"I'm going to say this quite plainly. The unemployment rate is a sham. It leaves millions of American workers uncounted."
-- Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), last Friday
I tend not to pay too much attention to analytical insights made by Gov. Perry, though remembering the results from GOP primaries last time around it's clear I'm not terribly alone. But every once in a while he does top himself.
There's blatantly so much wrong-headed about his comments here. It's not even an attempt to be "plain," but obviously he's created a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. After all, it's hard to imagine that Mr. Perry would have had a problem with the unemployment rate if it had remained high, at the 8.1 percent rate President Obama inherited when he took office, or if it even increased from there. High unemployment, Mr. Obama did a bad job. Low unemployment, the numbers are a sham. So, the governor has convoluted a false reality where the President could only lose. It's a no-win situation, sort of the political equivalent of Star Trek's "Kobayashi Maroo," which only Capt. Kirk was able to defeat and win (by cheating).
What's also wrong-headed is that Rick Perry, if he actually believes what he's saying, never once opened his mouth a peep when Texas predecessor George Bush was in the White House, and slammed the Bush unemployment statistics as a sham. Of course, it was also in the governor's best interest not to mention unemployment rates during the Bush Years since they were so high.
Which leads to yet another wrong-headed thing about the governor's comments. The unemployment rate is an indicator, and it's clearly possible that there is an under-counting. But if so, that's always been true, not just for this White House, but all Administrations. And so, the rate is best seen as its relation to previous numbers. The point being, if numbers are inexact, they are inexact equally in relation to all others. So, if the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent was Barack Obama took office, and it's 5.7 percent now...that's a big decrease, no matter how many angles you look at it. A decrease of 30%.
But most of all, the main reason Rick Perry's comments are so wrong-headed is they are uninformed about how unemployment numbers are managed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among other things, Gov. Perry suggested in his comments about sham statistics that the Obama Administration cooked the books with the numbers, a claim he has made before. "It's been massaged, it's been doctored," he told the Republican Jewish Coalition back in January about unemployment numbers.
The problem is, as The Washington Post has reported, the Bureau of Labor Statistic has a protective structure set up specifically so that no Administration -- whoever that Administration is -- can play games with the numbers.
"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," explained Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist at the Labor Department.
Okay, so Ms. Stevenson used "completely ignored," and I used the less-specific, "uninformed." We'll go with the expert's words...
Still, at the end, it's nice to see Gov. Rick Perry so concerned about the number of people "uncounted." Perhaps he could use his outrage and be a loud voice in the GOP about making sure that all Americans who want to be counted by having their votes heard at the ballot box have that chance, rather than be victims to the party's efforts to block early voting and disenfranchise voters with fake challenges over phony charges of voter fraud. That's really being "uncounted." But if that's too much to expect from the governor, yet he's still interested in the millions of Americans uncounted for their lack of work, he could start by looking at the millions of Texas unprotected by a lack of health insurance and have his state finally open a health care exchange.
Maybe the governor can't get it right over unemployment statistics, but at least he has a chance to get it right about something else. For once.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor