Friday, 10 September 2010

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Attack Ad on Barbara Boxer

Wow, I just saw this ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  I interact and sometimes give speeches to Central Valley Chamber of Commerce groups, and I can assure you that Chamber members here in the Valley are a lot more thoughtful than this ad.  Plenty of them care about the environment, like fish, and they know what is really driving unemployment in the Valley (see the previous post about the $6.4 billion annual decline in private construction). 



The key line is “She voted to cut water to the Central Valley … killing jobs …and driving unemployment as high as 40%." 

I followed their instructions and went to their website to get the "facts."  Here is their documentation sheet.

While it is true that the California EDD has published city unemployment estimates of 40%, the documentation they provide clearly states that the estimate is based on the 2000 Census, a time of abundant water that predates the Smelt order.  Here is an exact quote from the Chambers’ documentation (emphasis added),
Monthly city and CDP labor force data are derived by multiplying current estimates of county employment and unemployment by the employment and unemployment shares (ratios) of each city and CDP at the time of the 2000 Census…  The method assumes that the rates of change in employment and unemployment, since 2000, are exactly the same in each city and CDP as at the county level (i.e., that the shares are still accurate).  If this assumption is not true for a specific city or CDP, then the estimates for that area may not represent the current economic conditions.  Since this assumption is untested, caution should be employed when using this data.
I wouldn’t describe taking a number out of context to use in an attack ad as employing caution.

They provide no documentation to support their claim that water drove unemployment to 40%.  As I must point out again (apologies to loyal readers who know this already), the 2000 Census found these towns had unemployment exceeding 30% when water supplies were high and we were not in a recession.  Mendota had 32% unemployment - the highest of all 474 California towns even when water supplies were high.  In fact, historical data shows that massive unemployment rates in this area did not occur until after the CVP started delivering Delta water.

I should also note that they list the unemployment rate for towns in Tulare County.  Tulare County does not even receive water from the Delta.  It is also kind of crazy, because the unemployment rate in Tulare County in 2009 (the year they were supposedly devastated by the drought) was LOWER than it was during the entire decade of the 1990s (ok, I’m exagerrating just from 1991 to 1999, 9 out of 10 years, here are the facts http://www.calmis.ca.gov/file/indhist/visa$haw.xls).  Unemployment is at all time highs in most areas, and they are focusing on perhaps the only place where unemployment was actually lower in 2009 than in the 1990s. I am glad Valley unemployment is getting attention, but we have to recognize that it is a chronic, long-term problem in order to come up with real solutions.

I can see that this is going to be a long fall.

About the Author

Ethan Jacob

Author & Editor

I am Ethan Jacob Executive Director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific, where I have a joint faculty appointment in the Eberhardt School of Business and the Public Policy Program in the McGeorge School of Law..

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