The Top Ten Lies of 2018

December 17, 2018

By Chris Rochester

Liberals swept to power on November 6, seizing control of all the offices up for a statewide vote – governor, attorney general, treasurer, U.S. Senate. In an especially difficult upset for conservatives, Gov. Scott Walker went down in a narrow defeat to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers.

As they always are, this election year was packed with half-truths and outright lies, again proving the adage that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

We thought 2017 had more whoppers than the front counter at a movie theater. But from the lies that influenced the Wisconsin election to lies that changed the national narrative about a whole host of issues, 2018 proved even worse. It wasn’t easy, but we narrowed the list down to the top ten whopping lies.

Below, in descending order, find our 2018 lies of the year.

#10 – Wisconsin’s Infrastructure is 49th Out of 50 States

For years, politicians and special interests on both sides of the aisle have been very aggressive pushing the myth that Wisconsin’s roads and bridges are in such a dire state, they’re practically crumbling in front of our eyes. However, overheated claims like these are based on little or no factual evidence.

In just one example, candidate Tony Evers cried, “My God…we are 49th out of 50 states in infrastructure!” at an August campaign stop in Madison. He was citing a U.S. News & World Report rating from 2017 that Wisconsin was 49th in road quality that year. But as PolitiFact pointed out, there is a lot more to infrastructure than roads. Not to mention, the rating isn’t current. In the 2018 version of that same report, Wisconsin ranked 26th on overall infrastructure. PolitiFact rated the claim straight-up false.

A closely related lie has been to blame Gov. Walker for the shoddy conditions of some local roads. The fact is, most local roads are the responsibility of local governments, but all too often, they’re anything but a priority at budget time. After all, there’s always Madison to blame. Just look at Milwaukee’s thousand miles of crumbling roads, for example.

The “Just Fix It” crowd has gone to the mat trying to paint Wisconsin’s roads as on the verge of crumbling into gravel, going as far as to plant fake letters to the editor around the state urging gas tax hikes. Tony Evers was just one of many politicians promising to soak Wisconsin motorists using hyped-up claims about the condition of our roads as an excuse.

#9 – Walker’s DOC Has Only 18 People Tracking 25,000 Sex Offenders

PolitiFact ranked this claim by failed former Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall mostly false. “Under Scott Walker, the Department of Corrections has only 18 people tracking 25,000 sex offenders,” Wall claimed.

But as PolitiFact points out, “There are 18 sex offender registration specialists, but thousands more are involved in keeping tabs on the 25,000 offenders — many of whom are still behind bars.”

Turns out, this claim used in a Tony Evers TV ad is based on a grossly misleading statement by state Rep. Sondy Pope and is blatantly and intentionally misleading.

#8 – Only a Bailout Can Save Kimberly-Clark

A big economic development whopper that pervaded 2018 should be called out.

Consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark convinced some Republicans in the Legislature that without $100 million-plus in tax incentives it would have no choice but to close its Cold Spring facility in Fox Crossing. The package was championed by Gov. Walker and Assembly Republicans, but it hit a wall in the Republican-controlled Senate, where some lawmakers thought the pay-to-stay bill was akin to a bailout that abandoned free-market principles. They weren’t alone. A Kimberly-Clark corporate insider told the MacIver Institute that the plant facing extinction was one of the most profitable in the KC global chain and that the incentives package would be tantamount to “legalized extortion.”

“Now if you vote yes to give Kimberly Clark the incentives (or what I would like to say legalized extortion) to stay in Wisconsin … (y)ou are making me and every employee at Kimberly Clark a Welfare recipient,” the source wrote in a letter.

The Senate couldn’t find the votes to bring the incentives bill to the Legislature’s extraordinary session this month, but Walker found a way — through the state’s economic development agency — to provide Kimberly-Clark with $28 million in incentives, if it retains some 400 jobs and makes a substantial capital investment in the plant. Turns out the multinational company could keep its Fox Crossing plant open for a quarter of what was originally proposed.

