Category Archives: Finance

Minimum Wage Fight – Historically, $9 an Hour is Higher than Average but Hardly Unprecedented

by Categorized: Business, Data, Finance, Politics, Poverty Date:

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to increase the minimum wage in Connecticut to $9 an hour over the next two years predictably has brought strong reactions from those who find it a boost for the working poor that will energize retail sales and those who see it as a jobs killer that will hurt small businesses.

But how does that $9 figure compare historically over the 62 years the legislature has been setting the minimum wage in Connecticut? Higher than average, but hardly unprecedented.

As the chart below shows, Connecticut’s minimum wage, in inflation-adjusted dollars, topped the equivalent of $9 an hour for most of the 1960s and ’70s, reaching a peak of $10.63 in 1971. But for the past 34 years, the minimum wage has been set below the equivalent of $9.

Both Malloy’s proposal, and the current minimum wage, are far more than the buying power set by the first legislatively established minimum wage in 1951, when the statutory 75-cent wage was the equivalent of $6.71 an hour in today’s dollars. Inflation ate away at that value until the legislature raised the minimum wage in 1957, and since then, the wage has fallen below the equivalent of $6.71 an hour only once – in 1995.

When the legislature has boosted the minimum wage – as they have done more than two dozen times since 1951- the new rate on average has been the equivalent of $8.78 an hour. Malloy’s proposal exceeds that by 22 cents, or about $450 a year for a full-time worker.


Don’t Get Too Excited About Falling Gas Prices

by Categorized: Data, Finance Date:

Gas prices in the Hartford area have dropped a nickel in the last week and more than a dime in the last month, giving motorists filling up with regular unleaded some comfortable distance from the sticker-shocking $4 levels of just a couple months ago.

Cause for rejoicing, right? Well, maybe not so fast.

Any drop in gas prices is welcome, but comparing today’s cost only against the super-inflated prices of the recent past can lead to a false sense of economy. Gas prices today are lower than they generally have been for the last year and a half, but as the graphs below show,  the current “low” price is historically very high.

In New England over the past 14 years, only two brief earlier periods have seen prices as high as they are today on an inflation-adjusted basis, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And the national graph – with prices for a gallon of regular unleaded going back to the mid-1970s – shows current prices are nearly as high as they were, adjusted for inflation, during the gas shortages of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Every penny counts, of course, but it may be premature to start planning that blow-out cross-country trip just yet.


Claim Check: Did Sales Really “Soar” over Black Friday?

by Categorized: Claim Check, Consumer Affairs, Data, Finance, Media Date:

“Black Friday weekend sales soar 13 percent to $59B” – Boston Herald

During election season, that Claim Check logo up above usually indicated another politician flooding the airwaves with another questionable ad. But with the votes tallied, we return to using Claim Check to analyze – and occasionally debunk – claims found in the media, in scientific studies and in the wilds of the Web.

Today, we’re piggy-backing on excellent work done by Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ, who writes the popular financial blog, “The Big Picture.” For years, Ritholtz has pleaded with the media to report skeptically on Black Friday sales projections made by the National Retail Federation. He’s made inroads, but plenty of work remains.

The Boston Herald headline above is representative of stories that appeared in hundreds of media outlets. But don’t believe it. Continue reading

Claim Check: Pre-Election Roundup of Ads in Connecticut’s Senate Race

by Categorized: Claim Check, Ethics, Finance, Health, Media, Politics Date:

During the budget battles in Washington in the spring of 2011, a liberal group produced an ad featuring an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed through a park by a man in a suit and tie, while America the Beautiful plays in the background and words on the screen tout the Medicare program. But the placid scene takes a decidedly sinister turn, as the on-screen narration states that “Republicans now want to privatize Medicare.” Suddenly, the man in the suit veers off the path, wheels the distressed woman toward a rocky overlook, and dumps her off a cliff.

