Sherrod Brown's Fictions About Bush 41 and Trade Spanning 12 Years Don't Interest Ohio's Newspapers

April 28th, 2015 9:45 PM

It must be nice to be a leftist Washington politician representing congressional districts in or the entire state of Ohio.

You can serially fib about something for years on end, and ordinarily the folks back home won't know any better. Even when you're caught red-handed by the national press occasionally breaking down and doing its job, your area's or the Buckeye State's press will ignore it. A case in point is the Washington Post's finding on April 23 at its Fact Checker blog that Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has for a dozen years completely fabricated statements about trade which he has attributed to President George H.W. Bush.

Brown's transgressions have been so obvious and blatant that the Fact Checker's Glenn Kessler gave them "Four Pinocchios" — that is, "a whopper," or in this case "whoppers." Of Ohio's major newspapers, only the Cleveland Plain Dealer has mentioned the Post's finding — and just barely.

Kessler recounted instances beginning in 2003 and running until a week-ago interview on MSNBC (naturally). In that interview, the senator incoherently claimed that Bush 41, in Brown's words, "said that a billion dollars in trade surplus or deficit turns into 13,000 jobs." (Deficit or surplus? Yikes.) In six other statements Kessler cited going back to 2003, Brown claimed that Bush 41 said that a $1 billion trade deficit would cause anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 lost jobs, while the same amount of surplus would lead to the creation of 12,000 to 18,000 jobs.

Kessler took it from there (bolds are mine):

... What’s strange about this is that there is a recurring Commerce Department report that estimates the number of jobs created by exports. In 1993, that number was 12,086 per $1 billion of exports.

More recently, as of 2014, the number is 5,796 jobs per $1 billion of exports. The number keeps going down because of increases in labor productivity and export prices.

But note that these figures are about exports, not trade surpluses.

Yeah, there's a little bit of a difference. (/sarcasm) Yet Brown is often portrayed as, and apparently thinks of himself as, particularly knowledgeable in trade matters.

The next several paragraphs, which I won't excerpt, are revealing in that they show how Brown's spokesperson played stall-ball by referencing statements made by others, when the issue concerned what Bush 41 said.

Once he established that the spokesperson couldn't support Brown's serial fibs, Kessler summarized, with biting words:

Economists can argue forever about the impact of trade deals; certainly economists agree that trade deficits can result in a loss of jobs. But it is pretty clear here that Brown for years has placed words in Bush’s mouth. Moreover, for a self-proclaimed expert on trade, he doesn’t seem to know the difference between exports and trade surpluses.

This is an excellent example of how Washington politicians live in their own invented reality, with a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Even if Brown had quoted Bush accurately on exports, rather than trade surpluses, the numbers would have been woefully out of date. Given that Bush was president about a quarter-century ago, you’d think Brown would have checked to see if the ratio of jobs to exports had remained the same. You can’t “do the math” with ancient information.

Brown earns Four Pinocchios.

It would be nice if you could smell the burn Kessler administered in Washington back here in Ohio. But unless you happened across his work, you more than likely wouldn't have. Sadly, most Ohio newspapers don't care that the Buckeye's State's senior senator has been serially lying for a dozen years on a matter important to the state's economy.

I found no mention of Kessler's Brown bringdown in searches at the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Toledo Blade, or the Columbus Dispatch. The Cleveland Plain Dealer barely mentioned it, making it the last of 12 items at its April 23 "Ohio Politics Roundup" post.

As I said earlier, it must be nice to be able to just make things up, and for it to not really matter — even when you're caught.

Cross-posted at