National View: Republican Truthers Assert Denmark Claims on Economic Recovery



On the whole, it was not a good week for President Obama.  He performed poorly in the first debate, looking weak, timid and disinterested, and appeared to give Governor Mitt Romney the opening he desperately needed to get back into the race.

The bad week was widely expected to get worse as the September jobs report was expected to be worse and to be showing more of the same in terms of a disappointing and lagging recovery.

Instead, the jobless rate fell to its lowest level since the month the President took office in January 2009.  While the numbers were not overwhelming – 114,000 jobs added last month, that, combined with upward revisions to the July and August job numbers, caused the unemployment rate to fall to 7.8, below what is a symbolic 8 percent level.

The remarkable impact of this was not just to energize the Obama campaign in need of a jolt, but it led a number of Romney backers, in particular Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, to suggest that the White House had cooked the data to make it more favorable.

Jack Welch would tweet, “Unbelievable jobs numbers.. these Chicago guys will do anything.. can’t debate so change numbers.”

Outspoken Florida Congressman Allen West posted on Facebook: “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here. Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the Presidential election. This is Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals’- a must read for all who want to know how the left strategize.”

Representative West went on, “Trust the Obama administration? Sure, and the spontaneous reaction to a video caused the death of our Ambassador……and pigs fly.”

The right-leaning Americans for Limited Government released a statement saying, “Either the Federal Reserve, which has its fingers on the pulse of every element of the economy, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics manufacturing survey report are grievously wrong or the numbers used to calculate the unemployment rate are wrong, or worse, manipulated. Given that these numbers conveniently meet Obama’s campaign promises one month before the election, the conclusions are obvious.”

Economic journalist Stuart Varney said on Fox News, “There is widespread distrust of this report.”

There are several problems with this claim.

First, there is no actual evidence that the White House did this.  The fact is that, while the report was better than expected – it was not that much better than expected and the biggest impact was likely the upwardly-revised numbers from the summer – it was  still something that was expected because most experts believed that the seasonal adjustment was too steep.

It is not as though it is unheard of that actual reported numbers are in fact different from what was expected.  Therefore, if the unexpectedness of the numbers is your evidence, there is solid ground to expect that actual numbers frequently do vary from projections.

Moreover, the risk to cooking the numbers was far greater than the reward.  If someone were to find out that the President or the White House cooked the numbers, it would destroy his candidacy.

lan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama, said: “No serious person would question the integrity of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These numbers are put together by career employees to use the same process every month.  I think those comments are irresponsible.”

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis simply said this was an insult and said: “I have the highest regard for our professionals that do the calculations … They are trained economists.”

Backing this point up, Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush, tweeted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics “is not manipulating data. Evidence of such would be a scandal of enormous proportions & loss of credibility.”

Ezra Kelin of the Washington Post made a similar point.

He writes, “As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, ‘Anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.’ Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.”

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera noted that this is not the first time the Bureau of Labor Statistics was accused of being politically motivated.  President Richard Nixon did it in 1971.

Mr. Nocera writes: “Upset that the bureau was releasing figures showing higher unemployment during his re-election campaign, he asked his hatchet man, Charles Colson, to investigate the bureau’s top officials, including its chief, Julius Shiskin.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Nocera like the others pointed out: “The idea that a handful of career bureaucrats, their jobs secure no matter who is in the White House, would manipulate the unemployment data to help President Obama, is ludicrous.”

Interestingly, when he called Jack Walch on it, Mr. Welch backpedaled.

“I’m not accusing anybody of anything,” he protested. Mr. Nocera adds, “But he went on to add that everything he’s seen suggests that the economy remains in the doldrums, and it just didn’t seem possible that the unemployment rate could have dropped so drastically, and so quickly.”

Moreover as Mr. Nocera notes, there is good reason for the divergence and “something a little strange about the way the country derives its employment statistics.”

He goes on to note: “It turns out that the statistics the bureau releases each month are generated by two different reports. One, called the establishment report, is a survey of businesses. That’s where the 114,000 additional jobs comes from.”

