Politicians end up on the right side of the Truth-O-Meter for the week

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Truth-O-Meter rulings

The goal of the Truth-O-Meter is to reflect the relative accuracy of a statement.

The meter has six ratings, in decreasing level of truthfulness:

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

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How does PolitiFact Georgia’s Truth-O-Meter work?

Our goal is to help you find the truth in politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

To fact-check a claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take hours or a few days or even longer, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.

The fact check then moves on to a panel of veteran editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.

How about a little good news for a change? PolitiFact Georgia scribes found politicians and pundits sticking largely to the facts last week.

We fact-checked claims made on topics from the state’s rainy day fund to the likelihood of job access via mass transit in metro Atlanta. Gov. Nathan Deal received a top rating on the AJC Truth-O-Meter for his claim that the rainy day fund has grown by more than 600 percent since he took office. A True rating also went to MARTA’s Keith Parker who said that only “18 percent of jobs are accessible by transit for metro Atlanta residents. 33 percent for those living in the city.”

Jobs were the focus of two other fact-checks. We looked at what’s happened to Democrats, not just in Congress, but in state legislatures across the country. We also checked into the 800 jobs being promised with the move of the Mercedes USA headquarters to metro Atlanta.

Abbreviated versions of this week’s fact checks are below. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com/georgia/.

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Cokie Roberts on Sunday, January 25th, 2015 in comments on ABC’s “This Week”:

Democrats have “lost more than 900 state legislators” since Barack Obama has been president.

If President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for middle-class tax cuts and programs won’t go anywhere in the new Republican Congress, why did Obama even spend time discussing it during last week’s State of the Union?

“Because it’s something for people to run on,” said Cokie Roberts during a Sunday pundit analysis on ABC’s This Week.

“He’s lost almost 70 Democrats since he’s been president,” Roberts said of Congress, “and more than 900 state legislators. So he needs to give Democrats something to run on.”

We had heard iterations of Democratic losses on the congressional level, but never such a large number of losses for Democrats in legislatures..

But it turns out, Roberts is correct.

Our analysis shows Democrats have lost 910 seats since Obama took office, including 20 in Georgia, falling from 97 in 2009 to 77 in 2014.

The bottom line: Republicans now control about 56 percent of the country’s 7,383 state.

We rated Roberts’ claim True.

Nathan Deal on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 in a press release:

Mercedes-Benz USA moving its headquarters to Atlanta will create at least 800 jobs.

Mercedes-Benz USA announced it was moving its headquarters to metro Atlanta.

Newly re-elected Gov. Nathan Deal says the move of Mercedes-Benz USA’s corporate headquarters to the Atlanta area is “creating at least 800 jobs.”

Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon has told several media outlets that the firm expects about 40 percent of its workers to relocate to Atlanta. Using the 800 figure, that means 320 people will move and the firm will need to hire for 480 jobs.

So does that translate into “creating” 800 jobs?

Absolutely, said state Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr.

After all, once the auto company sets up shop here this summer, there will be at least 800 jobs that today don’t exist.

“This puts Georgia high on the radar for the automotive industry and also for German companies,” Carr said.

To an economist, the claim is accurate-ish.

Once Mercedes moves here, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics will show it as 800 jobs in Georgia. Those jobs will do the things economists study, like boost demand for housing and increase tax collections on the state and local level, said Bruce Seaman, an economics professor at Georgia State University.

That said, it’s incorrect to imply the move means 800 jobs for current Georgians, Seaman said.

“We should be happy, not euphoric. We could be euphoric if this was creating 800 opportunities for existing Georgians,” he said.

The bottom line is, claiming Mercedes’ move will create 800 jobs is generally correct but lacking in context.

If you’re an unemployed Georgian today, you likely have a shot at 480 Mercedes job openings, not 800. But there should still be 800 jobs, once it’s all said and done. And that alone could spur more work.

We rated the claim by Deal Mostly True.

Nathan Deal on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 in State of the State address:

Since Gov. Nathan Deal office in 2011, the state’s rainy day fund has grown by 643 percent.

In his annual State of the State address,Gov. Nathan Deal said the state’s rainy day fund has increased 643 percent since he took office.

The fund had $1.5 billion, or enough money to operate the state for 30 days, on July 1, 2007. But when the Great Recession hit, hurting Georgia harder than many states, the rainy day fund was drawn down to balance the 2008, 2009 and 2010 state budgets. The state’s reserves had dwindled to $104 million by the end of the 2009 fiscal year and to $116,021,961 before Deal took office in 2011.

it reached $377,971,440 by June 30, 2012 and $862,835,447 by June 30, 2014, the end of the last fiscal year. Deal told lawmakers in his State of the State this month that conservative budgeting had paid off and helped replenish the rainy day fund.

We rated Deal’s statement — that the rainy day fund had increased 643 percent — True.

Keith Parker on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 in a Twitter post:

Only “18 percent of jobs are accessible by transit for metro Atlanta residents. 33 percent for those living in the city.”

MARTA General Manager Keith Parker had a topical Tweet as lawmakers debate what do about the state’s transportation challenges: “18 percent of jobs are accessible by transit for metro Atlanta residents, 33 percent for those living in the city.”

Parker posted the figures as he live-Tweeted presentations at a forum sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission and St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Author Rebecca Burns was the keynote at the Building Opportunity event focused on poverty and transportation. She cited The Brookings Institution for those statistics.

A 2011 report, “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America,” found that the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area was among the worst in the nation for residents trying to reach work via transit.

The study, the most recent available, found that 33 percent of the Atlanta region’s jobs are accessible for city residents by public transportation and just 17 percent for suburbanites.

Atlanta ranked 91st out of the 100 largest metro areas studied.

We rated Parker’s claim True.