#7 – Gerrymandering Is The Only Reason Democrats Didn’t Win The Legislature

At a campaign stop shortly before the November election, former President Barack Obama bemoaned the legislative maps in Wisconsin, renewing a left-wing rallying cry that the system is rigged in favor of Republicans. “…[I]n 2011, Republicans made Wisconsin one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country…In this current election, all across the country, Democrats are going to have to win a lot more votes just to stay even, and even more votes after that to take over the Congress, because of this gerrymandering tomfoolery,” Obama said.

But according to the Brennan Center, a left-leaning research and advocacy group, Wisconsin is actually #16 on the list. That’s according to Brennan’s efficiency gap, which measures the number of “wasted” votes due to uncompetitive legislative seats. But even that measurement, hailed as a holy grail for proving partisan gerrymandering, has deep flaws – especially in Wisconsin.

“In Wisconsin, most Democrats are concentrated in cities like Milwaukee, producing lopsided races there. To the efficiency gap, that could look like nefarious packing, when in reality it’s simple demographics,” according to an article in left-leaning publication The Atlantic detailing the efficiency gap’s “serious, perhaps insurmountable flaws.”

So the left’s main weapon for proving the maps are rigged is fatally stymied in states where Democrat votes are clustered the most—in places like Madison and Milwaukee, overwhelmingly deep blue cities.

Pervasive claims that the maps are rigged obscure the real reason Democrats struggle in much of the state: voters throughout the state aren’t interested in the kind of far-left platform that appeals to voters in places like Dane County. Look no further than a poll by the Brookfield-based Jobs First Coalition, which found trendy liberal ideas like releasing half the state’s prison population, letting non-residents vote, and raising income taxes by $460 million are deeply unpopular in central and western Wisconsin.

If Democrats want to win back the Legislature some day, they should stop lying to themselves and put up quality candidates whose policy ideas are appealing to the people of their districts.

#6 – Medicare For All

The very name is a lie. During the 2016 presidential primary, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders concocted a plan in which the federal government would take over all of healthcare in what would be better described as Medicaid For All. While Sanders didn’t bother to do a cost estimate for his big government health care takeover, the Mercatus Center pegged the cost at $32 trillion over ten years. Even doubling all corporate and personal income taxes wouldn’t be enough to pay for this monster. But sky-high cost estimates didn’t stop Sanders spinoffs like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from running on a “Medicare For All” platform in 2018, even though it’s nothing more than a left-wing fantasy that our deeply indebted nation could never afford.

Here in Wisconsin, liberals have been proposing similar schemes for years, with their benign-sounding “BadgerCare For All” public option being a first step. But should Wisconsin achieve the left’s ultimate goal of a Sanders-style single payer health care system, the cost would be equally staggering – $30.2 billion just in the first year, according to a MacIver Institute estimate. Just like at the federal level, that’s nearly double the state’s current annual spending, for a single program.

The notion that a single payer scheme would be either better than the current system or even possible at all is one of the year’s biggest lies.

#5 – Minnesota Has Cheaper Health Care

Democrats rode a wave of discontent over health care costs to defeat Gov. Walker by a narrow margin in November. A key talking point was that in Wisconsin, the average health care plan costs 50 percent more than in Minnesota. The sliver of truth in the statement is so small, it takes an electron microscope to find it.

Wisconsin families now pay nearly 50 percent more than Minnesotans for the same health care, it was claimed. In fact, only one Obamacare plan for one subset of health insurance customers is 50 percent more expensive in Wisconsin compared with Minnesota. Otherwise, the states are pretty comparable.

The left-leaning PolitiFact also dinged the claim for its casual relationship with the truth.

We see it differently. By knowingly and willfully cherry-picking one plan that’s only used by a tiny fraction of the portion of the population that shops on the individual insurance market – and ignoring Gov. Walker’s reinsurance plan that is driving those costs down – the left’s claim to voters that Minnesota has less expensive health care or that it is in any way a utopia is a big, fat lie.

#4 – Scott Walker Cut $800 Million From Public Education

Candidate Tony Evers and Democrats all across the state repeatedly claimed that Gov. Walker has cut $800 million from K-12 education.

The claim only looks at Walker’s first budget, a time when he was dealing with a $3.6 billion budget hole left for him by Gov. Jim Doyle after years of fiscal mismanagement. It also ignores years of budget increases under Walker, including the latest funding boost of $636 million.

