The conservative media are atwitter (pun intended) today over an INSINUATION by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch (above) that the latest unemployment figures have been doctored to politically benefit President Obama:
Welch was not available to comment on the nature of his Twitter message or to offer up an explanation for its basis — according to someone in his office, he posted his message before walking into a meeting without his phone — but the Bureau of Labor Statistics and others immediately knocked down his and other similar comments as factually unsound…
“BLS is not manipulating data. Evidence of such would be a scandal of enormous proportions & loss of credibility,” Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush, wrote on Twitter.
Steve Haugen, an economist at the BLS who has been involved in the process of analyzing jobs data for nearly 30 years, flatly dismissed the idea that there was any way the White House or Obama campaign could have had a hand in how the numbers turned out.
“The data are not manipulated for political reasons. I’ve been involved in the process myself for almost three decades. There’s never been any political manipulation of the data, period,” Haugen told CBSNews.com…
Asked directly if the Obama administration or the White House had directed the BLS to change its methodology in some way to make the numbers more favorable to the president, Haugen said “no.”
In fact, the BLS says it does not at the moment have a single political appointee working in the entire agency.
Economist Jared Bernstein SAYS this:
Jack Welch should be ashamed of himself.
The BLS is an institution with tremendous integrity, and with very deep procedures and methods to ensure the most accurate and confidential collection, analysis, and reporting of data known to this or any other country. You want proof? Go the their website and find me one document among the hundreds of thousands up there that show any political leanings one way or the other—it’s all “just the facts, maam.” Then—and I’m talking to you, Jack—look at their survey methods and explain to me how they’re cooking the books—at what stage the fix is going in.
Welch is blowing smoke and speaking off the cuff out of pure ignorance.
To be clear, I’m not saying the numbers don’t have some error in them. These are statistical estimates, and in fact, the BLS is very careful to provide error margins for their data. I am very much saying that any errors are random, as with all sample data, and absolutely politically unbiased.
Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute SAYS this of Welch’s assertion:
It is simply outrageous to make such a claim and echoes the worrying general distrust of facts that seems to have swept segments of our nation. The BLS employment report draws on two surveys, one (the establishment survey) of 141,000 businesses and government agencies and the other (the household survey) of 60,000 households. The household survey is done by the Census Bureau on behalf of BLS. It’s important to note that large single-month divergences between the employment numbers in these two surveys (like the divergence in September) are just not that rare…
[T]his flaming of BLS reminds us of the episode where President Nixon thought that BLS was manipulating the unemployment data and as part of some Jewish conspiracy against him. He sent White House personnel director Fred Malek (more recently, the national finance co-chair of the McCain campaign) to count the Jews at BLS.
I would add to all of this the suggestion that Welch, for all his celebrated business acumen, seems to be waxing a little daft in his dotage.
Consider, for example, something Welch said earlier this year: “In my lifetime, Mitt Romney is the most qualified leader I’ve ever seen run for the presidency of the United States.”
What utter nonsense. Welch and I have both lived under 13 presidents, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing under Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
All of these men, every single one of them and all but one of their opponents, had more public-service experience when they first ran for president than Mitt Romney has. This chart makes that point about all of the presidential candidates of both parties over the past 52 years:
UPDATE: HERE‘s a nifty collection of stuff from right-wing wackos who believe Welch’s crapola about the jobless numbers.
UPDATE II: Shortly after 4 p.m. (CDT) today, Jack Welch, when pressed on the issue of his implication that the federal government has cooked the unemployment numbers, said this on MSNBC: “I have no evidence of corruption. None whatsoever.”
Well, then, why did he suggest this morning that there was corruption?