Pawlenty attack on public sector unions rated “Pants on Fire” wrong


Gov. Tim Pawlenty got it wrong in his weekend Wall Street Journal piece that decried a perceived growth in public sector jobs and high pay for government employees, according to the St. Petersburg Times’ Politifact: “Not only did he apparently mangle the time frame, contradict his own definition of federal workers and fail to acknowledge the huge caveat of Census worker hiring, he also repeated a statistic that had been criticized as inaccurate as long as six months ago.”

Pawlenty wrote, “The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or ‘strong back’ jobs. They work for government, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming ‘industry’ left in our economy. Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”

Politifact fact-checkers said that they couldn’t figure out where Pawlenty got those numbers, but the data they were able to gather revealed something much different.

But Pawlenty’s public-sector figures were problematic. The BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] has a category called government employment – which encapsulates local, state and federal employment, just as Pawlenty had defined it. Over the same period, the number of government jobs went from 22,379,000 to 22,261,000 – a decrease of 118,000, rather than an increase of 590,000, as Pawlenty had written.

The site notes that Pawlenty seems to have included temporary Census workers from 2009 and that under any measure, his number is wildly inflated.

The comparison of job growth he made – which showed the size of the federal workforce going in exactly the opposite direction as it did in reality – is a key pillar supporting the premise of his column, that government work is “the only booming ‘industry’ left in our economy.” Pawlenty’s number is so compromised that we rate his statement Pants on Fire!

The flap is not without a sense of irony: At one point in his editorial, Pawlenty tells the government to “get the numbers right.”