Sammamish High School graduate, and Washington state gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is looking like a case study of the failure of our schools to teach basic, real world, mathematical skills. (Have at it Cliff Mass!)
The short version: Rob McKenna attempts to do an analysis of Washington state budgets…and ends up soiling himself.
Rob McKenna was pushing some awfully fishy numbers during his campaign kick-off (via Goldy):
Here is some red meat from McKenna’s “triumphant” speech:
I went back and I crunched the numbers for the state budget to figure out where the spending’s been going—what’s been driving it. I looked at one 10-year period: 1998 to 2008. And what I discovered is that, in that 10 year period, every single year the state increased the amount it spent per employee by 5 percent, every year for 10 years.
In that same 10-year period, the state increased the amount it spent on state worker benefits by 9 percent a year every single year for 10 years.
The fact is that by every rational measure, state government has been shrinking over the past few decades, in per-capita spending, per-capita taxes, per-capita state workers, and most importantly, as a percentage of the economy, with state general fund revenues falling from 6.9 percent of personal income in 1995 all the way down to 4.7 percent today. McKenna may sound smart and informed and trustworthy and all that, but he’s just not being honest with voters.
He digs even deeper into the bullshit here. But, you know, Goldy is just a filthy
blogger journalist for a vile, extreme leftist blog newspaper, so what does he know?
Now the AP is on the case. And they can dig a little deeper because, unlike Goldy who is blacklisted by the McKenna campaign, the AP can ask follow-up questions of McKenna.
Problem is, a couple of McKenna’s key numbers were wrong, exaggerating the speed of government growth.
McKenna, who currently serves as attorney general, described his statistics in slightly different ways during both an interview with The Associated Press and his campaign speech. After The AP repeatedly questioned the validity of the statistics, his campaign provided details on how he reached his totals. Those written calculations indicated that he was using faulty math.
The crux of the problem is that McKenna doesn’t understand the basic mathematics of compounding growth. On his claim that the state annually “increased the amount it spent per employee by 5 percent “:
McKenna reached his incorrect numbers after seeing a 48 percent growth over the decade. His supporting documents indicate that he took that number and divided by 10 years to reach his conclusion about 5 percent annual growth.
But annual growth can’t be calculated so easily. Because each year’s increase compounds on top of the last, a 5 percent annual growth for 10 years would end up being 63 percent growth for the decade — not 48 percent.
The correct number is 3.6 percent per year, which is pretty much the same as the 3.5 percent average for all of Washington state over the same period.
As to McKenna’s claim that the state annually increased benefits by “9 percent a year…for 10 years”? Nuh-uh. Same error:
To reach his 9 percent number, McKenna relied on the same questionable math he used to calculate the salary figures. The state’s overall spending for worker benefits actually rose an average of 7.1 percent annually during that time.
Average benefit increases per employee were even less, growing by about 5.4 percent each year, with rising health care costs driving up expenses just like in the private sector.
What the AP missed, and what Goldy points out, is that the benefits calculation is the largest component of the “amount [the state] spent per employee” increase McKenna raised first. But it comes off as in addition to the first (erroneously calculated) number.
McKenna’s speech is dishonest in other ways, as both Goldy and the AP points out. He implies a 13 percent per year increase in number of state employees, when the 13 percent actually refers to the increase over a decade. Oopsies!
Dishonesty is bad in a politician even though we have acquired a certain immunity that seem to allow politicians like McKenna to get away with fabrication and distortion.
My beef is with McKenna’s inability to work with the most elementary of budget mathematics. The AP has flat-out busted McKenna for his failure to understand the mathematics of growth—the same math one uses for understanding investment interest, population growth, budget projections, mortgage costs, etc.
Governors don’t really have to understand the Fundamental Theorem of Integral Calculus or the Pythagorean theorem.
But, holy shit, incompetence with the elementary mathematics of budget growth? That makes a Rob McKenna in the Governor’s seat nothing short of a fiscal calamity waiting to happen for Washington state.