False Claims of Falsity About Vermont’s Business Climate

November 8, 2019

by Rob Roper

In a recent “fact check” piece by Vermont Digger, the online news site nailed Governor Scott’s comment that Energizer Battery’s decision to shut down its Bennington facility was related to Vermont’s inhospitable business climate as bury-the-needle “FALSE.” Scott’s actual statement in question is:

“This decision is an unfortunate example of why those of us in Montpelier need to work together to make Vermont a more affordable place to do business and make sure our policies help businesses thrive rather than creating unique burdens and barriers to growth that make us less competitive with other states.”

Someone needs to fact check Digger, so here goes…

First, Scott did not actually say that Energizer left because of the bad business climate. He said the loss of the company was a warning that lawmakers need to do a better job of keeping and attracting businesses. It’s a juxtaposition, not a “direct connection” as Digger claims.  It’s like when somebody dies prematurely and the eulogist says, “This is a reminder that life is fragile, and we all need to take better care of ourselves.” Just because everybody in the audience doesn’t suffer from the same condition as the deceased doesn’t mean the related observation isn’t accurate. The very premise of Digger’s “false” claim is false.

Digger says Scott’s claim, which he didn’t make, is false because there is no evidence that the company left because of Vermont’s bad business climate. Energizer has not outright stated that’s why they left and, “The company did not respond to questions from VTDigger about whether the state’s business climate contributed to its decision to leave the state.”

So, Digger has zero evidence that Vermont’s bad business climate wasn’t the reason Energizer left. It may very well be the reason the company left; Digger doesn’t know. This is exactly the same basis for Digger’s labeling Scott’s (non)statement as absolutely false – he had no evidence. Holding Digger to their own standard, their condemnation of falsity is equally false. A fair evaluation by the fact checker would be at best “inconclusive.”

But since Energizer announced its departure, Vermonters have learned that Global Foundries is laying off workers, as is Dealer.com, MyWebGrocer, and Social Sentinel (Seven Days, 11/6/19).  Like Energizer, the are consolidating their businesses elsewhere. Why is it we never hear of businesses closing factories or offices in other states and moving jobs to Vermont?

The Tax Foundation recently rated Vermont’s business climate as 44th in the nation, and CNBC rated us 40th. These ratings are not unique. Clearly, we have a problem. Scott was absolutely correct to point it out. Digger’s bending over backwards to discredit this reality is, our rating: Decidedly Odd.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Bohen November 8, 2019 at 8:19 pm

I have been very naive that “News in Pursuit of Truth” tagline meant that they would be unbiased. I was wrong and am learning that I need to take VT Digger’s news with suspicion. I expect unbiased and better reporting from a news organization.

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Robert November 9, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Digger is a far left propaganda peddler masquerading as journalism. They have no more interest in truth than the rest of the fake news. If you pay attention you will see that every story Digger publishes has more or less political slant, and always left.

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Bruce Shields November 10, 2019 at 1:07 pm

No large company ever “burns its bridges” by criticizing a government unit. Governments have very shifty ways of retaliating, and an international company like Energizer undoubtedly will still have a number of operations continuing in Vermont related to marketing and distribution. The operators of large corporations are not paid to stake out bold political positions. Smaller units like Hobby Lobby are willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and know that it is a perilous gamble. And State governments change. So Energizer will stick to anodyne explanations for terminating an operation. And the anodyne is true: they are exploring more profitable options.

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