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Bachmann Mailer Misrepresents Jobs Report

In a mailer to her constituents, Michele Bachmann incorrectly claims a new trade agreement with South Korea – which she supported — will “create almost 1,000 jobs” in her Minnesota congressional district.

Bachmann misreads a report produced by the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs. The report states that 1,001 jobs in Bachmann’s district already exist because of merchandise exports to South Korea. The association does not predict how many jobs the new pact will add, although the group supports the agreement and expects employment gains.

Bachmann isn’t the only one to make a questionable jobs claim about the trade agreement.

The Congressional Research Service finds fault with several jobs predictions — both positive and negative — that failed to fully consider the complexities of international trade. CRS is critical of estimates from the Obama administration, the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute. CRS says these types of projections “often tend to be highly subjective and can be misleading.”

Flubbed Figure

The Bush administration originally negotiated the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement before the Obama administration revised the pact. Bachmann was among the overwhelming majority of House Republicans who voted for the final version. Nearly 70 percent of congressional Democrats opposed the agreement because they fear it will cost American jobs.

Obama signed legislation implementing the pact in October. And it began to take effect in March. The trade agreement eliminates 95 percent of tariffs on industrial and consumer goods within five years, and most remaining tariffs within 10 years.

Bachmann makes her erroneous jobs prediction in a taxpayer-funded letter she mailed in May. She sent the letter under the “franking privilege,” which dates to 1775 and is designed to allow elected officials to mail official communications to constituents.

Bachmann’s office failed to return FactCheck’s phone calls and emails requesting comment on her jobs claim as well as verification of the letter’s authenticity. Steve Dutton, communications director for the House of Representatives’ Franking Commission, confirmed to us that Bachmann’s letter is an “official” piece of congressional mail.

The congresswoman’s jobs claim falls under the headline “Believing America Can Get Back To Work.”

Bachmann mailer: With more than 169,000 Minnesotans out of work, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann recognizes that finding a job remains the top issue for Minnesota families. Working in a bipartisan manner, Michele:

. . . Supported the South Korea Free Trade Agreement, which President Obama signed into law. According to the Trade Partnership, this agreement will create almost 1,000 jobs in the Sixth District and expand on the $544 million in trade between Minnesota and South Korea.

The Trade Partnership, which Bachmann cites in her mailer, is a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that provided data to the Business Roundtable for its report on trade with South Korea. The report states that 1,001 jobs in Bachmann’s congressional district outside the Twin Cities already exist because of merchandise exports to South Korea.

Bert Loudis, a research analyst with The Trade Partnership, wrote in an email to us that the information it provided to the Business Roundtable is not a jobs prediction.

The Business Roundtable supported the agreement and expects employment gains. But its report is not estimating how many jobs the pact will create in Bachmann’s district.

More Questionable Claims

Bachmann isn’t the only one to make a questionable jobs claim about this trade agreement. CRS finds fault with several jobs predictions — both positive and negative — that failed to fully consider the complexities of international trade.

  • The Obama administration claims the pact will “support” 70,000 jobs nationwide. CRS says the administration uses calculations the International Trade Administration — a Commerce Department bureau — warns against and says aren’t necessarily accurate. CRS, however, adds that “some could argue” Obama used caution by claiming the pact would “support” not create 70,000 jobs.
  • The pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce points to an estimate of a 280,000 jobs gain. But CRS says that estimate assumes that unemployment will continue to be unusually high.
  • The liberal Economic Policy Institute predicts a loss of 159,000 jobs. EPI uses data from trade deals with other countries to estimate the impact of the South Korean pact. But CRS says EPI fails to consider all of the economic differences between those countries and South Korea.

CRS says employment estimates “may serve poorly as an indicator of the total impact” of a trade agreement. Gaps in data can lower the accuracy of these projections. And these estimates depend heavily on assumptions about unknowable factors, such as the future rate of unemployment. Some reports ignore changes in exchange rates that can outweigh a trade agreement’s benefits. Other projections “neglect a broad range of benefits for the economy as a whole,” including those that favor consumers.

CRS says these types of job predictions “often tend to be highly subjective and can be misleading.”

Footnote: We learned of Bachmann’s mailer after a resident of her congressional district tweeted that he received her letter. We asked him to send it to us. We encourage readers to submit claims to the Spin Detectors website, through which we ask our readers to help us monitor political claims and campaigns across the country.

— Ben Finley