Scott Walker’s Big Lie

Eric Zuesse

I have written lots of articles about Barack Obama’s lying. To expose lies by Republicans is not at all a partisan matter for me; it’s about my only commitment, which is to the truth; and here is the truth about Scott Walker: Like Obama, he’s a liar; he plays the public for suckers, in order to get their votes. This isn’t democracy, serving the public; it’s theft of power away from the public, by means of fraud.

Walker’s main claim to fame regarding his record as Wisconsin’s Governor (inaugurated 3 January 2011) is that he improved education, as shown by his state’s ACT test scores being now the second-highest in the nation, and by their having risen since he became Governor; and both of those statements are lies. Typical examples of him asserting these cardinal lies about Wisconsin’s educational performance are here:

his State of the State address on Jan. 13, 2015:

“On top of our economic success, we empowered local school boards to hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance, so they can keep the best and the brightest in the classroom. And it’s working. Over the past four years, graduation rates are up. Third grade reading scores are up. ACT scores are up – and Wisconsin now ranks second in the country.”

Then, his Conservative Political Action Conference speech, on Feb. 26, 2015:

“Our school scores are better. Our ACT scores are second best in the country. Graduation rate’s up over the past four years. Reading scores are up over the past four years, because we put the power back in the hands of the hard working taxpayers and the people they elect to run their school boards.”

You can see the actual state-by-state current performance here, and, as you can see there, it’s a lie for him to say, “Our ACT scores are second best in the country,” and, “Wisconsin now ranks second in the country” on ACT scores. Wisconsin’s “Average Composite Score” shown there is 22.2. The top composite score was Massachusetts, at 24.3. Tied for second and third were Connecticut and New Hampshire at 24.2.  Fourth was Maine at 23.6. Fifth was New York at 23.4. Tied for sixth and seventh were Delaware and Vermont at 23.2. Eighth was New Jersey at 23.1. Ninth was Washington at 23.0. Tied for tenth and eleventh were Minnesota and Rhode Island at 22.9. Twelfth was Virginia at 22.8. Thirteenth was Pennsylvania at 22.7. Fourteenth was Maryland at 22.6. Fifteenth was Idaho at 22.4. Sixteenth was California at 22.3. Seventeenth was Wisconsin at 22.2.

An accurate statement (however meaningless it might have been) on this would have been: “Wisconsin now ranks seventeenth.” 

Furthermore, his allegation that “Our school scores are better,” and that, “it’s working,” is also a gross overstatement, at best. The reality is shown here: page 9

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.29.01 AM

Before he came into office, English was at 21.5, and now it’s 21.6. Math was 22.0, and now it’s 22.0. Reading was 22.3, and now it’s 22.4. Science was 22.2, and now it’s 22.3. Composite was 22.1, and now it’s 22.2.

Here’s the nationwide trend during that very same period: page 10

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The composite national score has remained unchanged at 21.0.

So: while Wisconsin’s score improved by 22.2/22.1, or 0.45%, the nationwide score has improved by 0.00%. Scott Walker has nothing to brag about on that matter. An accurate statement from him on it would have been:

“During the four years since I became Governor, Wisconsin’s composite ACT scores have improved by 0.45%, whereas the nationwide change was zero: 0.00%.”

His claim that Wisconsin’s composite score “now ranks second in the country” is a blatant lie, which is aimed only at people whom he can fool – people who trust this particular liar (including lots of fundamentalist Christians who are accustomed to taking things on pure faith). But his claim that his policies on education are “working” is so gross an exaggeration that it might as well be considered to be as fraudulent as is his claim that Wisconsin “now ranks second in the country.”

So: his Big Lie is about education – that he has improved it. But what about his second-biggest claim: that he has improved the state’s economy?

His State of the State Address on January 13th said: “If you remember nothing else, remember this: more people are working, while fewer are unemployed.”

Here is the reality:

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 1.30.01 PM

As you can see, the uptick started a year before he became Governor, and continued in virtually a straight line thereafter. But it’s nothing to brag about, because this was also the national trend, when Barack Obama came into office two years before Walker and employment increased after George W. Bush’s crash. Here is that national trend:

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.40.37 AM

As you can see there, the national figures improved by a ratio of around 140/131, or 7%, while Wisconsin’s figures improved by a ratio of 2882/2741 or 5.1%, throughout Walker’s Governorship, from January 2011 till now. Wisconsin increased employment at a rate significantly below the national average.

Bottom-line: Walker is a con-artist.

But that’s nothing new: During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Mitt Romney’s great claim-to-fame was that he “created 100,000 jobs at Bain.” As I showed, on 13 June 2012, “Romney’s claim to have produced 100,000 jobs at Bain is a flat-out lie. Even his Staples investment didn’t produce any jobs, but reduced jobs — and that’s his best case.”

We can’t have democracy under such circumstances; all that any nation can have when lying is permitted in politics is a race-to-the-bottom in which the biggest liar competes at an enormous political advantage over his competitors, and in which the winners are actually representing not the public but representing the aristocrats who fund politicians’ campaigns. That’s an aristocratically controlled nation, not a democratically controlled one. And (as that link shows), it describes today’s United States. However, today’s liar-in-chief, Barack Obama, actually urged the U.S. Supreme Court to keep it that way, and they did.

NOTE for readers who want to dig deeper: Wisconsin also ranked 17th on overall ACT scores in 2010, just before Walker became the Governor. Another point: a reader of the present article raised the issue that “The ACT score rankings by state that Walker refers to are for states where 50%+ of the students take the test,” but Walker’s speeches don’t say that; only his press office does when journalists question them about his “second best in the nation” claim. So, what Walker (through his press office) is then telling journalists is to interpret his words in a different way than the audiences he’s making his speeches to will naturally be interpreting them. That’s deceptive, in itself: honest politics is common language only, and no journalist should fall for Walker’s tactic of deception. Furthermore, whereas with SAT scores there is a strong tendency for states that administer it to over half of the students to post lower scores on it than do states that administer if to only a smaller percentage of their students, the same isn’t true with ACT scores. Walker’s press office is just lying. Actually, the only scientific comparisons of educational performances of the various states are in the international comparisons as tested in PISA and NAEP, which use random samples of students, instead of self-selected samples; and, as Massachusetts’s teachers’ union proudly noted, “A 2011 Harvard University study found that if Massachusetts was its own country, its students perform on the same level as some of the most educated countries in the world. Just a glance at the study shows Massachusetts topping the state-by-state comparisons at almost every level.” In that comparison reported by Harvard, Massachusetts scored high; Wisconsin scored fairly low, in the “Percentage of students in the class of 2011 at the proficient level in math in U.S. states and foreign.” This was in Walker’s first year as Governor; and, as has been noted here, Wisconsin’s educational performance has remained unchanged from that time till now. What cannot be denied is that Scott Walker’s cardinal claim to having been a good Governor is based on lies that, when journalists ask his press office to explain, he decorates with other types of deceptions. He’d be nowhere without lies.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.