These allegations also ignore the one-time federal funds Doyle used to paper over his last K-12 funding cut – funding that Walker didn’t have available to him for his first budget. On top of that, Walker’s signature reform, Act 10, has saved school districts $3.2 billion in benefits costs, effectively a budget increase. “In the second year of Gov. Walker’s first budget, education spending rose to $4.91 billion—roughly $400 million more than Doyle had spent if the one-time federal stimulus grant is removed,” Dan O’Donnell pointed out.

This claim was debunked by PolitiFact, which could only muster a “mostly false” rating. Our rating? The claim is a total falsehood.

#3 – Under Walker, State Support for UW Dropped from 50 Percent to 15 Percent

In another claim called out by PolitiFact as “false,” Evers stated that taxpayer support for the UW System under Gov. Walker has dropped from 50 percent to 15 percent. Neither number is true.

In fact, about 21 percent of the UW System budget was funded by the state when Walker took office, a figure that hovers at 17 percent today, PolitiFact pointed out. That’s part of a larger trend that started long before Walker took office. And that modest decline happened at the same time that fiscal hawks in the Legislature found out the UW System was sitting on a $1 billion slush fund.

Maybe we’ll give Evers the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t intentionally lying. After all, it’s not a big shock that he would have no clue how much money taxpayers shovel into the UW considering he thinks being on the Board of Regents is the “worst part of my job,” as he told a crowd at UW-Milwaukee shortly before the election.

#2 – The Brett Kavanaugh Circus

The national stage was jam-packed with lies all year long, but none quite as outrageous as the theater of the absurd that descended on the nation’s capital as President Trump and the Senate attempted to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The circus began in a way that the nation would eventually come to see as tame and quiet — with organized protesters crashing the confirmation hearings and an early round of accusations against nominee Brett Kavanaugh so strange, they spawned their own parody #KavanaughScandals campaign on Twitter.

People weren’t laughing for long. After a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein from Christine Blasey Ford was leaked on September 13, several other much less credible accusers came forward with even more outlandish claims about Kavanaugh – including that he ran a gang rape ring while in high school. None of the allegations were accompanied by even a shred of evidence. Several accusers have recanted their stories and were referred to the FBI for lying to a congressional committee.

The coordinated character assassination campaign by the left that tried to cast Brett Kavanaugh – a man of sterling character who volunteers at homeless shelters and is known as Coach K when he coaches girls’ basketball – as a morally depraved sexual predator is among the most egregious campaign of lies in recent memory.

#1 – Republicans Want to Take Away Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions!

The lie that Gov. Walker, Sen. Vukmir, Attorney General Schimel and, well, Republicans all across the country want to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions was a pivotal talking point in the election. It was also not true. Republicans, in their efforts to replace Obamacare with a more market-oriented plan, included coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in a way that mitigates the cost spiral of Obamacare.

Obamacare cheerleaders insist that the individual mandate combined with “guaranteed issue,” which requires insurance companies to cover people even if they didn’t seek out coverage until they got sick, was the ticket to preventing a price spiral. But the fact is, it didn’t work. People ignored the mandate, opting instead to pay the fine, especially as premiums and deductibles soared. Here in Wisconsin, premiums went up 36 percent headed into 2018 while 75,000 people lost their coverage.

Wisconsin Republicans have recognized the public’s appetite for protecting people with pre-existing conditions. In addition to legislation by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo adding state-level pre-existing protections, they also point to Wisconsin’s successful high-risk pool that worked well before being outlawed by Obamacare. They’ve also embraced other proposals that would expand access to actual, affordable health care – not just health insurance. Among them, direct primary care.

Instead of wailing about Republican efforts to replace failed policies with market-centered reforms that could actually drive costs down, liberals should recognize that Obamacare is a failed policy and work with conservatives on common sense, workable reforms.

Because of how pervasive the lie about pre-existing conditions was all year long, and its undeniable impact on the year’s elections, we rate this latest installment in the never-ending “Republicans want people to die!” narrative of the left as the 2018 Lie of the Year.

There you have it – the top ten lies of 2018. Keep an eye on in the coming weeks for further editions of our annual top ten lists, as we continue reviewing the year that was.