THEIR VIEW: CALA spin machine out of control

By Anthony Majestro | Jul 10, 2014

CHARLESTON – Greg Thomas and West Virginia CALA are at it again.

Facts are hard to ignore, but more often than not the CALA spin machine twists and distorts them beyond recognition before spreading its misinformation and propaganda.  Let’s pull back the curtain and learn the truth.

A few weeks ago, Thomas trumpeted numbers from WorkForce West Virginia that our state lost more than 7,000 jobs last year. What he didn’t bother to mention was that those 7,017 jobs were less than 1 percent of our job market.

West Virginia’s unemployment rate was below the national average all last year and remains lower in 2014.  Thomas also failed to cite the fact that 4,258 of those jobs — more than 60 percent of them — were government jobs.  Although it is unclear what percentage of those government jobs were federal jobs, the number of federal workers has declined to its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

Those declines, particularly for the postal service, are affecting every single state in the country — not just West Virginia.

In that same news story that Thomas cites for our job losses, he fails to disclose that it also states that West Virginia’s average wage for state workers rose by $478, an increase of 1.2 percent.  Indeed, the very headline on the news story was “Average Worker Wage Increases in 2013 to $40,000” — but let’s not let those facts get in the way of the propaganda.

Thomas also points to our 48th place ranking in CNBC’s “Top States for Business” and focused only on our judicial system.  CNBC states that its rankings are based on publicly available data and studies and works with business groups.  One of the primary business groups with which CNBC worked is the National Association of Manufacturers.

Its front group, the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice (formerly American Justice Partnership), works directly with the American Tort Reform Association, and ATRA has attacked West Virginia repeatedly with its widely discredited “Judicial Hellhole” report.

Rather than use independent data, this group releases yet another “study” that is based on the Hellhole report.  It becomes cyclical, with one front group citing another to back up their unfounded claims.  It’s incestuous.

As Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law Professor Elizabeth Thornburg noted in “Judicial Hellholes, Lawsuit Climates and Bad Social Science” (West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 110 No. 3), “As public relations ventures, [these] campaigns have been an astounding success.  As well-founded, honest commentaries on judicial systems, however, they are a major failure ... the choice is not based on research into the actual conditions in the courts.”

Was our last place “business friendliness” ranking based on these discredited “studies?”  If so, this clearly illustrates why they should be rejected by the media, lawmakers and the republic.  This misinformation and propaganda has a direct effect on our economic future and is wrong.

The independent analysis by the National Center for State Courts presents a very different result — West Virginia ranks 39th in the number of lawsuits filed per capita.  Based on that, we should have ranked 11th in business friendliness.  CNBC’s own data is contradictory to our last place ranking and Thomas’ argument as well. It ranked us 18th in cost of doing business, yet Thomas argues that our legal system is too expensive and costing businesses too much money.

If there is a correlation, then how is it possible for us to be ranked 18th in cost of doing business?  It doesn’t make sense.

At the same time, Thomas fails to cite the fact that we rank in the bottom 20 percent in four of the other categories as well.  We were 40th in infrastructure, 44th in workforce, 48th in technology and innovation and 49th in access to capital.  Not once does Thomas mention these factors — all major considerations when companies are deciding where to locate.

Shouldn’t improving our infrastructure and technology so we can compete for 21st century jobs be a priority?  We should also better educate and retrain our workers so that they have the skills needed for these jobs.  Even the Charleston Daily Mail chided Thomas for ignoring these key factors.

The real truth is that Greg Thomas, CALA and the billion-dollar corporate special interests funding their efforts don’t care about West Virginia’s economy, job market or the people who live here.  Their only goal is total immunity when corporations break the law and risk the lives and bank accounts of West Virginia consumers, workers and small businesses. They are trying to increase their corporate profits at the expense of our economic future.

Demand that it stops now.

Majestro is president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

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