People seeking an increase in the minimum wage massed in Milwaukee in August 2013. People seeking an increase in the minimum wage massed in Milwaukee in August 2013.

People seeking an increase in the minimum wage massed in Milwaukee in August 2013.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 3, 2014

From the minimum wage to $50 million a year, money dominated the PolitiFact Wisconsin stories that were the clickiest among our readers in January 2014.

Two stories that got the most page-views were about statements that earned a rating of Pants on Fire for being false and ridiculous.

Here are the High Five:

1. Scott Walker and minimum-wage jobs

In arguing against an increase in the minimum wage, Gov. Scott Walker said: "Jobs that involve the minimum wage are overwhelmingly jobs for young people starting out in the workforce."

We rated the claim False.

The best estimates are 24 percent to 55 percent of such jobs are held by teens and young adults. That’s a lot, and from a relatively small component of the overall hourly-wage workforce, but the governor’s use of "overwhelming" suggested a very large majority of those jobs are held by young people. They are not.

2. Ron Johnson and government fraud

Asked about Obamacare and the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., turned to his attention fraud in government assistance programs, stating: "The average rate of fraud" in the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps programs "is 20 to 25 percent."

That earned Johnson his first-ever Pants on Fire.

Improper payment rates are in the 20 to 25 percent range in the tax credit program -- but are 10 percent or less in the other three programs. So, even the average among the four programs would be far less than what Johnson claimed. More importantly, those are error rates; there are no figures on the rate of fraud, which is believed to be a small component of errors.

3. Mary Burke’s bike boast

Touting her business accomplishments, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has often said that when she ran the European unit of Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp., annual sales in the division leapt from $3 million to $50 million in three years.

We examined this claim in an article, rather than on the Truth-O-Meter, because only Trek, a Burke-family owned, private company, would know the numbers for sure. Both Trek and Burke, who is no longer with the company, refused to provide any documentation.

Experts agreed that American bike manufacturers enjoyed big sales growth in Europe because of the popularity of American-made mountain bikes there in the early 1990s. The experts said Burke was an active leader at Trek, but they disagreed on whether Trek’s European sales likely grew as quickly as she claimed.

4. Burke claiming Walker tax hike

Burke was given her first Pants on Fire for responding to Walker comments on taxes by saying the GOP governor had an income tax plan that "is a tax hike. It increases taxes for nearly 80 percent of the people in the state."

Walker wants to explore the possibility of eliminating the state income tax, which likely would trigger some increase in the state sales tax. But he has not advanced a plan to eliminate the income tax, nor to raise the sales tax by any particular amount.

5. Paul Ryan on military pensions

Defending a federal budget deal that reduces the size of future pension increases for younger military retirees, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said members of the military don’t "contribute toward their pension." The reference was clearly to paycheck contributions. Civilian federal employees contribute a portion of their pay toward their pensions, but members of the military don’t.

So, we rated his statement True.


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High Five: Money, money, money