Today’s jobs report, showing the unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time in over 40 moths, will have Democrats gleeful and Republicans (deep in their hearts) despondent. But what if the numbers are actually just a part of a plot to get President Obama reelected? It’s a stupid question, but the immediate reaction of many conservative media figures has been not only to ask it, but to answer it as well.
On Fox News, which completely ignored the numbers for the first 30 minutes they were out in favor of stories about (what else?) gold and a live performance by 12-year-old Jackie Evancho, host Bill Hemer darkly warned, as he summarized the report, “a lot of questions remain about those numbers.” Co-host Martha MacCallum agreed that the report “raises a lot questions.” Finally, they brought on Fox Business analyst Stuart Varney to give it to us straight: “There is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers, because there are clear contradictions.” Varney explained that many of the jobs created are part-time, and that there were discrepancies between the two surveys that make up the report (one looks at jobs added and the other calculates the unemployment rate).
“Oh how convenient that the rate drops below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months five weeks before an election! That’s why there’s some mistrust of these numbers,” Varney continued. And while questioning the numbers produced by the economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Varney approvingly cited statistics from Mitt Romney’s stump speech, saying the 23 million underemployed figure Romney often invokes shows the jobs situation is “grim.”
Just a month ago, Varney didn’t question the validity of the previous jobs report. “OK, I say this is a flat-out bad report on the state of the economy. America simply is not at work,” Varney said in one of two quotes that landed on a GOP tipsheet. But in his defense, that report did show bad news for Obama while the new one is likely good news for the president, so he's just doing his job.
And Varney wasn’t alone. As Salon's Andrew Leonard noted this morning, former GE CEO and frequent Obama critic Jack Welch was quick on the draw too, tweeting, “Unbelievable jobs numbers .. these Chicago guys will do anything .. can't debate so change numbers.” There were other theories too. Conn Carroll, a senior writer at the conservative Washington Examiner, thinks the conspiracy goes far beyond the BLS. “I don't think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect,” he tweeted. Eric Bolling, another Fox News host, tweeted, "WOW Obama Labor Dept (7.8%) smarter than all 25 of Americas top Economists (8.2%est) .. or something far more insideous [sic]." Bob Metcalfe, a conservative academic, added, "Who'da thought Obama's Labor Department, as their October Surprise, would report the highest one-month 'employment' jump in 29 years?" Sonny Bunch, the managing editor of the Washington Free Beacon, tweeted -- we assume facetiously -- “THEORY: George Soros hired 500k part-time hole-diggers/hole-filler-inners to artificially depress unemployment rate.”
All this fits into a long, dark tradition of questioning BLS data. President Nixon even sent a top aide to make a list of all the people he suspected were Jews in the agencies because he believed they were tweaking economics forecasts to make the president look bad.