For the past couple of days (and to a large extent for the last many years), Dean Baker has been taking George Will to task for the fact that he is a complete idiot—most recently in, George Will Still Can’t Get Access to Government Data. I have a visceral hatred for George Will, because he is so much just William Buckley: the Next Generation. Although just like with Star Trek, the next generation has none of the spark of the original. What’s especially true is that Will doesn’t have the erudition of Buckley, and every time he includes an obscure reference, you know one of his many assistants came up with it. As I’ve noted before, if he were a liberal, he wouldn’t even be a blogger; but because the media are so desperate for any conservative who makes any sense at all, he’s a journalistic star.
This weekend, Will published, Showdown in Tar Heel Country. Mostly the column is just, “Thom Tillis: ra ra ra!” So who really cares? But Will then starts to talk about what a great job the Republicans have done with the North Carolina economy. That’s where he gets into trouble. That’s where he always gets in trouble, because he’s a total hack. He is the William Lane Craig of conservative politics: facts never stand in the way of what he knows to be The Truth™.
So George Will wrote, “The state has added more than 200,000 jobs in three years. Unemployment has fallen from 10.4 percent in January 2011, then eighth-highest in the nation, to 6.2 percent, one of the largest improvements among the states in the past 13 quarters.” Of course, the 200,000 jobs number has no context, and state unemployment numbers don’t necessarily mean that a larger percentage of the population is employed. Baker got right to the heart of the matter: what has been the percentage of job growth in North Carolina? Well, it turns out it is 5.18%, which isn’t bad, but the nation as a whole had a growth rate of 5.12%. So North Carolina has done about as well as the nation has. And then Baker noted, “Furthermore, the number of jobs in North Carolina is still a full percentage point below its pre-recession peak, while nationally the number of jobs is down by less than 0.1 percent from pre-recession levels.”
As for that claim about the unemployment rate going way down. Well, let me tell you what really happened. The unemployment rate in North Carolina stayed markedly above the national level. It was only in the last year that it plummeted. And it didn’t plummet because people got jobs. It plummeted because extended unemployment benefits were ended (because of George Will’s beloved Republican Party), so those who were at least nominally looking for a job dropped out of the labor market altogether. So in as much as the Republicans in North Carolina affected the economy of the state, they seem to have made it worse.
But maybe we should applaud Will. After all, he does get the basic facts right. He just does it in a totally deceptive and disingenuous way. This article is actually an improvement over what Will does whenever he writes about global warming. Still, it is an outrage that this sub-genius partisan hack is given such a prominent place in the mainstream media.