News & Views » Columns

Numbers game



Someone over at the Free Press apparently wasn’t paying attention.

In an editorial titled “Oil, Cars, Jobs” the paper’s opinioneers last week reiterated a months-old Republican claim that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s plan to raise fuel efficiency standards would cost Michigan 105,000 jobs.

That assertion — first reported in April by various media, including The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News — spewed from Marc Racicot, national chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Last week’s follow-up editorial suggested that rank-and-file members of the United Auto Workers union, which endorses Kerry, may not support him “if they buy estimates from the Bush re-election campaign that Kerry’s plan to raise fuel economy standards will cost Michigan 105,000 jobs.”

The problem is that between April and last week, Racicot’s claim has been debunked.

The Michigan Land Use Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Benzie County, did what reporters should have: They invstigated Racicot’s claim, and found his numbers to be “at best a serious misrepresentation” of a 2-year-old study, and “at worst a deliberate fabrication.” The MLUI has been saying as much on its Web site ( for weeks.

Pennsylvania State University professor Andrew Kleit, author of the “working paper” Racicot apparently used as his source, told MLUI’s Stephanie Rudolph he never discussed Michigan job losses. Kleit, who conducted his analysis at the request of General Motors, did speculate in the paper that 104,000 jobs nationwide might be lost. But even that claim never made it into what the institute described as a “much longer, academically vigorous version” of the study published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Rudolph’s investigation made a fairly big splash when published in June. And she’s a bit mystified as to how any member of the Free Press editorial board issuing pronouncements on environmental issues could have missed it.

“I don’t know if they saw it, but it was published on four or five different environmental sites,” Rudolph tells News Hits. “Anyone who is environmentally minded would have seen it.”

Free Press editors did not return calls requesting comment.

Rudolph, however, tells us she’s been given the opportunity to set the record straight in an op-ed piece the paper has asked her to write.

To paraphrase Ben Bradlee, famed former managing editor of the Washington Post, that’s what you’d call a non-correction correction.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.