Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - February 20, 2011

February 22, 2011 10:21 am ET

With nearly 70,000 protestors out in Madison, WI to reject Gov. Scott Walker's (R) attempt to break the state's public employees unions on Sunday, the morning shows focused almost exclusively on labor disputes — meaning there was plenty of misinformation flying about Wisconsin workers. Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie told Meet the Press that "we're not talking about eliminating collective bargaining," even though that's precisely what Gov. Walker wants to do (he even said as much in his own Sunday morning interview). Former Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) falsely claimed that Wisconsin public employees don't pay anything toward their health insurance. Meanwhile on Face the Nation, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed the fight in Wisconsin is about "modest shared sacrifice," even though the governor has rejected such "modest" compromises in his drive to bust the unions. Elsewhere, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined Rep. Ryan in distorting spending figures, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed there's no reason to think world opinion of the U.S. has gone up in the Obama era.

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Ed Gillespie Claimed That In Wisconsin, "We're Not Talking About Eliminating Collective Bargaining"

ED GILLESPIE: Well, let me end with this, which is we're not talking about eliminating collective bargaining, what we're talking about is limiting collective bargaining to wages, not the benefits package and having the union members vote themselves every year whether or not they want to continue that.

FACT: Gov. Walker's Proposal Would Take Away Public Employees' Right To Bargain For Wage Increases Greater Than Inflation — Essentially Eliminating Collective Bargaining For Public Workers

PolitiFact Rated Claim That Gov. Walker's Proposal Leaves Collective Bargaining Intact "Pants On Fire." From PolitiFact:

Let's return to Walker's statement that under his changes collective bargaining remains intact.

To be sure, those rights would remain intact for the State Patrol and local police and fire department employees. They are exempt from any of the changes.

As for the rest of state, local government and public school employees, Walker's own Feb. 11, 2011 letter to employees about his plan cited "various changes to limit collective bargaining" to the rate of base pay.

The letter also noted other changes, including limiting contracts to one year and requiring annual employee votes to retain unions.

Moreover, the bill would repeal all bargaining rights for home health care workers, University of Wisconsin System faculty and academic staff, and employees of University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. [...]

Walker himself has outlined how his budget-repair bill would limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Indeed, it's that provision that provoked daily demonstrations at the state Capitol and national media attention. To now say now say collective bargaining would remain "fully intact" is not just false, it's ridiculously false.

[PolitiFact.com, 2/18/11, emphasis added]

In An Interview On Fox News Sunday The Very Same Day, Gov. Walker Himself Rejected The Idea Of Allowing Public Employees To Retain Collective Bargaining Rights. In an interview on the February 20, 2011, edition of Fox News Sunday, Gov. Walker (R-WI) had the following exchange with host Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Those 14 Democrats who fled Wisconsin to avoid -- to block a vote in the state senate say they'll come back if you'll sit down with them and work out a compromise and the deal would be that the unions agree on the money issues but they keep their collective bargaining rights. Governor, are you willing to do that?

WALKER: Well, no. [...]

I was a county executive, an elected official in Milwaukee County, a county that's never elected Republicans before -- I was there for three different elections because we tried to tackle these very same issues.

And what stood in the way time and time again was collective bargaining. We've got over 1,000 municipalities, 424 school districts, about 72 counties in the state, all of which need to have the power to be able to offset what's going to happen in Wisconsin next week, just like New York, in California, wherever else, has been doing, and that's cutting billions of dollars from local governments.

The difference is, unlike those other states, I want to give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget now and in the future. They can't do that with the current collective bargaining laws in the state. [Fox News Sunday, 2/20/11, emphasis added]

Gov. Walker's Proposal Disallows Public Sector Collective Bargaining For Wage Increases Above Inflation. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

You can find Gov. Scott Walker's proposal here. It's called "the Budget Repair bill." The section that's attracted all the anger is "State and Local Government and School District Labor Relations."

In it, Walker proposes that the right to collectively bargain be taken away from most -- but not all -- state and local workers. Who's left out? "Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes." As Harold Meyerson notes, these are also the unions that happened to be more supportive of Walker in the last election. Funny, that.

Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. "State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures." But that's not really true. Read down a bit further and you'll find that "total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum." In other words, they couldn't bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation. So, in reality, they can't bargain for wages and they can't bargain over other forms of compensation. They just can't bargain. [Washington Post, 2/18/11, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Ed Gillespie Claimed Gov. Walker's Proposal Is About "Democracy"

ED GILLESPIE: But look, right now what Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is proposing is that the members of the unions in, in the public employee unions in Wisconsin vote every year to validate their, their union participation. That is democracy.

