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Fact-check: Was Joe Manchin Right About the Scale of Shutdown’s Impact in WV?

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.Photo: Jesse Wright, West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

As the partial government shutdown was underway in January, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., tweeted about his distaste for the closure.

In the tweet sent on Jan. 2, 2019, Manchin wrote, “I have always said we should never shutdown the government and governing this way is embarrassing for both Democrats and Republicans. This partial government shutdown effects every American, including the 18,000 federal employees in West Virginia.”

“I have always said we should never shutdown the government and governing this way is embarrassing for both Democrats and Republicans. This partial government shutdown effects every American, including the 18,000 federal employees in West Virginia.” MORE: https://t.co/BKrpwdWJa9 — Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 2, 2019

The tweet linked to a more detailed statement by the senator that listed some of the federal agencies that have workers in West Virginia.

We decided to take a closer look at whether Manchin was right that the partial government shutdown affected “18,000 federal employees in West Virginia.”How many federal workers in West Virginia?

How many federal workers are there in West Virginia? It turns out that Manchin’s number is in the ballpark.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management — the federal government’s human resources department — shows that as of September 2017, West Virginia had a total of 18,656 federal workers.What happened during the shutdown?

Determining the accuracy of Manchin’s tweet requires a look at some background on the shutdown.

The shutdown stemmed largely from disagreement between President Donald Trump and the Democratic-controlled House over whether to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and, if so, how much money should be allocated for it.

It was a partial rather than a full shutdown because only some federal agencies had to close because their funding bills expired.

The departments affected by the partial shutdown due to their funding bills expiring were Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice, parts of Interior (such as the Bureau of Reclamation), State, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury and NASA.

A range of independent agencies were also shuttered, including the U.S. Trade Representative, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Smithsonian Institution.

At the same time, other departments had valid spending bills in place, so they operated as normal. They included Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, Veterans Affairs and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The shuttered federal departments and agencies employed more than 800,000 people, or roughly 40 percent of the federal workforce. These 800,000 employees fell into two categories. About 380,000 were furloughed, meaning they could come to work and were not being paid. Another 420,000 weren’t being paid, but were required to remain on the job.

This distinction is relevant for analyzing the text of Manchin’s tweet, because it means that 60 percent of federal workers whose agencies were running as normal were on the job and were paid on time.

This means that not every West Virginia federal worker was directly affected by the shutdown, either by being furloughed or by being required to work without being paid.

The workers who remained on the job and received their paychecks may have been affected by the shutdown by virtue of being ordinary Americans who lacked access to certain shuttered federal services. But they were not specifically affected because of their own federal job.

And Manchin was correct in his detailed statement when he cited a range of departments and agencies that were left without valid funding bills. They included the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, and the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory.Our ruling

Manchin tweeted that the partial government shutdown in early 2019 affected “18,000 federal employees in West Virginia.”

Manchin is close on the number of federal workers in the state. However, it’s important to note that not all of those federal workers in West Virginia were either furloughed or required to work without pay; those employed by agencies with valid spending bills were working and getting paid as normal. We rate the statement Mostly True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

Fact Check

Fact-check: Did Donald Trump win West Virginia by 42 points in 2016?

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Coal miners wave signs during a 2016 rally for Donald Trump in Charleston, West Virginia. Photo: AP/Steve Helber

At a rally in neighboring southwestern Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump trumpeted his wide 2016 presidential election victory in West Virginia.

“I won that one by 42 points — 42 points — West Virginia,” Trump said during his Aug. 13 speech in Monaca, Pennsylvania. 

That would be a big win. Was his victory in the Mountaineer State that large? 

The Trump campaign pointed us to the official results on the website of the West Virginia Secretary of State, which showed that Trump won West Virginia with 68.63 percent, outpacing his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, with 26.48 percent. The difference is 42.15 percentage points — right in tune with what Trump said.

West Virginia accounted for Trump’s second-widest margin of victory of any state, following Wyoming at 46.29 percent.

The 2016 results were also the latest sign of the widening of the gap between Republicans and Democrats in West Virginia, a state where Democrats were once dominant.

The following chart shows how Democratic margins of victory in the presidential race shrank between 1992 and 1996, then produced increasingly large Republican margins of victory.

As the Pew Research Center has noted, this pattern has coincided with the increasing alignment of national partisan politics on certain demographic factors, notably race, educational attainment and population density.

Geographical areas that are less racially diverse, less college-educated and more rural have swung hard to the Republican Party in recent years, especially in federal-level elections. When Governing magazine recently analyzed all 50 states on these three demographic factors, it found that West Virginia had the strongest Republican-aligned demographics of any state.

Our ruling

Trump said that in the 2016 presidential election in West Virginia, he won by 42 points. He’s correct; in fact, it was his second-widest margin in any state, trailing only Wyoming. We rate the statement True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Does the United States Rank First in the World in Oil Consumption?

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This June 26, 2019, file photo shows a gasoline pump at a refueling station in Pittsboro, N.C. On Tuesday, Aug. 13, the Labor Department reports on U.S. consumer prices for July. Photo: Gerry Broome/AP Photo, File

Richard Ojeda, a former West Virginia state senator who briefly sought the Democratic nomination for president, used Twitter to share several areas in which he said the United States leads the world– but not in a good way.

