To assess the truth for a numbers claim, the biggest factor is the underlying message.
The fact checkers:
Sean Gorman: writer, researcher
Warren Fiske: editor
Kaine's claim obviously represents a numbers claim, so we'll be on the lookout for the underlying point. That's the most important thing when fact checking a numbers claim. Or so it is said.
Take it away, PolitiFact:
Kaine said in a speech that during the Bush administration "while the population in that period grew by 10 percent, the number of jobs in the nation grew by 1 percent."It makes sense to investigate the raw numbers prior to assessing the underlying point.
We wondered if that was really the case. Alec Gerlach, a DNC spokesman, couldn’t identify the source on which the former Virginia governor based his claim. So we tried to find it on our own, comparing census records from January 2001 - the month Bush was sworn in - to January 2009, when Bush left office.
PolitiFact found that the population increased by about 7.8 percent according to Census Bureau estimates. Kaine's number was inflated by about 22 percent in order to reach the minimum reasonable interpretation of "10 percent" (9.5 percent). Insisting on the full 10 percent--and I don't--would represent an inflation of about 36 percent.
Additionally, PolitiFact found that non-farm employment increased only about .83 percent from the start of Bush's two terms to the end. Kaine could be viewed as doing Bush a favor by rounding that figure up to 1 percent.
While Kaine’s numbers are a little off on employment and census, he’s right in suggesting that that U.S. population grew 10 times faster that (sic) jobs during George W. Bush’s presidency.Hmmm. Could that be the underlying point? Or was it hidden in the three paragraphs' worth of caveats?
Even so, several economists told us comparing raw population growth and job numbers is not a preferred way to examine job creation versus demand. That’s because not all of the new people -- such as babies born during the Bush administration -- need jobs.... and hinted at in the introductory paragraph(?):
We were told a more meaningful measure is labor force participation: the percentage of the population between 16 and 64 that is either employed or looking for work. According to BLS, participation was at 67.2 percent when Bush took office and 65.7 percent when he left.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Economists have told us time and again -- on this claim and others -- that the policies of presidents and governors have only minor impact on economic cycles and job creation. "They get too much credit and too much blame," said Sylvia A. Allegretto, economist at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine may not have given the crowd at the Feb. 19 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond the scoop on whether he’s running for the U.S. Senate, but he made no secret of his disdain for former President George W. Bush’s record on job creation.No, apparently the 10:1 thing was the underlying point, if the conclusion is any indication:
Kaine’s numbers are a little off his and spokesman doesn’t know where they came from. Even so, his suggestion that population growth outpaced job growth by a ratio of 10 to 1 is pretty much on the mark, so we rate his claim Mostly True.
Sean Gorman: F
Warren Fiske: F
The grades assume that Bill Adair knows what he's talking about when he says the underlying argument is the most important aspect of a numbers claim. Making the supposed 10:1 ratio the underlying point is little better than making the raw numbers the underlying point (and thus the same as the superficial point).
The presentation by Gorman and Fiske left it unclear just how far off the mark Kaine ended up with respect to the supposed 10:1 ratio. Divide 7.8 by .83 and the resulting 9.4 ends up reflecting a ratio closer to 9:1 than 10:1.