Attack ads abound in the lively race between Republican Sharron Angle and Majority Leader Harry Reid for Nevada’s senate seat. Despite Reid’s barrage of heavily-funded attack ads this summer, Angle has held her own in the polls and managed to put out a few zingers herself.
Her latest ad responded to Reid’s claims that "No One Can Do More" for Nevada. Speaking on camera to a group of elderly supporters, Angle asserted, "Harry Reid says he does more for Nevada. He's done more for unemployment. We were at 4.4 percent. Now we're at 14 percent. He's done more for the foreclosure rate. We have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. He's done more for bankruptcy. We have the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation. Harry Reid has done more, and it’s time for us to say stop doing it. We can’t stand any more."
We wondered just how bad things had gotten in the Silver State, so we decided to check the facts.
Easiest to check was Angle’s claim that Nevada has the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation. Unfortunately for the state, at a per capita bankruptcy rate of 11.7 percent, Nevada is at the top of the charts, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Angle was also correct that Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. One Nevadan out of 23 was in foreclosure this year -- a rate of 4.34 percent. Nationally, only 2.7 percent of homeowners were in foreclosure, according to data from RealtyTrac, which monitors foreclosure filings across the nation. The agency did note, however, that Nevada’s filings for the first six months of 2010 decreased by 13 percent compared with the last six months of 2009.
Angle was correct that Nevada’s unemployment rate for May 2010 was 14 percent, it’s unclear what time period she’s referring to when she said "We were at 4.4 percent." We did a little digging, and discovered she was referring to January 2007, when Reid became the Senate Majority Leader, and that was, indeed, the unemployment rate. But if she was trying to talk about the effect Reid himself had on Nevada’s unemployment rate, it might have been more accurate to compare today’s unemployment rates with those of 1987 -- when Reid first took office and the rate was 6.1. Instead, she chose to compare one of the lowest unemployment rates during Reid’s tenure to the highest.
Although her numbers are on-target, they don’t tell the whole story. For one thing, the state’s foreclosure and bankruptcy rates are beginning to improve. Many experts attribute Nevada’s high unemployment rate to the recession -- not to Reid, since the state’s largest industries have been hurt nationwide by the economic downturn.
"Nevada has been hit extremely hard as the recession has spread throughout the economy...Clearly, with its historical reliance on gaming and construction as engines of growth, Nevada has been at the epicenter of the current economic downturn, as these two sectors have each felt the brunt of negative economic forces," said a Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation press release.
In any case, it’s up to voters to determine how much impact any one Senator has had on his state’s bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployment rates -- even if that Senator is the Majority Leader.
Angle has quoted her figures correctly, but there’s more to the story than her ad implies. She cherry-picked numbers for one claim, comparing past unemployment rates in Nevada to the current rate. And she forcefully attributes Nevada’s woes to Reid -- while his responsibility is unclear at best. We’ll rate this one Half True.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, accessed July 30, 2010
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Bankruptcy Filings Per Thousand Population, March 31, 2010
RealtyTrac, Foreclosure Rate Lookup Chart, 2009
U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Statistical Abstract: State Rankings Resident Population, 2009
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada bankruptcy filings down slightly in May, June 29, 2010
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, June 18, 2010
Politico, Mason-Dixon: Reid by one, July 30, 2010
Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation, May 2010 Economic Overview, May 2010
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