On Aug. 25, Ojeda tweeted, “If this is your measurement for claiming we are the best you really need to know that being #1 in something isn’t always a good thing.”

The attached graphic listed a graphic with the following “#1” rankings:

#1 in student loan debt

#1 in drug prices

#1 in mass shootings

#1 in war spending

#1 in prison population

#1 in gun deaths

#1 in climate denial

#1 in oil consumption

Here, we’ll fact-check whether the United States is “#1 in oil consumption” in the world since international comparisons of data on oil use are more consistent than for many of the other comparisons Ojeda made.

Ojeda told PolitiFact West Virginia that he found his information through Wikipedia. We turned to original sources.

Measured by total oil consumption, the United States does rank first in the world, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, a comprehensive review of data on global energy.

In 2018, the United States consumed 20,456,000 barrels a day — far beyond the second-place nation, China, with 13,525,000 barrels a day.

However, it’s worth noting that using the overall consumption figure is an imperfect method for measuring global oil consumption

Oil consumption “is related to two factors — high consumption and population size,” said Anna Mikulska, a nonresident fellow at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. 

Because larger countries will usually have larger totals than smaller countries, it’s also important to look at per capita consumption — consumption divided by population.

By this measure, the United States is near the top, but it isn’t quite No. 1.

According to calculations by Eni, an Italian oil company, the United States ranked third internationally in per capita oil consumption. Saudi Arabia ranked first with 34.91 barrels a year, followed by Canada with 24.16 barrels and the United States with 23.12 barrels.

Our ruling

Ojeda said the United States is “#1 in oil consumption” in the world. That’s correct for total consumption, but that’s partly because of the United States’ large population. On a per-capita basis, the United States ranks third behind Saudi Arabia and Canada.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-checking Jim Justice’s Boast About W.Va. Highway Rankings

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U.S. Route 19 in West Virginia Photo: Wikimedia commons

Facing a competitive reelection bid in 2020, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice sought to tout his record on improving the state’s highways.

“Our WV highways rank 16th in the country in a national survey of highway systems, up 20 spots from last year’s ranking!” Justice tweeted Aug. 22. “This ranking affirms all the hard work we’ve done, and that we continue to do, fixing our state’s roads.”

Let’s take a closer look at the source of his assertion. (Justice’s office did not respond to inquiries for this article.)

Justice’s tweet linked to a news release from the governor’s office that cited the source of the rankings as the Reason Foundation’s 24th annual highway report. The Reason Foundation has a libertarian perspective, including individual liberty and free markets, the foundation’s website says.

The annual highway study uses spending and performance data that state agencies send to the federal government. To do this, it ranks the 50 states in 13 categories, such as highway expenditures per mile, pavement conditions, congestion, bridge conditions and fatality rates.

Looking at the overall state figures, West Virginia does rank 16th in the country, a rise of 20 notches from 36th in the previous year’s survey

Compared to its neighbors, the report finds West Virginia slightly ahead of Ohio (18th) and Maryland (39th) in overall ranking but behind Virginia (2nd). West Virginia is doing worse than some regionally comparable states like Kentucky (5th) but better than others such as Indiana (33rd).

The top overall state was North Dakota, and the worst was New Jersey. Read the full list here

Some caveats

It should be noted that West Virginia’s 16th-place overall ranking obscures some aspects of the report that paint a less rosy picture of the state’s highways.

For starters, the bulk of the highway data in the most recent report covers 2016, which is before Justice took office. Only two categories out of 13 use 2017 data, when he had begun his first term.

So while this report represents a positive development for West Virginia, it doesn’t fully reflect Justice’s own policies, as he implied when he referred to “all the hard work we’ve done.”

In addition, a technical change in the report’s methodology played a role in West Virginia’s increase. According to the report’s summary of the state’s rankings, West Virginia “benefited from the report no longer measuring narrow rural arterial lanes,” a category where the state ranked 50th last year.

Finally, looking only at the overall ranking, as Justice does, obscures some relatively weak ratings for West Virginia on key sub-categories.

Notably, the state ranks 36th in its overall fatality rate, 48th in structurally deficient bridges, 20th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 21st in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

The state scored better on cost measures, ranking second in total spending per mile and third in capital and bridge costs per mile. 

“To improve in the rankings, West Virginia needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges and its rural arterial pavement condition,” Feigenbaum told PolitiFact West Virginia. “The state is in the bottom five for structurally deficient bridges and the bottom 15 for rural arterial pavement condition in the country.”

Our ruling

Justice tweeted, “Our WV highways rank 16th in the country in a national survey of highway systems, up 20 spots from last year’s ranking! This ranking affirms all the hard work we’ve done, and that we continue to do, fixing our state’s roads.”

Justice has a point about the overall number, but his celebratory tone is somewhat exaggerated. Most of the data reflects a period before he became governor, and a major reason for the increase came from the elimination of a category from the previous year’s report in which West Virginia ranked 50th nationally. 

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rate it Half True.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact.

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