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Ear to the Ground

Krugman Rips Jobs Report ‘Truthers’

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Posted on Oct 8, 2012
Flickr/ Mr. Lobo

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes on the conspiracy theorists—former General Electric CEO Jack Welch (pictured) among them—who cried foul after the jobs report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly four years.

Some of these “B.L.S. truthers” asserted the 7.8 percent figure had been manipulated to help President Obama win his re-election campaign, given that the decline occurred just a month before the election. Another line of thinking went that the numbers were cooked to distract from Obama’s less-than-stellar debate performance last week.

Here’s a quick sampling of reaction from Twitter after the September report was released:

But Krugrman argues that the idea the figures in the jobs report can be played with and cooked for political gain is pure “nonsense.”

Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently has no political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership G.E. reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.

Furthermore, the methods the bureau uses are public — and anyone familiar with the data understands that they are “noisy,” that especially good (or bad) months will be reported now and then as a simple consequence of statistical randomness. And that in turn means that you shouldn’t put much weight on any one month’s report.

That takes us back to the political spin. Perhaps most disconcerting to Krugman is what the unemployment rate conspiracy theory shows about the right’s quest to take down the president. What the episode underscored, in essence, is that conservatives are willing to spin just about anything to ensure their own candidate, Mitt Romney, gets elected.

The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories.

It is, quite simply, frightening to think that a movement this deranged wields so much political power.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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