FACT: Gov. Walker's Proposal Uses A Combination Of Rules To Push Public-Sector Unions Out Of Existence

Gov. Walker's Proposal Undermines Unions' Ability To Do Anything Of Value For Their Members. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

The proposal doesn't stop there, though. "Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues." These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They're just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year.

The best way to understand Walker's proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state's labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to vote the union back into existence every single year. Put it all together and it looks like this: Wisconsin's unions can't deliver value to their members, they're deprived of the resources to change the rules so they can start delivering value to their members again, and because of that, their members eventually give in to employer pressure and shut the union down in one of the annual certification elections. [Washington Post, 2/18/11, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Fmr. Rep. Harold Ford Claimed That Wisconsin Public Employees Don't Pay Anything For Their Health Insurance

HAROLD FORD (D-TN): This issue in Wisconsin deals with whether or not public employees ought to pay into their health insurance program, which they don't now, and to their pension program, which they don't.

FACT: Wisconsin Public Employees DO Pay Towards The Cost Of Their Health Benefits

State Employees With Union Representation Pay Between $31 And $412 Per Month For Their Health Insurance. According to the State of Wisconsin's Office of State Employee Relations, a state worker with union representation who is categorized a "Tier 1" employee and elects for individual coverage would pay $31 per month for her health insurance. At the other end of the cost spectrum, a union-represented state worker categorized a "Tier 3" employee who elects for family coverage would pay a monthly premium of $412. [State of Wisconsin Health Insurance Premium Contributions via OSER.state.WI.gov, accessed 2/20/11]

PolitiFact: 98 Percent Of State Employees Pay Between Four And Six Percent Of Their Health Insurance Costs. In their fact check of Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) claim that state employees pay substantially less than the national average for their health insurance, non-partisan fact checkers PolitiFact wrote: "First, is Walker correct that 'most'state employees pay only about 6 percent? Unionized state workers in the most common insurance tier pay $78 a month on family premiums that cost the state between $1,500 and $1,800, state figures show. That's in the 4 percent to 5 percent range by our calculation. Non-union state workers pay a bit more -- $89 a month in most cases. That works out to a 5 percent to 6 percent share. So Walker's number looks good. And so does the 'most state employees' claim: More than 98 percent of state employees fall into those categories, according to figures from the state's Department of Employee Trust Funds." [PolitiFact.com, 2/1/11]

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Claimed Gov. Walker's Proposal Just "Ask[s] For Modest Shared Sacrifice" From Public Employees

REP. RYAN: But we have a proud tradition in Wisconsin of people going out to the streets and expressing themselves. That's a good thing. But we've got a huge budget shortfall here in Madison. What our governor is trying to do is address this in a structural way to ask for modest shared sacrifice among pub— public employees and to give local governments the tools to do the same.

FACT: Gov. Walker's Proposal Would Strip Collective Bargaining Rights From State Employees

Gov. Walker's Proposal Would Leave Public Employees Unable To Bargain For Anything Beyond Keeping Their Wages Abreast Of Inflation. As reported by the Associated Press: "The president of the Wisconsin state Senate said Tuesday there are enough votes among Republicans to pass Gov. Scott Walker's explosive plan to end collective bargaining rights for nearly all public employees. ... Walker also wants to end collective bargaining rights for all public employees except local police and fire departments and the state patrol. Wages could be bargained for only if they don't exceed the consumer price index." [Associated Press, 2/15/11, emphasis added]

Gov. Walker Is Insisting That Collective Bargaining Rights Must End For State Workers. As reported by the National Journal: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said this morning that he would not compromise with unions and absentee Democrats in the state Senate over his plan to limit state workers' right to collective bargaining. The 14 Senate Democrats, who have fled to Illinois to stall a vote on the governor's proposal, have said they would come back to Wisconsin if the governor agreed to meet with them and take the collective-bargaining proposal off the table. But Walker, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, rejected that idea and urged the legislators to come back to the capitol and do the job they were elected to do.  'Democracy means you show up and participate, and they failed to do that; they are walking out on their job,' Walker said. 'For us, this is about balancing the budget. We have a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We are broke.' Walker's plan, along with curtailing collective-bargaining rights for many of the state's unionized workers, would force public works to put 5.8 percent of their wages into the pension system and pay a larger share of their health insurance. Opponents argue that Walker helped create the budget shortfall by giving away millions in tax breaks to private businesses. Walker said that collective-bargaining laws for state union workers have been an obstacle to allowing the state and localities to reduce their budget deficit." [National Journal, 2/20/11, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Sen. Graham And Rep. Ryan Each Claimed Democrats Have Increased Federal Spending By Over 80 Percent

