With less than a week remaining before the 2014 election, the airwaves have been inundated with political advertisements. For Michiganians, this has meant a heavy does of ads for race for governor between incumbent Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer.
Unfortunately, these ads are often full of manipulated information that, at best, offer a clear distortion of the facts. A good example of this is the recent ad by the "Rick for Michigan" campaign titled 'Everyone'.
The ad starts by stating "Governor Rick Snyder has reversed Michigan's decline". With the general economic improvement that the U.S. has experienced the past few years, taking credit for Michigan's economic gains seems questionable.
University of Michigan economist Don Grimes says that of the 300,000 or so jobs the governor attributes to his leadership, only around 15,000 of these jobs are not explained by the resurgence of the auto industry and the national economic recovery. It's possible that Snyder's policies contributed to these 15,000 jobs, but the governor has presented no data to connect his actions, specifically, to these jobs.
Given his business background, the fact that Snyder hasn't presented a correlation between Michigan's job growth and his job creation strategies suggests the governor is well aware of the infinitesimal impact he has actually had.
because no titan of industry offers up a $1.8 billion loss of revenue without a definitive cause and effect on any potential return on investment.
The ad then continues "the press reports are remarkable" followed by a number of quotes from various new sources which include the following:
"Delivers what he promised" - Lansing State Journal - 10/17/14
"Gutsy, pragmatic leader" - Crain's Detroit Business - 10/5/14
"Michigan is better off today" - Detroit News - 10/16/14
"K-12 spending has increased" - Lansing State Journal - 10/17/14
Then the ad finishes by stating "Mark Schauer's claim the governor cut education has been repeatedly..."
"Discredited" - Off the Record - 6/20/14
"False" - Detroit News - 10/16/14
"Big and persistent lie" - Lansing State Journal - 9/30/14
While this may appear to be an impressive collection of support for the governor there is more than meets the eye with these quotes. First it should be noted that many of these citation are editorials from conservative sources. Crain's is one of the few major publications to endorse Terri Lynn Land, while the Lansing State Journal supports Republicans for all three of the top state positions. The Detroit News -- long considered the most conservative newspaper in Michigan -- recently stated, in the course of endorsing Gary Peters over the Republican Terri Lynn Land, that its instinct is to "side always with the conservative candidate." The only surprise here would be if these media outlets didn't find nice things to say about Rick Snyder.
Having said that, some of these quotes are taken out of context to seem more effusive than they really are. The article that the "deliver what he promised" quote was pulled from also contains the quotes "Snyder's overhaul has not yet prompted as much job growth", "Snyder needs to show more direct leadership", "his tax overhaul being hard on working families and seniors", and "Snyder disappointed some voters".
The Crain's quote, while powerful, is specifically referring to Snyder "orchestrating Detroit's bankruptcy," not his leadership overall. Leaving this information out helps Snyder because many do not think Detroit's bankruptcywas a gutsy or pragmatic move. In fact in a Reuters article from 2/21/13 experts warned that "bankruptcy could taint other struggling municipalities, worsening the problem," and "Chapter 9 is time-consuming, uncertain, expensive and unpredictable."
But perhaps the worst part of this television spot is the defense of Snyder's education spending. First, it should be noted that three of the four quotes all come from one writer. It can hardly be said that Mark Schauer's claims have been "repeatedly" anything when you use the same person for 75 percent of your quotes.
Second, the Lansing State Journal article referenced for the "Big and persistent lie" quote was amended shortly after publication to "Big and persistent untruth" because there is a set of data from the non-partisan Senate Financial Agency that does in fact show the $1 billion cut. The Snyder campaign asked local television stations to remove these ads because of this supposed lie, yet all stations refused because of the reality that there is data that proves this correct. The claim may be disingenuous but it is absolutely not a lie. In politics, such distinctions matter.
Ironically, by insisting on using language that the newspaper refuses to stand by, it could be said that Snyder is lying. It's also important to remember that back when Snyder said he would be "happy to go fishing, go teach or do something else" and leave the 2015 governor seat to "better, smarter people," he also admitted that "we cut K through 12" spending.
This is a reality that a number of fact checkers agree with. MLive determined that the governor's claim that he increased per pupil funding by $660 is an inaccurate portrayal of the data. Michigan Radio reports that the governor cut between $235 million and $393 million from the education budget his first year. Bridge Magazine the per pupil foundation allowance has fallen by $661 under the governor's watch. State Rep. Jeff Irwin has presented data showing that schools are missing out on as much as $1 billion of funding because of Snyder.
While most of the statements in this ad are insincere distortions, the most important question Michigan voters should be asking is not about Snyder did, but what Snyder is going to do. The governor has spent an awful lot of money on "victory lap" ads that purport a remarkable level of success, but what you haven't heard is what Snyder plans to do with the next four years, if elected.
In 2011, Snyder said that if he accomplished what he set out to accomplish, he wouldn't run for a second term. Given that he is obviously running for re-election, it would seem that the governor agrees that his first term was a failure. If it was a successful as his commercials suggest, he should be out fishing right now.
Of course it's also possible that the Snyder did in fact accomplish all of his goals and that his previous statement was a lie, or rather, an untruth. Either way Michigan residents shouldn't be surprise since a 4/23/14 Detroit News article said "the governor failed to keep his word" -- which is likely something that 'Everyone' already knows.