There is also a second survey of 55,000 households where people get asked about their employment status.  The bureau, based on that survey, concluded that 873,000 people found work in September and therefore derived the unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

Writes Mr. Nocera: “When I asked a bureau spokeswoman why there was such divergence between the two numbers, she said she had no idea. “The reports are totally separate,” she said.”

As Mr. Nocera notes: “Here is something truly absurd about having the presidential race hinge on the unemployment rate. Even putting aside the reliability of the short-term numbers, the harsh reality is that no president has much control over the economy. That is especially true of President Obama, whose every effort to boost the economy these past two years has been stymied by Republicans. Again and again, they have shown that they would rather see the country suffer than do anything that might help Obama’s re-election.”

“There is rough justice in the way things are playing out,” he writes. “Having spent the last year wrongly blaming the president for high unemployment, Republicans can only stand by helplessly as the unemployment rate goes down at the worst possible moment for them.”

Finally, from our perspective, it is actually politically stupid to try to make the claim of conspiracy and cooked data in the first place, particularly without positive evidence.  By positive evidence we mean actual evidence that they did this, rather than conjecture that the numbers were off and the President benefits from this error, therefore they must have cooked the data.

It is stupid because, first of all, it makes you look like you are rooting for poor performance for political gain and it is stupid because it feeds into the perception that the Republicans are ideological extremists.

The Romney campaign is keeping away from these conspiracy theories, as policy director Lanhee Chen told Fox News, “We’re going to address the numbers as they’ve been released.”

The problem is that this feeds into a perception that Mitt Romney is surrounded with supporters who partake in conspiracy theories.  Then it gives the President’s campaign access to the birther and other conspiracy claims to discredit Mitt Romney in association with these more extremist elements.

For his part, Mitt Romney simply attempted to claim that the rate drop spoke not of recovery, but of a nation short of hope.

“If you just dropped out of the labor force, if you just give up and say, ‘Look, I can’t go back to work, I’m just going to stay home,’ if you just drop out altogether, why, you’re no longer part of the employment statistics, so it looks like unemployment is getting better,” Mr. Romney said in Virginia.

The problem is that, while this was an accurate claim in August, the statistics showed that actually more people were working and more people were seeking work rather than simply being a function of discouraged job seekers not looking for work.

The economic picture certainly is not great, no one is claiming it is.  But in 2009, the nation was on the brink of economic collapse and now the nation is simply on the edge of a slower than expected recovery.  It is a mixed record to be sure, but not catastrophic.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 thoughts on “National View: Republican Truthers Assert Denmark Claims on Economic Recovery”

  1. rusty49

    It takes 150,000 net jobs per month just to employ new job seekers just entering the market for the first time. So with only 114,000 net jobs created in Sept. we’re still going downhill.

  2. Mr Obvious

    The jobs numbers look great when you ignore the number of people who have simply given up and the number of people who have run out of unemployment and just gone on disability. It would also be nice to know if this 7.8% includes the hard to pin down the exact number “saved or created” jobs.

  3. rusty49

    Obama playing politics with the employment numbers:

    “Defense contractor Lockheed Martin heeded a request from the White House today — one with political overtones — and announced it will not issue layoff notices to thousands of employees just days before the November presidential election.”

    “The Obama administration has offered to cover expenses (court-ordered penalties, severence costs, etc) for contractors willing to ignore the WARN Act by delaying sending layoff notices to tens of thousands of their employees who will likely be hit by Pentagon budget cuts.”

  4. Mr Obvious

    Let me add that Obama hasn’t had an easy job. I think this administration, just like others, like to play with numbers. Anyone who thinks the real number is under 8% will have a kool-aid stain on their upper lip.

  5. rusty49

    Mr O:
    “Anyone who thinks the real number is under 8% will have a kool-aid stain on their upper lip.”

    That explains it, I wondered about all those purple lips I saw in downtown Davis yesterday.

