“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies…”
—definition of “doublethink” from George Orwell’s 1984
As an example of how a right-wing think tank—if that’s what you want to call the hopelessly extreme Heritage Foundation—spins the facts when a Democrat is in the White’s House, let’s look at today’s employment report from the Department of Labor for last month:
Nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend up in October (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.0 percent, the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
By now most people have heard that bit of information. It has been spread far and wide today with various interpretations, from “anemic” to “hopeful.” (Private sector payrolls actually increased by 104,000, which means more government jobs were lost, but since Republicans don’t count government jobs as real jobs, I suppose that doesn’t matter much.)
But what most people probably haven’t heard, unless they have been paying close attention, is the following, from the same jobs report:
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +57,000 to +104,000, and the change for September was revised from +103,000 to +158,000.
Those revisions are fairly substantial, particularly the August revision. Perhaps most people have forgotten, but the original August report, which was used to blast the Obama Administration, said this:
Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
It doesn’t take a Pythagoras to figure out that the original August report was off by 104,000 jobs, which is because the data is always subject to refining, as more reliable information is factored in.
But here is how the Heritage Foundation’s Mike Brownfield, billed as the “Assistant Director of Strategic Communications,” spun the August numbers on the foundation’s policy news blog:
President Obama enters this Labor Day weekend with a serious problem on his hands. For all intents and purposes, the economy appears to be stuck in neutral, with news out today that the U.S. economy created a grand total of zero jobs in August. This followed two months of near zero growth. Not surprisingly then, the unemployment rate in August remained at 9.1 percent, virtually unchanged since April. In fact, it was completely unchanged, and for the first time since 1945, no new jobs were created—Zero.
America now has the weakest labor market in a generation, and the American people know it…
The two-and-a-half-year Keynesian experiment of flooding the economy with taxpayer dollars has failed, yet the President and his union allies continue to peddle the myth that the only way to save the economy is to spend more. There’s another way to go: freeing America’s small businesses from the day-to-day shackles of existing over-regulation, freeing families and entrepreneurs of the threat of higher taxes, and cutting spending to eliminate the constraining fear of America’s debt crisis. Zero job growth does not have to be America’s reality, but changing course will mean ditching the dream that more government spending will save the day.
Blah. Blah. Blah. We expect the Heritage Foundation to behave this way with the facts, since it was founded by right-wing extremists like Joseph Coors and Richard Mellon Scaife and is sustained by right-wing extremists like the Koch brothers.
But shouldn’t a think tank at least trust its readers to engage in some thinking? Here is how the same guy, Mike Brownfield, reported today’s news about jobs:
No news is good news–except when it means that the story about America’s slow-moving economy remains the same…
The word from the monthly jobs report shows that unemployment was little unchanged at 9 percent in October, with only 80,000 jobs created. While it’s always good news when jobs are created (especially given this Administration’s record), there isn’t much of a sign of a strong economic recovery…
Today’s economic report shows more of the same economic news for America, and President Obama is responding with more of the same policies that won’t change the country’s economic direction.
Not a word in the article about the August or September revisions.
Now, given the big deal that was made by Mr. Brownfield about the “Zero job growth” in August, one would think that an organization that claims it is a “research and educational institution” would at least bother to point out that the “Zero job growth” was in fact an increase of 108,000 jobs, right?
Of course I know better than that. The point is that these think tanks on the right are in fact don’t-think-just-believe-what-we-say tanks.
The truth is that for 20 straight months the economy has added private sector jobs, to the tune of 2.8 million, which is far too few, but still moving in the right direction. And we would be in better shape still if we hadn’t lost almost half a million government jobs over the last 20 months.
But, again, as Billy Long said on Wednesday, those “public sector jobs” are “usually wasteful,” so good riddance.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans shot down another chance to create thousands upon thousands of jobs, and the Heritage Foundation couldn’t be happier.