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Study Shows Regulations Account for 0.2% of All Layoffs

The new new thing in journalism is a little thing called fact-checking. I know, it’s very novel. What happens is that claims are actually tested and subjected to a rigorous analysis. We’re still one step away from the test happening BEFORE the alleged facts get into stories; usually the “fact check” article is separate from the he said/she said article. But the discriminating reader can actually determine the truth from the lies after several years of reading.

So one of these fact-checks has gone ahead and debunked one of the two central themes of Republican job creation plans, that simply deregulating industry will bring about a job boom. Turns out that regulations aren’t responsible for jobs:

THE FACTS: Labor Department data show that only a tiny percentage of companies that experience large layoffs cite government regulation as the reason. Since Barack Obama took office, just two-tenths of 1 percent of layoffs have been due to government regulation, the data show.

Businesses frequently complain about regulation, but there is little evidence that it is any worse now than in the past or that it is costing significant numbers of jobs. Most economists believe there is a simpler explanation: Companies aren’t hiring because there isn’t enough consumer demand.

The story about this week’s Republican debate, of course, didn’t have a line like “the candidates agreed that new regulations were destroying the economy, even though there’s no evidence for the claim.” No, that’s the job of the independent fact check article.

Maybe next week they’ll get to the business about low taxes.

In all seriousness, the fact check article encourages a cop-out. It allows the beat writer of the original article to mindlessly transcribe whatever a politician says, while assuming that someone, somewhere will evaluate the claims. But the first thing people read is the claim itself. That’s what flatters people with their pre-conceived notions. They don’t call it pandering for nothing. So the independent fact check article after the fact does little to change minds; in fact, a recent study showed that, when confronted with facts contradictory to beliefs, people often hold those beliefs even more strongly. I would argue that at least part of that is that the facts aren’t immediately challenged up-front. They are given the benefit of the doubt, before being evaluated later. You can avoid the fact check article; you can focus on the unchallenged claim in a debate. “If it wasn’t true, why didn’t anyone say anything about it?” That’s the problem.

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David Dayen

David Dayen