Don’t bother Pawlenty with facts, he has a campaign to run

DON’T BOTHER PAWLENTY WITH FACTS, HE HAS A CAMPAIGN TO RUN…. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) isn’t making much of an effort to hide his presidential ambitions, and to that end, he’s writing op-eds like these that bash public-employee unions.

That’s annoying enough on its own, but what really rankles is the blatant dishonesty.

“The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or ‘strong back’ jobs,” Pawlenty wrote. “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 8 million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”

At least to me, there’s a higher standard for accuracy when it comes to published pieces. It’s easy for someone to get tripped up during an interview, and flub a detail that hasn’t been checked, but when writing an op-ed for a national newspaper, there’s an expectation that the author — especially someone who intends to be the president of the United States — will try to tell the truth.

It matters, then, that Pawlenty was blatantly lying.

In January 2008, total private-sector employment in the United States stood at 115,562,000. By November 2010, the most current month available, that number had sunk to 108,278,000 — a drop of roughly 7.3 million jobs. That pretty close to the “nearly 8 million” figure that Pawlenty cited. (Almost two-thirds of those job losses, incidentally, happened while George W. Bush was president.)

But Pawlenty’s public-sector figures were problematic. The BLS 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.

At first we were flummoxed about how Pawlenty got the numbers so wrong. We called BLS to make sure we weren’t overlooking another data set that measured the same subject, and spokesman Gary Steinberg confirmed that we were using exactly the same numbers he would use.

We also looked at federal employment trends over the same period, on the guess that Pawlenty might have meant to refer to federal jobs, rather than all government jobs. By this calculation, the number of jobs did increase, rather than decrease, but the amount was only one-sixth of what Pawlenty had indicated. Over that period, federal employment rose from 2,739,000 to 2,837,000 — 98,000 jobs in all.

When PolitiFact asked Pawlenty’s office to explain the error, the governor’s spokesperson refused to comment. Imagine that.

I guess this is the kind of campaign Tim Pawlenty intends to run — the kind that flubs facts, misleads the public, and avoids accountability.