Thursday, October 02, 2008

Debunking "Eight Years of Economic Pain"

As to be expected, two Lucas County officials yesterday held a press conference to denounce President George W. Bush as part of a partisan effort in the 2008 presidential campaign. That Bush is not running this year seems to be missed on Commission Pete Gerken and Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, but that's a discussion for another post.

As proof of the 'Bush is evil, McCain's the same' mantra, they produced a 'report' that claims to document "Eight Years of Economic Pain, How GOP Economic Policies in Washington have Devastated Ohio." Media covered the press conference and have referenced the 'report' but without the clarification below.

The first thing you need to know about this report is that it wasn't done by any independent body or researcher, it was done by the Ohio Democratic Party and the Ohio Campaign for Change, which is the Barack Obama campaign. This is not an objective analysis, it is a partisan attempt to portray the Democrats' view of things.

It contains a listing of all companies that either closed or laid off workers since 2001. According to the report:

The bulk of the data on factory, company and operation shut downs and layoffs is a result of Ohio’s Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The WARN Act provides protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. WARN notices are provided by employers to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Bureau of WIA, Rapid Response Section. This current and historical data can be found at

This initial State of Ohio data was supplemented by private service databases, including Lexis‐Nexis, online searches, BuildCentral information, archived business directories at the local library, and business street address information from InfoUSA’s business databases. This information was then compiled into a master database used for the analysis.

They admit two problems with the data: 1) it doesn't include companies that are exempt from the WARN requirements, and 2) it doesn't account for companies that issued WARN notices, but then did not lay off all notified employees or actually close.

Based upon this clarification and the methodology identified, I find no reason to challenge the actual data. Attributing the data to a specific reason, however, certainly deserves to be challenged.

The report is primarily charts and graphs with the data broken down by county, Congressional District, House District, etc. Of the 80 pages, there are only five that contain wording: preface page, overview page, why John McCain is wrong for Ohio, Appendix A with the methodology and Appendix B with the McCain quote references.

The report never explains any specific policy that results in the job losses. In fact, the report does not even attempt to identify any reason why a particular company or industry laid off workers or closed. The closest they come to any analysis or explanation is a single bullet point on the overview that many of the jobs left the U.S., "moving to to countries such as China, Mexico,Taiwan, India, and Columbia, to name a few." But they don't identify any of those companies specifically.

In fact, a cursory review of the listing of lost jobs raises more questions than it answers when it comes to WHY those companies closed and WHY it is the fault of GOP economic policies.

For example, they cite the closing of the Farmer Jacks stores in Toledo in 2006. But those stores were closed as part of a larger company restructuring decision decision by Montvale, N.J.-based Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co, according to a May 11, 2005 Blade report.

Also from the story:

"Shamie Singh of Maumee said the problem at Farmer Jack was their prices seemed high.

"If they had good prices I'm pretty sure they'd have had more customers. People will go elsewhere for better prices," said Ms. Singh, who also shops at Kroger and Meijer."

Obviously, there was more to this particular closing than presidential policies.

And then there is the listing of St. Anthony Villa, also in Toledo, which closed in 2001. This agency ran a chemical dependency program and a residential behavioral program that handled about 600 youth a year. They were closed by their parent company after receiving reduced funding from the United Way, though they stated that the loss of funding was not the reason for the closing. According to press reports at the time, there were not enough youth going through the programs.

Now, this would seem to be a good thing, that less youth are in need of chemical dependency programs, but not if you're the Ohio Democratic Party looking for another example to represent your claims.

Chrysler is another Toledo company on the list. Their layoffs had more to do with the American automotive market, their sale by Daimler, and their regular shutdowns than anything else. And then, with the increase in the price of gas and the decline of the SUV market, is it any wonder that they had longer than normal shutdowns on the Jeep lines?

General Mills is another large employer from Toledo listed in the report. They were purchased by International Multifoods in 2002 which sold the entity to J.M. Smucker in 2004. The job losses were a result of the sale and the consolidation within the new companies.

Other Toledo firms listed:

Craft House International - according to a story in the Toledo Blade at the time:

Craft House is best known for paint-by-number sets, but sells more than 300 activity toys, craft and hobby kits, and outdoor sport toys.

An industry expert said the action in Toledo could be linked to problems at several retail chains that carry the firm's craft products. Ames, Zany Brainy, and Jo Ann Fabrics & Crafts have experienced difficulties recently, said Michael Hartnett, publisher of Creative Leisure News in Tremont, Ill.

"The industry has been fairly flat and is going through difficult times," he said.

Jacobson's Department Store - closed after filing for bankruptcy. The Toledo store was one of the chain's worst performers and all the stores in Ohio were closed as part of their efforts to restructure their financing.