  6. rusty49

    List of companies asked by Obama administration not to issue layoff notices:

    Lockheed Martin Corporation, Raytheon Company, L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Boeing Company, General Dynamics Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., CSC, SAIC, BAE Systems Inc., ATK, ITT Excelis, EADS North America Inc. and United Technologies Corporation.

  7. Frankly

    It is possible that business started hiring a few more people because the economy has improved.

    It is also entirely possible that renewed hope of a Romney presidency has inspired some greater confidence for business to do some hiring.

    It is also entirely possible that the books had been cooked to help Obama start announcing that he has made good on his promise to reduce the unemployment rate below 8% (although 3 years late).

    Based on all the evidence, the third one is the most feasible.

    It will be interesting to see how the media handles this one.

  8. Frankly

    Rusty: This move by the Obama Administration to tell these companies to break the law by not announcing the layoffs and then tellng them he would pay for their legal defense, is exactly the type of thing that leads one to conclude that he will say and do anything to get re-elected. It is also evidence that the media is helping him get re-elected since there has been little coverage of it.

    David makes a point that a revelation of an Obama Administration cooking the books would end his bid for re-election. That is a laugher. The Teflon Messiah can do no wrong with our liberal media. He could kill babies for a hobby and they would give him a pass.

    One thing for sure… if Obama wins, Fox and conservative talk radio will expand their customer base while the left media will lose even more market share.

  9. medwoman

    To the best of my knowledge, the methods that are used to derive the unemployment figures and the jobs report have been the same thoughout the Presidents tenure in office. If anyone was basing their argument against the President’s performance based on these numbers previously, I do not see how in good faith they can claim that the numbers are any less reliable now than when they were content to base their criticism on them.

    The numbers are exactly that. Numbers, raw data. Of course both sides are going to interpret them in the light most favorable to their own side.
    Does anyone not believe that this is equally true of Republicans as of Democrats ?

  10. Don Shor

    For them to ‘cook the books’ would require a level of conspiracy across so many government agencies that collect and collate the data, with so many mid-level functionaries participating in this broad-based conspiracy, that it is actually impossible to accomplish. Thus to believe in such a conspiracy is an act of delusion, paranoia, or blind partisanship. Not sure which applies to our conservative respondents on this morning’s thread.

  11. Neutral

    [i]Finally, from our perspective, it is actually politically stupid to . . .[/i]

    And from my perspective it is just plain stupid to quote FOX, Rep. West, and Jack Welch. Period.

  12. medwoman

    [quote]One thing for sure… if Obama wins, Fox and conservative talk radio will expand their customer base while the left media will lose even more market share.[/quote]

    An assertion that we can agree on although I am sure we see the reason very differently. There seem to be a large number of people who cannot gracefully accept Obama as president for whatever reason is in their hearts and whatever reason they choose to espouse publicly. Many of these reasons have no correspondence whatsoever to the truth. Obama was not born in Hawaii. Obama is secretly a Muslim. Obama is a socialist. No, wait, Obama is a fascist. I quite agree with you that Fox and conservative talk radio will expand their base as people who hate Obama even when his actions would clearly be in their best economic and social interest will doubtless again be enraged and turn to these like minded folks for solace.

    Likewise, I am equally sure that liberals will do what liberals unfortunately tend to do once we have “won” an election. Namely stop paying as much attention.

    I fail to see how either of these likely outcomes carries any weight in the merits of who best to choose as our next president.

  13. Frankly

    The Obama Adum would not likely cook the books; however they could have forced changes to the survey. For example call more people in Red states where unemployment is lower.

    It is obvious that the national unemployment figures don’t jibe. With about twice as many new job seekers entering the market than new jobs created, we should be seeing unemployment numbers grow. So many have dropped out. That demonstrates that Obama’s trickle down gubment strategy is working. It is easier to get welfare and food stamps today than it is to look for a job.

  14. Don Shor

    [i]”however they could have forced changes to the survey. For example call more people in Red states”
    You actually believe the Obama administration ordered employees of the Labor Department to distort the survey process?

  15. wdf1

    My third quarter index fund statement came in the mail today and showed good, positive gains. Was that a nefarious manipulation by the Obama administration?

