A week ago the now controversial unemployment figures were released. Up until then there was little anticipation that September’s unemployment rate would be nothing but the same ole, same ole. That was because the economic data was all pointing to just another month of stagnant employment. Sure the economy was expected to add jobs but not enough to matter and surely not enough to budge the rate more than a percentage point if that. The unemployment figures were expected to just confirm what most economists had expected was a foregone conclusion, the economy was going nowhere. On October 5th all that changed, the Labor Dept. announced the stunning one month drop in the unemployment rate from 8.1 to 7.8 percent.
Now 7.8 is nothing to write home about but it did put the unemployment under 8 for the first time in years and strengthened Obama’s argument that his policies are working. So stunning was this unforeseen news that many refused to believe it. Most famous of the rate drop skeptics was Jack Welch, the former GE CEO. His tweet “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers” got a lot of folks riled up. Something he has been totally unapologetic for.
Many have come to defense of the magical drop in unemployment with many conservatives among them. The truth is if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it might be time to check if it really is a duck. The fact that employers only reported hiring about 114,000 people, not even enough to keep up with population, makes the number even the more puzzling. If the magic drop in unemployment seems to have no correlation to the number of jobs added the reason is quite simple, it doesn’t! Department of Labor uses totally different data to compute unemployment. The data for unemployment calculations comes from a Census Bureau survey*, the same Census Bureau that the Obama administration took over in 2009. The number of jobs the Census folks came up with was a whopping 873,000 jobs added. Now no one expects the two surveys to match, the data coming from employers does not catch the man who now rakes leaves part time or the single mom who babysits a couple of extra kids, but a difference of 767% is a bit much. It seems the more one looks into the drop in unemployment the more quacking one hears.
On Wednesday another suspect statistic came out. This one said new jobless claims were substantially down, again something that was not anticipated. Where most experts were expecting about 370,000, meaning virtually no change from the previous 369,000, the Department of Labor claimed there was only 339,000 in September. The main difference between this statistical abnormality and the earlier drop in unemployment is the fact we know why this one is so far astray. A rogue economists at the Labor Department let it be known that the stats were missing the figures from one large state. The state was not identified but later found to be California which means the real number is probably closer to 370,000 as anticipated.
The problem with false statistics is they are marched out to much pomp and circumstance and corrected in reports released later in silence. The average voting Joe and Jane never realize they have been duped and remember only the false numbers and not the real ones. When this happens on the eve of an election it deserves the full attention of the press, of course no one should be holding their breaths for that one.
Statistics weren’t the only factually challenged things heard over the past week. There were also two debates that held plenty of the same type of fodder.
The Romney Obama debate was probably one that Obama wish he had called in sick for. Despite all the hoopla that the President came ill prepared or that he even was mentally impaired by the altitude the facts bear out a different story. The President seemed well prepared with talking points and campaign rhetoric, unfortunately his campaign rhetoric is and has been factually challenged. His 4 trillion deficit reduction plan that does not reduce the deficit for example or his claim that Romney is going to cut taxes by 5 trillion (not that it would be totally bad idea). Both fall flat and should be in the Pinocchio hall of fame. His problem in the debate is he was totally clueless on how to respond when he was called out on his false claims. Probably his biggest whopper of the night is the oft repeated 5 million jobs created number; the fact is on net he is still in the hole which is why the economy is still in such terrible shape.
Now Obama did not hog all the fibbing to himself, VP Joe Biden was allowed to tell some of his own too! Biden was mostly unoriginal in his debate fallacies. For the most part he just repeated the campaign lies on taxes, jobs, medicare and Obamacare. Where he truly strayed off course was the Benghazi tragedy. Here he claimed neither he nor the President had any knowledge that it was a terrorist attack for days. The scary thing is this might of been the one spot where he was telling the truth. The morning after the attack the president glanced over an intelligence summary and than took off to raise more campaign cash. The Vice President for his part was off doing what VPs do in an election season. Except for the claim the President quickly glanced at an intelligence summary there is little indication he took any interest in what had really happened in Libya or the deaths that resulted.
The fact that the President did not call a staff meeting or even get on the phone with top State Department officials after the attack is incredibly negligent. Can one imaging Reagan or either of the Bush Presidents acting so callously? Even Clinton would not have done such a thing. In this case whether Biden is lying or telling the truth both are condemning to this administration.
* The Department of Labor went to what seems to be the extraordinary step of posting a “technical note” on their statistics page explaining they had nothing to do with the data the unemployment rate was based on.
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