OK, so perhaps nothing in Connecticut this political season went that completely over the edge. But in the bruising Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon, there were certainly moments when honesty and accuracy went on holiday as the candidates scraped for every vote. With the election a few days away, here’s a recap of some of the claims made during the race. Continue reading

The Multi-Million-Dollar Battle for Connecticut’s Fifth District

by Categorized: Data, Finance, Politics, Transparency/FOI Date:

With an open Congressional seat on the line, spending in Connecticut’s contentious Fifth District race has nearly topped $4 million, with both sides flooding the airwaves with campaign ads, new records show.

Democrat Elizabeth Esty has spent more than twice as much on the race as Republican Andrew Roraback, although, as my colleague Amanda Falcone reports, Roraback doled out more cash in the latest reporting period, covering the first half of October. Roraback also had slightly more cash on hand as of the middle of the month.

The chart below gives a summary of donations and loans to each campaign, as well as how much cash each candidate has spent and how much each still has in the bank. These figures are as of October 17, the closing date for the most recent filing.

Click either of the photographs below the chart for searchable and sortable databases of donations to that candidate, including all PAC contributions and all individual contributions from people who have given at least $200. And if you find something interesting in the data, drop us an email at


Click the photos below to see individual and PAC donations to each candidate

In Blue Connecticut, Plenty of Green for Both Presidential Candidates

by Categorized: Data, Finance, Politics Date:

Barack Obama has received donations from twice as many Connecticut residents as Mitt Romney, but Romney’s supporters have reached significantly deeper into their wallets, giving him a nearly $1 million edge in the state, campaign finance reports show.

Obama’s more than 6,700 contributors gave an average of just under $500 to the president, according to Federal Election Commission records. Romney has received donations from about 3,200 state residents, but with an average contribution of more than $1,300. In total, the campaigns have received more than $7.6 million from state residents – not including money given to PACs or other politically active organizations.

Romney’s advantage in fundraising has been fueled by exceptionally large donations from lower Fairfield County. Contributors in Greenwich alone kicked in nearly $1.6 million, accounting for more than a third of Romney’s donations statewide. New Canaan residents added more than $500,000 to that amount.

Obama’s donations have been more broad-based – he tops Romney in fundraising in about 80 percent of the zip codes in Connecticut – but no part of the state has provided the magnitude of financial support to Obama that Romney has seen.  As with Romney, Greenwich has delivered more money to Obama than any other town in the state (and accounts for a quarter of all presidential donations from Connecticut). But Obama’s take there was a little more than $300,000 – about $1.25 million less than Romney. In fact, take Greenwich out of the equation, and Obama would have exceeded Romney’s statewide fundraising.

Below is a zip code map showing contributions to the two campaigns from Connecticut residents, shaded from blue to red to indicate the percentage of that town’s donations that went to Obama or Romney, respectively. Zip codes with no color indicate that no donations were reported from those areas.

Click on any part of the map to show the zip code, the community associated with that zip code, and the amount of donations reported from that area. And for a larger map, click here.

Voters Are In the Fifth District, But the Money’s from All Over the Country

by Categorized: Data, Finance, Politics, Transparency/FOI Date:

Democrat Elizabeth Esty and Republican Andrew Roraback are in a tough fight to represent the 1,282 square miles of Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. But the money fueling that fight is coming from every corner of the country, from Palmetto Bay, Fla., to Eastsound, Wash., to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Only about a third of the nearly $3 million donated by individuals has come from residents inside the district – to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands streaming in from political parties, PACs and other national organizations. Roraback’s money is more home-grown than Esty’s; the exact breakdown is hard to determine, as hometowns are not reported for small contributors, but an estimated half of his individual contributions are from inside the district, compared to about a quarter of hers.

Esty’s contributions from beyond the Fifth come in part from individual donations collected and distributed through outside groups, such as Emily’s List, which act as conduits for donations to candidates across the country.

The map below shows the breadth of individual contributions to the candidates, coming from 46 of the 50 states, with sizable clusters around Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, southern California, and the east and west coasts of southern Florida. You can move and zoom in on the map below; for a larger map, click here.