  16. Matt Williams


    Dubious Denver Debate Declarations
    Obama and Romney swap exaggerations and false claims in their first meeting.
    Posted on October 4, 2012

    We found exaggerations and false claims flying thick and fast during the first debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

    — Obama accused Romney of proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. Not true. Romney proposes to offset his rate cuts and promises he won’t add to the deficit.

    — Romney again promised to “not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans” and also to “lower taxes on middle-income families,” but didn’t say how he could possibly accomplish that without also increasing the deficit.

    — Obama oversold his health care law, claiming that health care premiums have “gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years.” That’s true of health care spending, but not premiums. And the health care law had little to do with the slowdown in overall spending.

    — Romney claimed a new board established by the Affordable Care Act is “going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” Not true. The board only recommends cost-saving measures for Medicare, and is legally forbidden to ration care or reduce benefits.

    — Obama said 5 million private-sector jobs had been created in the past 30 months. Perhaps so, but that counts jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics won’t add to the official monthly tallies until next year. For now, the official tally is a bit over 4.6 million.

    — Romney accused Obama of doubling the federal deficit. Not true. The annual deficit was already running at $1.2 trillion when Obama took office.
    Obama again said he’d raise taxes on upper-income persons only to the “rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president.” Actually, many high-income persons would pay more than they did then, because of new taxes in Obama’s health care law.

    –Romney claimed that middle-income Americans have “seen their income come down by $4,300.” That’s too high. Census figures show the decline in median household income during Obama’s first three years was $2,492, even after adjusting for inflation.

    — Obama again touted his “$4 trillion” deficit reduction plan, which includes $1 trillion from winding down wars that are coming to an end in any event.

    Romney sometimes came off as a serial exaggerator. He said “up to” 20 million might lose health insurance under the new law, citing a Congressional Budget Office study that actually put the likely number who would lose employer-sponsored coverage at between 3 million and 5 million. He said 23 million Americans are “out of work” when the actual number of jobless is much lower. He claimed half of all college grads this year can’t find work, when, in fact, an AP story said half either were jobless or underemployed. And he again said Obama “cut” $716 billion from Medicare, a figure that actually reflects a 10-year target for slowing Medicare spending, which will continue to grow.

  17. Frankly

    Matt, Thanks for this.

    Interesting that the Obama campaign and the left media have resorted to calling Romney a liar while the Teflon Messiah gets a pass.

    Here is an example of how figures get distorted:


    This graph comes from the CBO and it clearly favors Obama. However:

    [quote] Obama, in his remarks, doesn’t really say he is talking about the disappearance of the surplus. In fact, he prefaces his statement with a misleading phrase — “over the last four years” — which suggests he is only talking about the period in which he was president.

    Because of compounding, however, the Treasury Department chart overemphasizes the impact of the events that happened early in the process (such as the Bush tax cuts) and minimizes more recent events (such as Obama’s policies.)

    Under this theory, one could go back to the Lyndon Johnson administration and blame him for a huge chunk of the deficit, since he signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. In other words, every “old” policy will almost by definition appear to contribute much more to current deficits than recent policies.[/quote]

    This is an absolutely valid argument. It frankly does not matter looking backwards. For a Presidet to get a pass on his current poor performance based on the actions of a prior President, GOP candidates should be able to blame FDR for everything now ad going forward.

    Using the CBO data for the years 2009-2011, here’s a different calculation of the contribution to the deficit that favors Romney:


    Economic/technical differences: $570 billion (46 percent)

    Bush policies: $330 billion (27 percent)

    Obama policies: $325 billion (27 percent)


    Economic/technical: $815 billion (51 percent)

    Bush: $225 billion (14 percent)

    Obama: $565 billion (35 percent)


    Economic/technical: $720 billion (46 percent)

    Bush: $160 billion (10 percent)

    Obama: $685 billion (44 percent)

    These are the numbers we should be discussing. It is the decisions made every year and during the reign of the current President that matter.

    Next job report will come one day before the election. Expect unemployment to correct back to over 8%.

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