A little-known fact about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “I’ll be back” line in his “Terminator” movie is that it just about didn’t happen because the famous Austrian-born actor-turned-governor-turned-actor-again had difficulty pronouncing “I’ll” properly.
Director James Cameron refused to grant Schwarzenegger’s request to change the phrase to the easier-to-pronounce “I will be back.” The American Film Institute marks the shorter “I’ll be back” as history’s 37th most memorable movie quotation.
Of course, the phrase probably would not have reached such notoriety had it also not had the credibility backed up by Schwarzenegger’s cyborg assassin character, who utters the now-famous line to the cop at the entrance-desk window of the police station where his target Sarah Conner is being housed. The credibility of his promise is greatly enhanced when he actually does return a few moments later – in the form of a car crashing through the doors right into that officer’s counter.
Gov. Steve Beshear in recent his State of the Commonwealth speech zealously declared: “Kentucky is back, and we’re back with a vengeance.”
His claim, however, lacks that needed credibility.
In key categories of employment, population and wage growth, the commonwealth is not “back with a vengeance.” It’s barely “back” to where it was when Beshear gave his first State of the Commonwealth address in January 2008:
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), total private-sector weekly earnings are up, on average, less than 1 percent annually since Beshear took office. That hardly offers an economic portrait entitled: “back with a vengeance.”
- While the governor touted the drop in unemployment in his speech, he said nothing about the drop in employment, which should be of great concern. An analysis of data from the BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that only 8,000 net jobs have been added during Beshear’s stint in office. (BLS and U.S. Census Data).
- The commonwealth’s manufacturing sector isn’t even “back” to where it was during Beshear’s first year in office. Instead, there was a net decline of 14,200 manufacturing employees between November 2008 and November 2014. At the same time, there was an increase of 16,900 government jobs during that same period (BLS).
“While the ship’s not sinking, “it’s not going anywhere fast, either; it’s limping into port,” said economist John Garen, Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics and chairman of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars. “While there are some growth areas in Kentucky, overall it doesn’t present the picture of a dynamic, robust, growing economy. We just barely made it back to where we were when the recession hit in 2008.”
“Back,” like “beauty,” may be somewhat in the beholder’s eye. What’s not up for grabs is the fact that wishing something was happening is not always an indication of reality.
No reasonable Kentuckian, for instance, wants to believe that our education system is not “back with a vengeance.” Thus, we heard Beshear’s enthusiastic claims that “student performance has improved tremendously” and “college and career readiness has skyrocketed.”
However, he used questionable Department of Education statistics to claim that the commonwealth’s college and career readiness rate jumped from 38 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2014.
The commonwealth’s own Office of Education Accountability (OEA) recently reported that problems with these statistics are so severe that they cannot be relied upon to evaluate programs or compare performance between school districts. In fact, the OEA warned the statistics were not even consistently reported between 2011 and 2014.
The only stable college-readiness statistics available for the period are from the ACT college entrance test, which shows only a minimal, 5 percent increase in readiness for college between 2011 and 2014. Among 2014 Kentucky grads scarcely more than one in three showed college readiness on the ACT.
“Back with a vengeance?” Hardly.