Each dot on the map represents a town from which at least one of the candidate received a donation. The dots are color-coded to indicate the relative value of donations to the two candidates. Dark blue dots indicate towns from which only Esty received an individual donation and dark red dots indicate towns from which only Roraback received money. Lighter blue and lighter red dots represent towns in which both candidates received donations – light blue for towns where Esty received more money than Roraback, and light red where Roraback received more. For the handful of towns in which the candidates received the same amount, the marker is grey. Clicking on the dots will show the name of the town and the amount of contributions made by residents there.

Be aware that the map includes donations only from individuals who have given at least $200 to a candidate.  Smaller donations are typically reported as a lump sum, without the location of the contributors identified.

To dig deeper into campaign finances in the Fifth, click here for a chart comparing money raised and money spent by the candidates, as well as links to lists of every donation made to the campaigns.

$3.8 Million and Counting in Fifth District Congressional Race

by Categorized: Data, Finance, Politics, Transparency/FOI Date:

Congressional candidates submitted their latest campaign finance reports tonight, and in the hotly contested Fifth District, Democrat Elizabeth Esty has  raised twice as much – and spent three times as much – as her Republican opponent, Andrew Roraback.

But with the election just a few weeks away, Roraback has a slight edge in cash, with a little more than $300,000 in the war chest, while Esty lags about $25,000 behind.

In addition to nearly $2 million in individual contributions, Esty has chipped in more than half a million dollars of her own money. And Roraback has now dipped into his own till as well, reporting a far more modest $25,000 personal loan.

After winning their respective primaries, both candidates saw a huge jump in contributions from PACs, national political parties and other organizations, with each reporting more than $125,000 in new donations from such groups.

On the spending side, Esty has written more than $1 million in checks since July 26 – far outpacing Roraback’s $387,000 during the same time period. Esty spent nearly $800,000 on advertising buys and nearly $200,000 on mail services. – nearly five times what Roraback spent on ad-related expenses.

The chart below gives a summary of donations and loans to each campaign, as well as how much cash each candidate has spent and how much each still has in the bank. These figures are as of September 30, the closing date for the most recent filing.

Click either of the photographs below the chart for searchable and sortable databases of donations to that candidate, including all PAC contributions and all individual contributions from people who have given at least $200. And if you find something interesting in the data, drop us an email at

 Click the photos below to see individual and PAC donations to each candidate


Claim Check: Linda McMahon on Middle-Class Taxes and Job Creation

by Categorized: Claim Check, Data, Employment, Finance, Politics Date:

If there is one topic on which the candidates for U.S. Senate in Connecticut have most consistently confused voters, it is the issue of federal income taxes. And Republican Linda McMahon continues that trend with a television ad revisiting familiar ground on taxes as well as job creation.

“On key issues, compare the candidates,” the narrator instructs. “On cutting middle-class taxes, Linda McMahon’s plan saves the average Connecticut family $500 a month. But Congressman Chris Murphy voted to raise middle-class taxes three times.”

We’ve evaluated — and challenged — the first part of that assertion multiple times, but the campaign continues to make the claim, albeit with slight modifications. For the record, under no scenario does McMahon’s plan save the average Connecticut family $500 a month, and there are two flaws with the campaign’s calculation. Continue reading

Obsitnik: Himes’ Claims on Deficit “Patently False”

by Categorized: Claim Check, Finance, Media, Politics Date:

When our Claim Check columns run in this space, we often distinguish between verifiable assertions of fact, and statements that are purely subjective or amount to advertising puffery and which are not subject to fact-checking.

Political candidates, however, don’t always make that distinction, as evidenced by a letter from the campaign of Steve Obsitnik, challenger in the 4th Congressional District, objecting to a television ad run by incumbent Jim Himes.

“Without a doubt, the advertisement contains false information deliberately intended to mislead  Connecticut voters,” John Puskar, Obsitnik’s campaign manager, wrote this morning to the parent company of News12 Connecticut. “Because the advertisement conveys messages that are plainly disproven by fact, we respectfully demand that your station immediately stop airing the advertisement.” Continue reading