There’s an old saying, “There’s lies, damned lies and then there’s statistics!” I’ve found that assessment reliable. Nowhere more so than in the hands of those with an agenda and an unreliable commitment to truth.
In the last week I’ve received several emails from the Tennessee Sons of Liberty (TSL) and groups affiliated with them proclaiming, “Haslam + TN Republicans Grow TN Government.”
At issue is a report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reported in the Business Journal (NBJ) of which the Nashville Business Journal is a part, on the growth of government in the 50 states measured by the number of government jobs added from July, 2011 to July, 2012. A 30,000 foot view of Tennessee stats puts us in 2nd place both as a percentage in government growth, 2.59% behind West Virginia’s 5.56%, and as a total jobs growth number, 10,800 behind North Carolina’s 13,000.
TSL is promoting that statistic as evidence that, limited government claims to the contrary, Bill Haslam and the rest of Tennessee’s GOP legislators have actually grown government. The facts tell a different story.
The report is very careful to say that the statistics presented cover all three levels of government; local, state and federal. The first observation is that Gov. Haslam and Tennessee’s GOP majority have little control over hiring decisions at either the local or the federal level. But they do have control over state positions.
What have we seen at the federal level? Runaway growth and wage inflation by Democrats and President Obama. There’s even a new office in Memphis to help that troubled city bypass the red tape and get directly to federal sources in DC.
What have we seen at the local level. Right here in Nashville, Mayor Karl Dean just forced a $100M tax increase on the city to pay for both raises and new hires for the city of Nashville.
But Haslam and state Republicans? Not so much. A great example is the office of Tennessee’s Secretary of State. Since Tre Hargett took office in 2009, staffing has dropped from 444 to 387 and its budget from $30.6M to just over $26M with an increase in services provided! That’s well over a 10% reduction in both areas, not an increase. If you talk to Tennessee Republican legislators, they’ll tell you similar stories from the rest of state government.
But what about TSL’s numbers? Turns out, as is their habit, TSL has its statistics correct and its facts very, very wrong. This is easily seen in the local breakdown of growth in Tennessee’s largest cities.
The Jackson, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) saw a 13% increase in government employment at all levels. The Memphis MSA only registered a 1.5% gain. The Knoxville MSA added government jobs at a 1.7% increase and Chattanooga’s MSA registered a whopping 3.3% increase.
But what about Nashville? What about the state capitol? What about the seat of state government and Governor Bill Haslam’s and Tennessee’s GOP Legislature’s seat of power? How much did Haslam and Co. increase government employment?
The Nashville MSA actually reduced the number of government employees by about 2,500 for a reduction of 2.7% in the ranks of government workers. In fact, no other MSA in Tennessee on the report had a reduction outside of Nashville. The closest was the Johnson City MSA which registered no growth in government employees at all.
But the Tennessee Sons of Liberty didn’t tell you all of that. It’s not like the information was hard to find or understand. They either didn’t take the time to understand the data or they simply didn’t care to. It looked like a good opportunity to hammer Governor Haslam and the GOP majority and so they ran with a bad agenda, bad information and bad conclusions.
I’m all for holding elected officials accountable when they do wrong. But I prefer to make sure they have actually done something wrong before I start fussing at them. Worse, I try not to accuse them of a wrong when what they are actually doing is good for Tennessee!
A step further, when they do well, they deserve the gratitude they have earned by their good deeds!
The TSL won’t say it. I’m happy to. Thank you Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Legislature for lowering our state budget, keeping employment numbers in line and being responsible with our tax dollars. It’s things like that which make Tennessee a magnet for those looking for a place to live and work from across the nation.