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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Jobs Jabs

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is slugging it out with his Republican opponent Sharron Angle over the state’s dismal unemployment rate. It’s a fair fight. Their dueling ads are totally accurate. But each leaves key facts unsaid.

Angle’s 60-second ad first aired July 9, and a 30-second version is also airing. It presents a gloomy, menacing picture of the Nevada economy with shaky, blue-tinged shots of melancholy faces, accompanied by background music fit for a funeral. There is no announcer. Words appear on screen, all of them accurate, pointing out that Nevada now has the highest unemployment rate of any state.

It says, "When Reid became Senate Majority Leader, Nevada’s unemployment rate was 4.4%." That was in January 2007, and it’s true, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The ad continues with a series of quotations and statements, all accurate and properly cited. We’ve provided hyperlinks to the cited sources:

What "Help?"

The ad concludes with the statement, "Help is on the way." That’s a clear statement of opinion, of course. The ad doesn’t say what sort of help Angle would bring, if elected. The ad refers the viewer to Angle’s campaign Web site, where the diligent visitor might find Angle’s free-market approach to job creation. Here’s how it’s phrased:

Angle Web site: The fastest way to get the economy moving again is to cut spending, pay back the national debt, and make permanent the Bush Tax Cuts.

But the site offers no specifics on what spending Angle proposes to cut. To "pay back the national debt" would not be easy. The debt currently stands at $8.6 trillion, not counting money the government owes to itself. (Intergovernmental holdings such as the Social Security trust fund bring the debt to $13.2 trillion.) In theory, the portion of the national debt held by the public could be repaid by devoting nearly every dollar of tax revenue for the next three fiscal years to debt reduction, while simultaneously cutting all federal spending — including Social Security, Medicare and Pentagon funding — to zero. We base that on the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections of federal income and spending. That still might not be enough if the Bush tax cuts are extended as Angle proposes, however.

Greed or Reid?

Interestingly, Angle does not appear in her own ad, except to deliver the legally required statement that "I approve this message." But she’s a featured player in Reid’s ad, where she is heard saying it’s "not my job as a U.S. senator" to develop jobs in the state.

Reid’s ad also first appeared July 9. It features a construction worker blaming "Wall Street greed" for the state’s economic troubles. That’s another statement of opinion, and we’ll leave it to our readers to decide for themselves whether to blame Wall Street’s greed, Reid’s Senate leadership or other factors for the state’s terrible unemployment rate.

"Not my job"

The remainder of the ad quotes Angle, and does so accurately.

She’s heard saying, "People ask me, what are you going to do to develop jobs in your state? Well, that’s not my job as a U.S. senator."

The audio is taken from a shaky, cell-phone video of Angle speaking to a small gathering, which Reid’s campaign had posted on YouTube in June. The quote is in context. In the video, Angle continues: " . . . to bring industry to the state. That’s the lieutenant governor’s job, that’s your state senators’ and assemblymen’s job. That’s your secretary of state’s job, to make a climate in the state that says, ‘Y’all come.’"

According to Reid’s campaign Web site, that video was taken at an Angle campaign event on May 14, 2010. Angle’s campaign, contacted by FactCheck.org, did not dispute the accuracy of the video.

The Reid ad also shows another cell-phone video of Angle saying, at a different appearance, "I am not in the business of creating jobs." The full quote, as posted by Reid on YouTube, is, "As your senator, I am not in the business of creating jobs." The Reid campaign says that one was taken at a forum in Elko County, Nevada on May 11, 2010. Angle’s campaign didn’t dispute the accuracy of this video, either.

Just as Angle’s ad doesn’t say what "help" she would offer, Reid’s ad also says nothing about what he would do to create jobs. His Web site touts, among other actions, Reid’s support for the stimulus bill passed in 2009. But since the state’s unemployment rate is still going up, Nevada viewers might well ask, "How’s that working out?"

As we said at the outset: Both ads are accurate, as far as they go. But neither gives a full picture.

-Brooks Jackson and Lara Seligman