Sand Land's clown prince of lies, spitting whoppers on Horizon.
Cataloging and debunking state Senate President Russell Pearce's prevarications, untruths, half-truths, and outright whoppers is a full-time gig. Whenever this meretricious Mesan opens his gob, out flows a canard-filled torrent that rivals the Tohoku tsunami.
People ask me, "So what if you're right, and Pearce bites the mat on Tuesday, what'll you write about then?"
Are you kidding me? In this state? Yes, skewering Pearce has been good for my "brand" (and a helluva lot of fun). But that means other politicians and ne'er-do-wells are eluding some much-deserved verbal punishment meantime.
So while I still have Pearce to play with, allow me to get a few more licks in. Here's a gift given to me by Ted Simons of Horizon, who had on ol' Russ earlier this week and let this serial dissembler get away with what he does best.
(I'll cut Simons some slack on that front. Hard to get a word in edgewise with this motormouth.)
Let's focus on three of the bigger falsehoods spouted by Pearce on Horizon, regarding: 1) Senate Bill 1070's supposed impact on crime; 2) the state's budget; and 3) Jerry Lewis' comments in the debate a few weeks back concerning Arizona now and Alabama circa 1964.
Regarding the first, here's Pearce's contention:
"The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, they just gave me a statement. They have a 30-year low in crime. A 30-year low in crime!...And they attribute it all to 1070."
Senate Bill 1070, Pearce's "breathing-while-brown" legislation, was signed into law on April 23, 2010. It went into effect on July 29, 2010, one day after much of it was enjoined by federal Judge Susan R. Bolton.
Thing is, crime was trending downward -- in Phoenix, Arizona and nationwide -- long before 1070.
The FBI's Crime in the United States for 2010 reports that "an estimated 1,246,248 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 6.0 percent from the 2009 estimate."
It continues: "When considering 5- and 10-year trends, the 2010 estimated violent crime total was 13.2 percent below the 2006 level and 13.4 percent below the 2001 level."
Closer to home, in Phoenix, violent crimes have been declining also. From 2008 to 2009, the city experienced a drop from 10,465 violent crimes in 2008 to 8,730 in 2009, a 16.6 percent decrease.
In 2010, there were 8,002 violent crimes reported in Phoenix, an 8.3 percent drop from 2009. So the city's drop in violent crime was larger in the year before 1070 was passed.
This pattern is reflected in the statewide violent crime numbers. From 2008 to 2009, the overall number of violent crimes in Arizona went down 13.9 percent. (See note below.) From 2009 to 2010, the decline was 3.13 percent, obviously far less than in the previous year.
I've heard of magical thinking. But Pearce may be the first person I know of to employ magical thinking retroactively.
Any criminologist/statistician will tell you that there are numerous factors that affect crime rates, from accurate reporting and sentencing requirements to the economy and community policing.
There's only one variable Pearce cares about: SB 1070. But when it comes to violent crime, 1070 is a non-factor, no matter what PLEA or Pearce say.
On to the budget, where Pearce takes credit for, "the first time in years, a constitutionally balanced budget...no gimmicks, no borrowing, no bonding." Here, he's full of hooey as well.
No gimmicks, eh? What about the sale/leaseback of state buildings, including the Capitol buildings? That smooth move put the state $1 billion further in the hole. The issuance of lottery revenue bonds added another $425.4 million.
Currently, the state's debt stands at $8.5 billion. That's according to Arizona's Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
Interestingly, State Budget Solutions, a conservative advocacy group, just issued a report estimating Arizona's total outstanding debt at $9.9 billion.
SBS claims that when you include all of the pensions and other liabilities into the mix, Sand Land's total debt is actually $59.2 billion.
That's "billion" with a "b," boys and girls.
Concerning budget trickery, SBS' website notes:
"Nearly every state has a so-called `balanced-budget' amendment requiring that their General Fund expenditures not exceed revenues, but that hardly means their budgets are truly balanced. Because these amendments only apply to one particular fund (of the many) managed by the state, legislators have developed a deep bag of tricks to close budget gaps by moving money around."
Regarding Pearce's alleged "balanced budget," the FY 2011 budget anticipated a $332 million shortfall (according to the JLBC), which would have rolled over into FY 2012.
But the state lucked out, and revenue was higher than anticipated. What was the reason for the unexpected uptick in revenue?
"Given the lack of job and wage growth," the JLBC noted in its July update, "this spurt may have been caused by higher capital gains and the loss of mortgage interest deductions." (Italics added.)
So the housing market's in a slump, people are losing their homes left and right, or just not purchasing homes, and that's a good thing?
Only in Pearce's twisted world.
"We're in the black," Pearce stated during his forum with Lewis in Mesa. "And we're moving further into the black."
In reality, what wiggle room the legislature has comes crashing to a halt in 2014, when the temporary one-cent sales tax (which Pearce opposed, BTW) is no more. The JLBC projects a shortfall in 2014 of anywhere from $600 million to $1.2 billion.
Before Pearce became Senate President, he was chair of the House Appropriations Committee (while a state representative), and later chair of Senate Appropriations.
Governor Janet Napolitano (in office from January 2003 to January 2009) had a veto, but the Republicans -- Pearce chief among them -- controlled the state's purse strings. His pronouncements aside, he oversaw the building of that massive debt and bears a great deal of responsibility for it.
Finally, we come to the easiest piece of Pearce-bunk to debunk: The one where he claims his opponent Jerry Lewis compared present-day Arizona to 1964 Alabama.
Personally, I'd have no problem with that comparison. True, it's an inexact analogy. The plight of blacks in the Jim Crow South was worse than the plight of the undocumented is in present-day Arizona. Though I know some in the activist community would disagree with me.
Still, the Sand Land of 2011 often does feel like a throwback to those bad old days. (I say this as a son of the South, raised in Dixie.) And Pearce has encouraged this atmosphere, one in which hate crimes against minorities thrives.
But during the debate in Mesa, Lewis did not make that comparison. Rather, he observed that many outside Arizona perceive the state in that light.
For the record, this is what Lewis said:
"Well, first off, we have to change the image that we have in Mesa and in Arizona...We are seen as a very unfriendly business state. We are seen as something akin to maybe 1964 Alabama...Business owners do not want to move their businesses here in the current environment. We're having a hard time getting our great message out about this great state that we are. We're being misportrayed."
But Arizona's clown-prince of lies twists Lewis' very correct statement out of context.
"He said it," Pearce tells Simons. "I was there. Go get the tapes. He said he's embarrassed for Arizona and Mesa on the image. And he compared it to 1964 Alabama. How embarrassing can that be?"
Both Mesa and Arizona should be deeply embarrassed all right, embarrassed to have this shameful bigot and liar in public office. But the day of redemption is at hand, for Mesa, at least. Mark it on your calendar: Tuesday, November 8, 2011.
NOTE: The original table issued with the FBI's 2008 report, states a total of 29,059 violent crimes for Arizona. However, the data tool available on the FBI's website indicates total violent crimes for Arizona of 31,274 for 2008.
This does not affect the point I make: i.e., there was a larger drop from 2008-2009 than 2009-2010. But the drop is even more substantial if you use the number from the data tool, which I suspect is more accurate.
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I suspect it's more accurate for the reason stated by the FBI, here:
"The data contained in data reports and the Program's master files may include updates and/or late submissions from participating agencies that are not reflected in the Program's various published reports; therefore, the figures in the two may not match. A discrepancy between published data and data contained in the master files does not necessarily indicate an error."
Sorry if this is a little confusing, but I offer it in the interests of full disclosure.