For months, NewsBusters has been warning readers of the likelihood that media will adopt the 1992 Clinton playbook of regularly depicting the economy as being far worse than it really is.
On Sunday, the Democratic National Committee released a new television advertisement attacking GOP presidential candidate John McCain with economic statistics that don't measure up to even the slightest scrutiny.
With this in mind, will press outlets this campaign season investigate the economic claims being made by the candidates and their supporters, or allow inaccuracies present in this ad (embedded video to the right), and likely others in the months to come, to go completely unchallenged?
Consider the following written statement in this ad supposedly answering the question "Are Americans better off than they were 8 years ago?":
Household Income Down $1000
Where did the DNC get that figure from? The ad doesn't say.
Maybe more important, the statistics DON'T come CLOSE to supporting this claim. Let's look first at the most recent Census Bureau data.
That's a six-year increase of $6,052.
Of course, we don't have 2007 and 2008 data from the Census Bureau yet, but it seems logical to assume that real median household income hasn't declined by over $7,000 since 2006.
Supporting such an assertion is data from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis website which places total personal income in 2000 as $8.429 trillion. In 2007, this number was $11.659 trillion, a roughly $3.2 trillion increase.
So, where did the DNC get its figure that household income has declined by $1000 in the past eight years? Who knows?
The same question can be asked of this offering:
1.8 Million Jobs Lost
Really? Based on what? According to the Labor Department, there are currently 137.846 million non-farm employees in the nation. In December 2000, this figure was 132.485 million (both figures seasonally adjusted). This represents a greater than 5.3 million increase.
The much broader Household Survey identified 145.969 million workers as of March 2008. This was only 137.614 in December 2000, representing about an 8.3 million increase.
As such, where did the DNC get this figure that 1.8 million jobs have been lost? And, where did they get this number from:
Gas Prices Up 200%
As with most of these statistics, it's impossible to tell whether the ad is comparing today's data to those exactly eight years ago. For comparison purposes up to this point, I've been relating the most current figures to those available in December 2000.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find gas statistics for that month. Instead, a January 2001 article by National Policy Analysis reported a "2000 summer national average of $1.68 per gallon."
Using that number, a 200 percent increase would mean that today's prices were $5.04. According to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the current national average is $3.49. This represents a 107 percent increase NOT 200 percent.
With these inaccuracies in mind, will media address such egregious factual misrepresentations? Or, like 1992, will Democrats be able to report any economic statistic they want with totally impunity from the press?
*****Update: Two of our readers have recommended I go to the DNC website to ascertain where the data in this ad came from. Great idea.
Let's start with the household income issue. As it turns out, the DNC did use the Census Bureau information that I reported in my post. However, the DNC website claims that the real median household income in 2000 was $49,192, and in 2006, $48,023. Both figures are WRONG, and I provided links DIRECTLY TO the Census Bureau's press releases associated with these statistics. Instead of doing this, the DNC overstated 2000's number by $7,044, and linked to a Joint Economic Committee Fact Sheet from 8/29/2007.
Sorry. I'll rely on the actual reports from the Census Bureau rather than some Senate committee's analysis, especially one headed by Chuck Schumer.
As for gas prices, this is really hysterical. Here are the figures directly from the DNC website:
Jan 1, 2001: 141.6
Apr 14, 2008 339.7
From this, these geniuses came up with a 200 percent increase? Well, let's do the math. 339.7 minus 141.6 equals 198.1. 198.1 divided by 141.6 equals 139.9. As such, using THEIR numbers, and properly doing the math, the increase is 140 percent NOT 200 percent.
As for their job loss numbers, here's how they came up with their 1.8 million:
January 2001: 6.0 million unemployed
March 2008: 7.8 million unemployed
Sorry, folks, but that doesn't mean we've lost 1.8 million jobs. The number of jobs in America is not measured by the number of people unemployed. It's measured by the number of people EMPLOYED!!!
As such, every economist in America looks at job numbers by those either on non-farm payrolls as measured by the Establishment Survey or those considered employed by the Household Survey.
After all, going back to when we first started measuring these numbers in 1948, there were only 2 million people unemployed compared to March 2008's 7.8 million. Does that mean we've lost 5.8 million jobs in the last 60 years?
Hysterically, that's what the DNC implied in this ad.
With that in mind, I cordially thank those suggesting I look at the DNC website, for it makes the assertions in this ad even more laughable!