Maybe it’s a form of nostalgia for the illusions of the past, but I’m still disappointed every time I see the New York Times fulfill its role as a propaganda vehicle for left-wing Democrats. Really, what else can one say about Katharine Seelye’s simply passing along talking points from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s office? Here’s Seelye:
… Rhode Island reached a milestone in January when unemployment fell to 4.7 percent — the first time it had dipped below the national average in almost 12 years. At the same time, private-sector employment has reached its highest ever.
And here’s the Raimondo statement from which Seelye draws her spin:
Today’s labor force data is proof that our work to strengthen Rhode Island’s economy is paying off. For the first time in almost 12 years, our state’s unemployment rate is below the U.S. rate. Private sector employment in Rhode Island is at an all-time high. The economy has added more than 10,000 jobs since I took office. We have clear momentum, and will continue working to create jobs and ensure that Rhode Islanders get those jobs by providing them with the education and skills they need to get ahead.
“Clear momentum,” huh?
Before looking at the numbers, let’s offer a political observation. Just after Raimondo won her race for treasurer, I overheard a left-wing activist in Rhode Island Public Radio’s offices expressing her friends’ excitement that they’d found a progressive, pro-abortion Catholic Italian woman with a finance background, and the national promotion of her began then. They’re actively building her up for national office, so the truth about her time as governor is going to prove more or less irrelevant, at least as far as the mainstream Left is concerned.
Now, about the numbers. I’ve already explained how the talking point about the unemployment rate essentially gives the opposite of the true picture. But what about the jobs claim — highest private-sector jobs ever and 10,000 jobs since Raimondo began as governor?
The first thing to note is that even the selection of data points is misleading. When people think of employment and jobs, they tend to think as broadly as possible, whereas the Raimondo administration wants us to focus on private-sector jobs. The reason for that choice is that it’s the only way to make the numbers look anything like a “milestone.” In Raimondo’s first two years, the state’s labor force has fallen by 3,564 (explaining the low unemployment rate). Employment (number of Rhode Islanders working) is up 5,297, but still down 22,462 since the recession began. And jobs (number of positions in the state, regardless of who fills them) are up 8,100, which is still down 2,500 since the start of the recession.
So, Raimondo’s “highest ever” claim could indicate jobs for people from out of state (which, after all, is her rationale for giving out free college), and it could include a simple transfer of government employees to the private sector. The latter could happen in a number of ways, but one of them (as we observed a couple of days ago) would be for large numbers of government workers to retire before pension changes kick in and then bump other Rhode Islanders out of jobs for income on top of their generous pensions.
The bigger spin, though, comes with Raimondo’s talk about “clear momentum.” Seelye puts it even more colorfully in the New York Times: “Midway through her first term, Ms. Raimondo’s frenzy of economic and job development is striking because Rhode Island has long been in a slump.”
The insinuation of these statements is, simply, false. There is no momentum. Look at the employment line (see the dark area of the second slide on this post). Starting with the passage of Raimondo’s first budget as governor, Rhode Island employment has almost completely stagnated. The 5,000 increase during her time as governor is less than 1% of the employment at the start of the recession. It’s pitiful. That’s why we’re still right at the back of the national pack for regaining lost employment. The only thing “striking” is the ceiling with which the state’s employment collided after Raimondo took office.
What about the “10,000” jobs claim? Even if we go with the private-sector-only view, the true story is quite different from Raimondo’s claim. During the two years from the January when she was sworn in to this past December, Rhode Island created 7,800 jobs. That is the smallest two-year gain since the end of 2011. That’s the worst first two years of any governor back to Lincoln Almond’s 1995-1996 stretch.
In other words, even Raimondo’s most spin-able datapoint shows a slowdown, not “momentum,” let alone a “striking frenzy.”
If the voters of the United States choose to be fooled by the false, #fakenews narrative when Raimondo gets around to running for national office, that’ll be their decision. But Rhode Islanders who have to live through the Raimondo Slowdown of vote-buying and ineffective giveaways should refuse to be deceived, and local journalists should refuse to abet the effort at deception.