Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lacking Real News, the Right Wing Media Fabricates a Phony Story About Manipulation of Unemployment Data Before the 2012 Election

But That Won’t Keep the Right Wing Fantasists From Piling On

Jack Welch, a former head of GE and a political partisan made headline in 2012 by contending, without any evidence whatsoever, that the unemployment rate was manipulated by the administration prior to the 2012 election to help the President get re-elected.  Now the New York Post, a right wing rag published by Fox News parent (who else) has a story that purports to have evidence that this happened.

  . . .Was manipulation responsible for lowering the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent in September 2012 from 8.1 percent in August, a big deal when the numbers came out in October 2012, just weeks before the election?

That’s the contention of an article Tuesday in The New York Post by John Crudele headlined “Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report.” And it seems to confirm the suspicions of Jack Welch, the former G.E. chief executive whosaid on Twitter at the time, “these Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate so change numbers.”

How was this done?  This way, supposedly.

Mr. Crudele’s article begins with an employee of the Census Bureau, which collects the data for the unemployment rate report, who says he was told by higher-ups to “fabricate” results of the surveys he was supposed to be doing.

The Labor Department had targets for how many households the Census Bureau needed to poll each month, and when it fell short in the New York and Philadelphia regions, “Philadelphia filled the gap with fake interviews,” the Post article states. To make matters worse, “a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking re-election in 2012 and continues today.”

Of course it turns out the story has more holes in it than that block of Swiss cheese that was bought for holiday cooking.  For example, there is this.

So let’s look at the facts in question. For starters, the former Census Bureau employee named by Mr. Crudele in the article Tuesday hadn’t worked for the agency since August 2011, more than a year before the election, according to the Census Bureau.

Gosh, that casts a lot of skepticism on the story.  And what about this.

But what if it continued after he left, with pressure from supervisors in the Philadelphia office? Well, as James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute notes, the jobless rate for Pennsylvania actually rose in September 2012.

In fact, as Mr. Pethokoukis points out, the big drops in unemployment that month were in states nowhere near the supposedly tainted Northeast – instead happening in California, Utah, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina.

And how easy is it to fudge the unemployment rate number?  Not very easy it turns out.

The methodology of the Census Bureau’s survey also makes the manipulation argument seem far-fetched at best. For starters, the household survey is based on 54,000 household interviews per month. The typical field representative handles about 37 cases a month, although that varies by office.

So if a few employees in one office fudged the numbers one month, it would certainly be troubling and cause for a top-to-bottom investigation, but it would not be enough to alter the nationwide figure by much. In addition, in each 15-month period, the Census Bureau goes back two or three times and re-interviews a handful of the original subjects to make sure the results were gathered correctly.

“Making up entire caseloads would be caught,” said a veteran Census Bureau field manager on condition of anonymity, because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. In terms of the former employee, she said, “No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t move the number.”

And was there later independent confirmation of the numbers that were reported and the drop in unemployment?  Well yes. And what about the later revisions that always take place?  They indicated the numbers were overstating unemployment not understating it.

When the numbers were revised on Feb. 1, 2013, the B.L.S. concluded that the first estimate of job creation in September undercounted activity by 6,000 positions, while the figures for the next three months were revised upward by 150,000 jobs from the initial count.

Indeed, while three-tenths of a percentage point is a big drop for one month in the rate, it was followed by steady downward movement in unemployment levels, or what you’d expect if the numbers were right in the first place, as Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider writes.

And a former Bush appointee, who was carried over by the Obama administration also casts doubt on the story.  He admits some stuff could have been made up, BUT

Mr. Hall was commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 to 2012 under both President George W. Bush and President Obama, and was appointed to the job by President Bush. Before that, he was the chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, again under President Bush, from 2005 to 2008. He is now a senior research fellow at the free-market-oriented Mercatus Center of George Mason University.

In other words, he doesn’t have a dog in the hunt politically. “I’m skeptical,” he said. “It sounds like a workplace performance issue. This is somebody being lazy, or a supervisor really cutting corners. It’s certainly not evidence of an attempt to move the numbers.”

So what we have here, lacking any further evidence or any other credible commentary is a hatchet job, a job of reporting a story without any facts, logic or data to back it up.  In short, a typical Fox News, Rupert Murdoch piece of fiction masquerading as news.  Garbage in, garbage out by the Kings of News Garbage.

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