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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Florida On Low Wages; High Clinton Worth

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U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

Does Florida really offer wages way below the national average? And are the Clintons really worth $100 million? We take a look at these claims with PolitiFact Florida's Josh Gillin.

Congresswoman Gwen Graham of North Florida is being touted as a possible successor to Rick Scott once he leaves the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. So it came as little surprise when the Democrat took aim at Republican Scott during her recent speech at the Democratic convention. There, she said Scott has stunted Florida's economy by keeping it a low-wage state.

"After six years, we're now the third-most-populous state, but we rank 38th in wages," she told the crowd in Philadelphia. "Scott's actually proud of how low they are. He goes out around the country and advertises that to other states."

Are we really 38th in wages? Here's what PolitiFact Florida has to say:

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Let’s start with that number 38. Graham’s office told us was from Census data from the 2011 American Community Survey ranking median household income. The first thing to know about that is the figure is out of date. The latest data from the 2014 survey show Florida has actually regressed to 40th. The second thing to know is that median household income, economists told us, isn’t the same as wages. Wages are a stand-in term for what we’d consider a rate of payment for a unit of time, usually measured in hours.  Income can include things like social security, capital gains, rent, dividends and interest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics records wage estimates based on several different occupations. The state’s median and mean hourly wages for all occupations clocks in at $15.29 and $20.60, respectively, trailing the national median and mean of $17.40 and $23.23. Moody’s senior economist Chris Lafakis used the agency’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, and said Florida ranks 30th by that measure. A big reason for that is because Florida’s tourism-based economy is filled with low-skilled jobs that just don’t pay all that well. Meanwhile, the cost of living here is marginally lower than the national average, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Taxes, not wages Scott’s refrain for the past six years has been about creating jobs as the state recovered from recession. One of Scott’s methods has been to try to steal jobs from other states (and not necessarily very high-paying ones). Florida also is not the only state faced with lackluster wage growth. Tina Sinclair, an economist at George Washington University, said trying to increase purchasing power is a global problem. She cited an Indeed Hiring Lab report that said real wage growth is lagging overall. "Only 16 percent of jobs today are both high-paying and saw wage growth at least matching inflation over the past 10 years," she said. Our ruling Graham said, "We rank 38th in wages. ... (Rick Scott) goes out around the country and advertises that to other states." There are issues with the figure she used, which is both outdated and an improper reading of how wages are calculated. But while there’s no question Florida’s wages are low by national standards, it doesn’t appear Scott has boasted (at least publicly) about this fact while recruiting businesses from other states. The closest example is Enterprise Florida’s California radio ad, which focused on the Golden State’s lower jobs forecast after boosting the minimum wage. While clearly opposing the $15 minimum wage, the ad focused on lower taxes and less regulation, not Florida’s minimum wage. We rate Graham’s statement Half True.

Sticking to Governor Scott, he's now heading up a super political action committee on behalf of Donald Trump, called Rebuilding America Now. They unleashed an ad with this claim:

"A foundation was created, and money started to roll. Speeches, connections and donations. Misogynistic regimes, Wall Street insiders, corrupt dictators. They all had one thing in common: Their check cleared. The Clintons are now worth in excess of $100 million."

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Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

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We reached out to the super PAC, through its website and with an email to one of the Republican strategists behind it, to get its sources and did not hear back. The ad itself points to something published in Fortune on Feb. 2, 2015. We couldn’t find a matching article.
We did find a later article from September 2015 in Fortune that estimated Hillary Clinton’s net worth at about $30 million. In October 2015, Forbes wrote, "After layering years of disclosures on top of annual tax returns, Forbes estimates their combined net worth at $45 million." The most current estimate comes from Hillary Clinton’s federal financial disclosure filing, something she had to provide as a presidential candidate. That form states explicitly that the assets of both the candidate and his or her spouse must be included. The values are reported in ranges. On the low end, the Clintons reported assets of $11.3 million. On the high end, they might have as much as $52.7 million. The couple listed no liabilities. Kathleen Clark, a specialist in government ethics law at Washington University in St. Louis, said the only significant item those forms don’t include is real estate. "You don’t need to report the value of the home you live in," Clark said. "And that goes for a second home, too. So long as you don’t rent it out for income." The Clinton’s own two homes, one in New York and one in Washington, D.C. Together they are worth about $9 million. When we add it up, the highest amount we could find is about $62 million. The Clintons have done very well. Between multi-million dollar book contracts and speaking fees of $225,000 or more, they have earned an estimated $230 million in the 15 years since they left the White House. But income is not wealth. As high as those earnings are, that still doesn’t bring them close to the $100 million mark, much less take them beyond it. We found several articles that said Bill Clinton has a net worth of $80 million, but none said how they got that number. By law, his assets must also be disclosed on his wife’s federal filing. There is no evidence that money given to the Clinton Foundation has made its way into the Clintons’ pockets. The Clintons have become wealthy since its creation, but the ad hints darkly at shady dealings without proof. The statement twists a grain of truth to paint a misleading picture. We rate this statement Mostly False.