job. In 2006, in just nine months, she caught $1.6 million in overpayments. In 2007, that number jumped to an amazing $2,126,623.95 that she recovered. So far this year, as of October 15th, she has reclaimed more than $1.4 million. In less than three years, she has saved taxpayers over $5 million.

One worker, $5 million saved in just 33 months. Imagine what could have been saved if those four spots had been filled like they were supposed to be.

If the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn’t include these facts in their article, it would seem that this is more of an indictment on their reporting, or more likely, their editing, than any allegations Barrett made.

The rest of their “fact check” was just as silly. In the second claim, they prove Barrett correct in a citation from Cindy Archer, one of Walker’s top administrators. In the third claim, they admit it was basically correct.

Yet, they gave the commercial a “Pants on fire” rating. I wonder if they were wearing their asbestos underwear when they did that.

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