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Head of Federal Agency Responsible for Wildly Inaccurate Jobs Numbers Is Trump Holdover

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Asked if He Will Resign, the Commissioner – a Former Heritage Foundation Fellow – Does Not Answer

Some areas of the U.S. federal government are sacrosanct.

The CDC doesn’t screw around with reporting COVID information, because millions of people, including scientists, make life or death decisions based on those data.

The Labor Dept. doesn’t tweak jobs numbers for political purposes, or to make a president look good or bad, because to report inaccurate results leads to tremendous distrust of the government, messes up markets, and plans of major corporations.

And yet under President Donald Trump the Health and Human Services Dept. altered CDC documents – once considered sacrosanct documents – for political purposes, CNN reported last year.

“Amid tension between the administration and the CDC, former Trump campaign official turned chief HHS spokesman Michael Caputo and his team had demanded to see reports out of the CDC before they are released, a senior administration official said. Officials within HHS had defended the demand, saying the CDC fell under the agency’s umbrella and that all communications and public documents needed to be cleared at the top.”

A federal official told CNN that in addition to reviewing reports, HHS political appointee Paul Alexander has regularly added his input — often interpreted by CDC officials as political in nature — to weekly scientific reports intended to track the ongoing coronavirus pandemic response. The development marks the latest example of political interference by administration appointees at the nation’s health agencies.

So when The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the federal government “sharply underestimated job gains for most of 2021, including four months this summer in which it missed more job growth than at any other time on record,” some expressed concern.

“In the most recent four months with revisions, June through September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported it underestimated job growth by a cumulative 626,000 jobs — that’s the largest underestimate of any other comparable period, going back to 1979. If those revisions were themselves a jobs report, they’d be an absolute blockbuster,” the Post noted.

They add, “recent revisions have been big enough to turn a substantial slump into a surprising surge.”

Americans, in other words, have been living under the false belief that the labor market wasn’t exactly hopping, thanks to wildly inaccurate numbers out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency under the Dept. of Labor that collects, tracks, and analyzes these critical numbers.

Yes, under President Joe Biden the labor market has been surging, we now know, contrary to the information that’s been coming out of the BLS.

Curiously, as the Post also noted, the exact opposite happened last year, when Donald Trump was president.

“Revisions in the already calamitous months of March and April 2020,” under Trump, “found the economy had lost 922,000 more jobs than initially reported.”

Oops.

Given what we know happened at CDC, you’d think some might be wondering what’s going on.

Well, we are.

As it turns out, William Beach – the head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that since the start of the pandemic has been churning out wildly inaccurate (but very pro-Trump) numbers – was appointed by Donald Trump, used to work for a very pro-Trump think tank known as the Heritage Foundation, worked for a university research center that is funded by the very pro-Trump Charles Koch (as in the Koch Bros.), and also used to work for the Republicans on the the Senate Budget Committee.

(And while it’s unclear when Beach left Heritage, it’s important to know that right wing think tank is a purveyor of climate change denialism, fake critical race theory and voter fraud claims, and voter suppression legislation.)

So, who cares if the labor numbers are wrong?

Well, everyone, when they read headlines calling Biden’s jobs numbers a “colossal miss,” “ugly,” “dismal” and “disappointing,” as The Post noted. Companies make major decisions based on these numbers, which everyone realizes are just estimates, but up until last year were good indicators of what is going on.

Under Beach, the Biden administration has been slammed, giving Republicans a false tool to attack. And like bad newspaper articles that appear on page one and linger in Americans’ minds for days, corrections only appear on the back pages, invisible to the vast majority of people who only remember what was false.

An important side note: the Bureau of Labor Statistics is also responsible for reporting out the Consumer Price Index, which in recent days has claimed massive price increases.

NCRM emailed Commissioner Beach on Wednesday, asking if he intended to resign, and asking him to explain what caused these massive errors and if that has been fixed.

We also asked if he maintains any professional, personal, or financial ties to The Heritage Foundation, Senate Republicans or any of his previous right wing employers.

Commissioner Beach did not respond, but a deputy secretary at the Office of Public Affairs for the Dept. of Labor did – with a boilerplate explanation of revisions, and a statement assuring us that the “integrity of BLS data collection and reporting is paramount. The BLS commissioner, as has always been the case, does not see data until they are finalized. Civil servant economists and statisticians tabulate and analyze the data.”

No word on any resignation – or if this massive problem has been fixed.

There’s no evidence to say these massive screw ups are intentional – or worse, politically motivated – but the American public and American businesses deserve better, they deserve factual data they can count on, and they deserve to know what’s actually happening on their President’s watch – any president.

If that cannot happen under this commissioner, it’s time for a new one.

Image by jaimebisbal via Flickr and a CC license