CVS Pharmacies - they were a victim of the 'drug store wars' when multiple drug store chains inundated the Toledo regional market in an effort to gain part of the $328 million spent annually at drug stores in the metro area (dollar amount from 2001). Some intersections in the city had a different drug store on every corner. According to the chain's spokesman at the time, these stores were all low-performing.

Convergys - a call center that was closed in 2003 as part of the company's world-wide restructuring, including consolidation of locations.

The reasons these companies closed had more to do with their industries or their own internal operations than with any presidential policy.

But that's not the purpose of the 'report.' The purpose is to provide quotes to be used by elected officials and reported in the media to promote Barack Obama over John McCain.

Their 'proof' of their choice - again, not surprising since they are the Democrat Party - is a single page that is supposed to document their positions.

On the "McCain wrong for Ohio" page, they cite his votes in favor of free trade, including NAFTA, though they fail to explain why McCain is wrong on a policy that was implemented by Democrat President Bill Clinton. They also criticize McCain's positions against many union-sponsored and promoted initiatives like minimum wage increases, prevailing wage requirements and extension of unemployment benefits.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise considering the differing platform and philosophical positions of the Democrat Party and the Republican nominee.

Something else they don't tell is how many jobs were created in Ohio during that same time frame. We all know that politicians love to take credit for jobs created by the private sector. But to include the number of jobs created might give you more information than they want you to know.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the yearly average number of people employed in Ohio has risen steadily since 1992. Two years, 2002 and 2003, saw the numbers decline, but even then, the 2003 employment numbers were higher than any year between 1992 and 1998. By 2006, Ohio had more people employed than they did in any year going back to 1992.

Toledo's average employment numbers increase from 1992 to 1998, and hit their peak in 1999. Since 1999, the average number of people employed in Toledo has been in steady decline. In fact, from 2002 through 2007, Toledo has not even reached its previous low (in the time frame examined of 1992-2007) which was in 1992.

Interestingly, despite the state's decline in average employment in only two years, Lucas County and Toledo had 8 years in which their employment declined. So the question that should be asked is this: what is different between Toledo/Lucas County and the rest of the state? Does it have anything to do with the Democrat leadership that has held almost all elective offices in the city and county since that time? Or is it really 'all Bush's fault'?

I'm currently awaiting the job creation figures from ODJFS and will include them upon receipt.

CONCLUSION: This 'report' is nothing but a compilation of unrelated factors presented by a partisan organization in an attempt to generate news/media coverage that is beneficial to their candidate and detrimental to their opponent. The question is, will the media - and the public - fall for it?


Mmatters said...

Excellent post.

Total propaganda, based on what you're reporting.

Ideally, we could compare late 2001 unemployment in OH's major cities or counties to today. Betcha largely-red metro Cincy and Metro Cbus haven't changed that much, while the rest of the state's blue-dominated towns have decayed greatly.

Unfortunately, "your" Toledo is the worst, with unemployment at 8.7%, based on this report just released by BLS

skeeter1107 said...

Their assertions can only fall into two categories for me.

1. Neither Wade or Pete believe what they are saying and are simply throwing out election year pablum.

2. Both Wade and Pete believe what they are saying and don't realize they are spewing election year pablum.

So that leaves us with two conclusions.

1. It is insulting that they assume that we are so stupid that they can simplify this mess of their own making as the fault of George Bush.

2. By them believing what they are saying, they are so stupid that it explains the mess we have in Lucas County and isn't really the fault of George Bush.

Neither reflects well on our county officials.

What is truly unfortunate is that presentations like these represent a public intellectual dishonesty that stands in the way of actually identifying and solving the problems in Lucas County.

The willingness to ignore not just one elephant but the numerous elephants in the Toledo/Lucas County living room is simply astonishing.

Metaphorically speaking, this herd of elephants takes up all the space in the room and forces citizens and businesses to go where the elephants don't roam. All the while the mantra of "What elephants? Everything is fine....besides it's George Bush's fault."

I will leave this question for the County officials. For argument purposes, let's say that it's actually George Bush's fault. If so, then my question is, "Why does it affect Lucas County more than other counties in Ohio?"

Timothy W Higgins said...


Isn't it a shame that no one from the media was around to ask these two demigods of economic theory why communities and states that were "right to work" and had low taxes were succeeding where NW Ohio has been failing. Perhaps they could likewise fill us in why areas in Ohio like Columbus are succeeding at the same time that business are running from Toledo and Lucas County. While they are at it, we could also use explanations as to why appointees from the Clinton Administration have perpetrated shaky bookkeeping and outright fraud in the pursuit of bonuses, while placing the nation's economy on the brink of ruin.

But I guess it would be too much to have these "june bugs in a hurricane" consider all of the facts of the situation. It's hard to get unbiased facts when you reading off of one party's talking points. Could it be that the wind that they felt that they have been caught up in was the hot air that they themselves were generating?

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