SEN. GRAHAM: From 2008 to 2010 the federal government in non-defense discretionary spending grew about 24 percent. Very few people in America had that increase in their budgets. And if you count the stimulus, over 80 percent increase in spending.  [Meet the Press, 2/20/11]

REP. RYAN: But at the same time, we're also not looking at rubber stamping these really high elevated spending levels that Congress blew through the joint two years ago. You know, they increased spending by twenty-four percent on domestic discretionary two years ago, eighty-four percent when you add the stimulus. [Face the Nation, 2/20/11]

FACT: Non-Partisan Fact Checkers Say GOP Is Cooking The Books On Spending Increase Math

PolitiFact: Counting Stimulus Spending In 2010 Is "A Nifty Accounting Maneuver." In a November 2010 fact check of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) "84 percent" claim, Politifact.com wrote:

Outside experts that PolitiFact Wisconsin spoke with quibble a bit about the annual budget figures Ryan uses, but the numbers are not really in dispute. And they do show a big jump -- from $434 billion in 2008 to $537 billion in 2010.

But that's a 24 percent increase, not the 84 percent claimed by Ryan and his colleagues.

Is someone's math fuzzy? Let's dig in to find out.

Ryan's calculations also include another number -- the discretionary spending portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic stimulus package. That adds another $259 million to the total, which brings it to $797 billion (with rounding) and the 84 percent.

One problem, and it's a significant one in terms of Ryan's statement:

The stimulus package was 
approved in February 2009.

Ryan includes it in the 2010 totals, so the two-year trend under Obama looks like a rocket headed straight up.

If you put it in 2009 -- when it was passed -- the two-year trend under Obama looks more like a roller-coaster ride: Up a lot, and then down some but not all the way. [...]

In illustrating his point about spending increases under President Obama, Ryan says non-defense discretionary spending has risen 84 percent. There is no doubt that spending is up, or that the one-time stimulus package was a major driver. But sliding the stimulus money from 2009 to 2010 -- whether on a chart or in an interview -- skews the picture.

It's a nifty accounting maneuver. But still a maneuver. We rate Ryan's claim Barely True. [PolitiFact.com, 11/2/10, emphasis added]

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel produced a graphic demonstrating the difference between Rep. Ryan's methodology and "conventional accounting."

[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via PolitiFact.com, 11/2/10]

State of the Union

CLAIM: Former Secretary Of Defense Rumsfeld Denied That World Opinion Of The U.S. Has Gone Up In The Obama Era

CANDY CROWLEY (Host): Do you think that the U.S. is now looked at much differently than it was, and much more positively than it was during your tenure? 

RUMSFELD: No, and I don't think there's data that supports that.

FACT: World Opinion Polls Show Increase In Number Of Countries That View America Positively

2010 BBC World Service Poll: 20 Of 28 Countries Surveyed Now View U.S. As Positive Influence. As reported by the Japan Times:

Despite widespread talk of a rising China and an America in decline, the latest BBC World Service poll shows not just strong residual American soft power but actually an increase. At the same time, the data depict a China whose influence is viewed as more negative than positive in an increasing number of countries.

A year and a half after the election of President Barack Obama, views of the United States around the world have improved, according to the poll of about 30,000 adults interviewed either in person or by telephone in 28 countries who were asked to consider the influence of various countries as mostly positive or mostly negative.

The survey found that the U.S. is viewed positively on balance in 20 of the 28 countries surveyed, confirming a trend that was discernible two years ago.

Surveys in 2008 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project found signs that America's global image was recovering after having plummeted following its decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

America is now viewed positively in 20 of the 28 countries, with an average of 46 percent saying the U.S. has a positive influence in the world, while 34 percent say that it has a negative influence. By contrast, China is viewed positively in 15 of those countries. [Japan Times, 4/30/10]

Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2010: "Favorable" Attitude Towards U.S. Has Increased In At Least 17 Countries Compared To 2007. According to data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, of the 21 countries surveyed in both 2007 and 2010 on the question, "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the U.S.?" 17 countries have shown an increase of five or more percentage points in "favorable" views of the U.S.:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

Pew Global Attitudes Project Finds Much More Confidence Around The World In President Obama Than In President Bush. The Pew Global Attitudes Project charted global confidence in U.S. leadership under President Bush and President Obama:

Pres. Bush, 2008:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

Pres. Obama, 2010:

[Pew Global Attitudes Project, accessed 2/20/11]

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