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

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 12.47.04 PM

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 significantly lower rate than did the nation as a whole.

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 at another site 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.

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  • Carl_Herman

    Nice, Bro! You packed some punch on this, and have the data right there that seem irrefutable.

    Thank you, Eric 🙂

    • cettel

      Well, thank you, Carl!

  • perhaps no one is perfect but the real power is controlled from elsewhere.
    Obama is a puppet likely.

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  • Kidneyboy

    It’s nice to see an article that can cut through the campaign rhetoric and find the actual numbers. Scott Walker has hoodwinked the uneducated and the unwilling-to-be educated. It’s a crying shame that he has created a virtual Civil War in Wisconsin, turning families and neighbors against each other.

    Thanks for a good read, it is much appreciated!

  • Arcturus

    Excellent, factual article. Some of us here in Wisconsin are well aware of Walker’s lies. And don’t get me started on road maintenance.

  • C.R. Krieger

    I realize it’s a LOT of work, but have you compiled any reliable information on the VOLUME of lies from the various politicians? My general understanding has been that Scott Walker lies a lot more often and a lot more blatantly than most; while Obama tends to lie less, and less flagrantly.

    • cettel

      Well, I agree with you that Scott Walker is bolder about his lying than Obama is, but Obama also lies frequently; he’s far more intelligent about his lying than is Walker, whose lies are aimed at people of high faith and of low intelligence. Obama aims his lies at people of only moderate faith, and of a wide range of intelligence-levels, extending from low to moderately high. It’s easier to fool the type of people who vote for Walker (since he’s playing to the faith-crowd), than it is to fool the type of people who vote for Obama. But this factor of narrowing his appeal to only conservatives will become Walker’s Achilles heel if he emerges as the Republican nominee in the general election, because only a minority of the general electorate are high-faith. Even Hillary Clinton (if she becomes the Democratic nominee, which I doubt) would probably be able to beat Walker in a general election, because Walker won’t be able to abandon his faith-base, whereas Hillary will be free to assert any position that polls show is acceptable to the majority of the population. The public won’t trust either of them, but her lies will appeal to more voters than will Walker’s lies. If Bernie Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, then he will stand an even higher chance of winning, though virtually all of the billionaires’ money will then be backing the Republican. If Bernie become the Democratic nominee, then the 2016 Presidential campaign will show the extent to which the 2010 Citizens United and the 2014 McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court’s five Republicans effectively ended American democracy. If Bernie wins the White House, then the power of money in politics will prove to have a practical limit, which can effectively be challenged by an opposed movement-politics, authentically grass-roots-based.

  • Melissa Hammann

    I have railed about the politicians claiming how amazing Wisconsin ACT scores are for years after a thorough review of national data. Educators use the same stupid misinformation. The fact used to make this claim is that Wisconsin is second AMONG STATES IN WHICH MORE THAN 50% OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS TAKE THE ACT, which lowers the scores and skews the data. Because so many states now use the ACT suite of tests as achievement or grad requirements, nearly 100% of their student body take the test and comparing ACT scores across the board is not an equivalent comparison to a state in which only college bound students take it. So that is why the disclaimer is made, but politicians are usually too stupid to recognize the nuances involved.