Harrell: Don’t let facts get in way of politics

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Here are a few things one typically likes to see in a House Speaker: Leadership, consensus building and the ability to disseminate accurate information.

South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell certainly came up short on the last item when he issued a press release last month titled “Hydrogen: Proving to be a Great Investment for SC.”

While the South Carolina Policy Council does a nice job here of picking apart the political half truths and outright misleading statements evident in Harrell’s release, there are also some curious mathematical miscues that left readers scratching their heads. Consider:

  • The release claimed that “Through direct state appropriations and support of the CoEE program, South Carolina has invested $12,292,911 in hydrogen over the past 5 years.  And by conservative estimates, this has spurred well over $115 million in non-state investments.  That means our state is leveraging its hydrogen investment dollars at a rate of more than 10 to 1.”

Actually, even if the $115 million figure were correct, which seems highly unlikely, that’s a match of less than 10-to-1. There would have to be at least $122.9 million in non-state investments to equal a 10-to-1 match, never mind exceed it.

  • “Since 2003, the number of unemployed people in our state has increased by more than 100%.  This has taken our state from once having the 3rd best unemployment rate in the nation to now having the 3rd worst.”

Actually, since 2003, our unemployment has moved from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent, which is about a 92 percent increase. High, yes, but not more than 100 percent. This, of course, is Harrell’s slam at Gov. Mark Sanford, who took office in 2003. Interestingly, the unemployment rate was the same when Harrell took over as House Speaker in June 2005 as when Sanford became governor. And, for the record, the last time South Carolina had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country was in 1998, so that hardly seems applicable in this comparison.

  • “The public/private investment in hydrogen has created 229 jobs in South Carolina.  With 65% of those jobs being created in the last 5 years, this is proving to be a growing industry.”

While technically this counts as growth, consider that 65 percent of 229 is less than 150. That means over the past five years, fewer than 30 jobs annually have been created from the tens of millions in tax dollars that have been invested in hydrogen. To tout that as a growing industry is akin to calling someone the prettiest girl in a leper colony. Not exactly something to write home about.

Here’s a bit of advice for the speaker now that the session’s over: hire yourself somebody with some analytical skills and a calculator and have them give your work product a thorough review before it goes out. It’ll likely save you a little embarrassment.

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