Commentary Magazine


Media Jobs Distorters Worse Than Truthers

Predictably, skeptics about the federal jobs numbers released yesterday are being labeled as “jobs truthers” in many quarters. Those alleging a flat-out conspiracy are being treated as nutcases. As Politico notes, even some Republicans are trying to throw cold water on the theories being floated that assert the unemployment rate is only declining because of an effort to cook the figures to benefit President Obama. The skeptics, like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Rep. Alan West, are taking a beating in the press. Though the dip in unemployment is both anomalous in terms of other economic numbers and quite fortuitous for Obama, no one has produced any proof of wrongdoing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics so we must take them at their word. But, as Politico wrote, “just because the numbers are honest, doesn’t mean they’re accurate.” Even worse, the blatant distortion of the numbers by a biased media is far worse than anything the so-called “truthers” might produce.

It is not just, as John Podhoretz wrote on Friday, that many in the business world are taking this blip in an otherwise dreadful economic environment as an aberration, or as John Steele Gordon pointed out (as Welch did) that the volatile household survey contradicted the payroll survey. It is also that the press spin about the numbers is very different from the way they’ve treated similar reports in the past. Even though the New York Times treated the new statistics as a triumph for President Obama, as Ed Morrissey wrote at, a very similar jobs report in October 2004 was represented in the New York Times as a blow to the re-election hopes of George W. Bush and a boost to John Kerry. The same was true of the coverage of PBS, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. The stark and obviously partisan reasons for this contrast means that for all of the cheering for the lower unemployment rate, there is very little reason to think the numbers foretell much good news for Americans.

The anemic recovery that President Obama has presided over is particularly hard on the poor and those who have been unemployed for a long time. Most of the latter have given up searching for full-time work, thereby artificially depressing the unemployment rate to the number the president has been bragging about. Though the president deprecated Republicans for supposedly “running down the economy,” it is clear that he has failed those who look to him for hope since, as even the New York Times reported, “the portion of all black men with jobs actually fell, to 57.5 percent.” That’s something that the Democratic Party that is so intent on running a class warfare campaign should think about when they attempt to twit Romney for his policies.

That Gallup has pinpointed the supposed boost in consumer confidence to the start of the Democratic National Convention debunks any notion that it is anything other than the product of partisan hype. By contrast, the drop in the number of manufacturing jobs and temporary unemployment seems to account for why most businesses seem to have a far gloomier frame of reference about the country’s finances. The Jobs Distorters are doing far more damage than the Jobs Truthers.

Taken as a whole, the evidence is, at best, mixed with just as much reason to believe that we will be facing another recession next year as there is for hope that things will improve at the glacial rate we have seen the last three years since the so-called “Great Recession” ended in 2009. Under these circumstances, the uniform optimism coming from the press tells us more about their hopes for Obama’s re-election than the future of the economy.