Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Congressman Boehner and a Bloodhound Search for Jobs

House Minority Leader John Boehner has recently released a strange video on YouTube for his Congressional website. In it he and his dog go on a search for jobs created under the stimulus bill.

Remember the Sedition Act of 1798 from the history textbooks? It made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Ever since it was repealed following the election of Thomas Jefferson, Americans have been cautious to reinstate such an affront to the First Amendment.

While that's good for protecting our civil liberties, the downside of it is there is no “truth in advertising” law for politics, and a politician can literally say whatever he or she wants to attack a policy or opponent. With most modern political advertising, claims will be backed up with cited source material (newspaper articles, government reports, etc.) - something Boehner and Ellie Mae failed to do.

The most glaring point in the ad where there was no citation was the claim that AIG was a big recipient of stimulus money. There was no citation because it simply wasn’t true - AIG did not receive money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, they received money from a Federal Reserve move and the Bush-backed Trouble Asset Relief Program (both of which happened last year, before Obama was even President).

John Boehner knows this.

Next he talks about a stimulus project in Wisconsin that created “no jobs” at Rusty’s Backwater Saloon. Well, of course there was a job for the guys that built the bridge, but citations aren’t required, so why throw that information out there? Then he mentions North Carolina, where evidently the only job created was one for wasting your money.

In fact, Wisconsin is receiving more than $3.5 billion to save or create 70,000 over the next two years according to current estimates. North Carolina is receiving more than $5.6 billion to save or create 105,000 jobs, and Boehner’s home state of Ohio is getting $7.5 billion to save or create 133,000 jobs.

And according to a GAO report from April, when it was written North Carolina had already put 53 infrastructure projects in motion. Ohio had begun to award contracts for another 149. Can Boehner honestly say there will be no jobs there?

The bulk of the GAO report, however, explains the critical (and lengthy) process of ensuring accountability on the part of contractors, states, and organizations receiving stimulus money. That’s why more jobs haven’t been created via the stimulus since it was passed. It’s always been made clear that the stimulus would take a while, and certainly longer than just five months.

Again, Boehner knows this - he’s just playing politics.

The lesson here is what to look out for when you see a political ad. Does the ad make significant claims about another politician or a policy? If so, make sure those claims are cited. If not, there’s not much reason to assume it isn’t false advertising.

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