I feel the anger well up inside of me every time I see the quote about when Mitch McConnell told the National Journal, The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. He spoke those words before the 2010 mid-term election. Was it impolitic of McConnell to say those words out loud? He certainly didn't think so because, and after the 2010 mid-term election he doubled-down and now I often see video of McConnell talking about what he said. That little smirk after he says these words angers me too.
What can Americans expect from Republicans now? Let's start with the big picture. Over the past week some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term. But the fact is if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending, and shrink the size and scope of government; the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.Many before me have used McConnell's statement as an example of the willingness of Republicans to crash the American economy in pursuit of their most important goal. When McConnell doubled-down on the statement, he even admitted that the Republicans' ultimate goal was to "shrink the size and scope of government" and that the only way they could do that was to install a Republican in the White House. In this sense, McConnell and the Republicans are playing a long game. They have been willing to block President Obama's efforts to get our economy going now, in order to ensure their ultimate goal of destroying as much of our government as they can once they regain enough power to do so.
Republicans are so married to their ideology that it trumps everything else. They ignore reality in order to make their case. They home in on the deficit as if it is the root of all evil, wanting American voters to forget where it came from in the first place. Writing for the The Decatur Daily in Alabama today, Eric Fleischauer points out:
In a world that revolves entirely around which political party has the upper hand, the most important thing that happened about four years ago was that a Democrat was elected president. For everyone else, the most significant event was that the economy crashed.Only a callous and irresponsible government would put political partisanship before the needs of our country as a whole. And yet, that is what the Republicans in Congress have been doing since President Obama was elected. A good example is this summer when the Senate passed pass a bi-partisan transportation bill that would have helped to stimulate our economy by giving people jobs and improve infrastructure at the same time. However, Republicans in the House did everything they could to block the bill. As Ezra Klein explained when he was guest hosting The Rachel Maddow Show in June, the cost of borrowing the money to pay for the bill made fiscally responsible, economic sense.
Romney rallies his troops by decrying an increase in the deficit. That increase might be politically significant had there not been an intervening recession. Deficits, however, always increase in a recession. Tax revenue falls and expenses — both for welfare and stimulus — increase.
The recession that was raging when Obama took office was the worst since the Great Depression, and a contributing cause was reckless profiteering by financial institutions. Did regulations increase under the Obama administration? Of course they did. Deregulation was part of what caused financial tragedy for millions. Only a callous and irresponsible government would have failed to address the problem.
Romney does not explicitly claim that Obama caused the recession, because voters would recognize that makes no sense.
Instead, he blames Obama for each of the inevitable consequences of the recession. That makes no sense, either.
There has never been a better time to fix it than right now. Things like aging and broken water mains: that is exactly what we're talking about when we talk about infrastructure. And infrastructure just happens to be the best deal in the economy right now.Putting this off would not be fiscally responsible. It is more fiscally responsible to repair crumbling infrastructure now, then waiting for roads, bridges, water mains to deteriorate further when it would be even more expensive to pay for the repairs. It would also create jobs for a lot of out of work construction workers. And yet the Republican Party who claims to be the "fiscally responsible" party would have none of it. Why? Ezra's guest that night was Senator Bernie Sanders who explained.
Here are the reasons: We have construction workers who aren't productively employed. The unemployment rate in that sector is about 14%. It's a depression. The global slowdown has meant a slowdown in construction costs because raw materials are cheap because countries like China and India aren't using as many of them, much less Europe. We have factories that are lying dormant that could be making those materials and employing people to produce those materials that aren’t currently being productively used for other things. And we have money that is on the table to borrow for essentially less than nothing.
Let's be clear -- putting this stuff off is not fiscally responsible. A dollar of delayed infrastructure maintenance, is like a dollar of borrowing. It’s a dollar we have to pay later. But when you delay the infrastructure maintenance, that one dollar today could become 50 tomorrow. As a bridge you were going to fix has now collapsed. So we need to do it, it’s cheap to do it and it gives people jobs. It is an unbelievable deal. In any world we should be doing it and yet we're not.
Well the answer is pretty simple. Everything you said is true. Everybody knows you have to invest in infrastructure. We can create millions of decent paying jobs in the long term and I speak as a former mayor, you obviously save money because you don't have to do constant repairs as we've just seen.What is good for America is not what's good for helping Republicans get elected. What's good for America is not what's good for Mitt Romney to get elected and nothing demonstrates this more than what happened on Friday when the Jobs Report for September was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On Friday night I watched MSNBC, specifically The Rachel Maddow Show and a special edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell guest hosted by one of my favorite wonks, Ezra Klein.
The simple reason is I'm afraid that you have a Republican mindset that says, “hmmm, let's see. We can repair the infrastructure, save money long time, create millions of jobs, bad idea. Barack Obama will look good. And we've got to do everything that we can to make Barack Obama look bad.”
So, despite the fact that we had a modest bipartisan transportation bill (roads, bridges, public transit) pass the Senate with over 70 votes; Inhofe, the most conservative guy in the Senate, working with Barbara Boxer one of the most progressive. We can't get that bill moving in the House of Representatives. So if you're asking me why, I would say hundred percent political. If it's good for America, if it creates jobs, if it's good for Barack Obama, we can't do it.
I'm going to begin with Ezra Klein's segment about Friday's Jobs Report because he explained, as he always does so well, what the numbers meant. Ezra explained, as you probably already know, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8% and that the U.S. economy added 114,000 jobs in September. Ezra also explained something that seemed to have been lost in the noise Friday; the jobs numbers for July and August were adjusted upward (unlike how we learned yesterday about how the jobs numbers were worse when President Obama took office).
The better news though is the Bureau of Labor Statistics revising jobs reports for the last two months, finding that in July the economy actually added 181,000 jobs up from an already okay number of 141,000. And in August the economy added 142,000 jobs up from the initially lackluster 96,000 initially reported. So there were in total 200,000 new jobs [Up 40,000 July + Up 46,000 Aug + 114,000 Sep = 200,000] on this jobs report.Then he played video clips of the reaction to the news from the two presidential candidates.
President Obama tried to put today's good news Jobs Report in context, campaigning in Virginia.Surprise! Surprise! Democrats saw good news in the Jobs Report, but Republicans saw only bad news. Democrats say the economy is moving in the correct direction; Republicans don't think the economy is moving fast enough. For months Mitt Romney has campaigned on the fact that the unemployment number has not been below 8% for 43 months, and now that it has dropped below that number, the one straw he had to grasp on to was a claim that the only reason the number dropped was because people stopped looking for jobs. But our numbers guy Ezra explains the truth about that ridiculous claim.
Video of President Obama: After losing about 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, our businesses have now added 5.2 million new jobs over the past two and a half years [loud cheers from crowd]. This morning we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest rate since I took office [loud cheers from crowd]. More Americans entered the workforce; more people are getting jobs. [break in tape] It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.Mitt Romney, also campaigning in Virginia, not as impressed.
Video of Mitt Romney: We don't have to stay on the path we've been on. We can do better. There was a report that just came out this morning on job creation this last month. There were fewer new jobs created this month then last month. And the unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it's come down nonetheless. The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work.
What Mitt Romney's getting at there; when you look at a report like this when the employment rate is dropping but there aren't that many new jobs, you worry immediately that you're seeing a kind of trick. In particular, you worry that the unemployment rate dropped because discouraged workers gave up and they stopped looking. That did not happen this month. The number of people participating in the labor force went up, which means the rate didn't drop because there were fewer people looking for work. Average hourly earnings also increased.I bet Mitt Romney was glad the pundits weren't also talking about more good news for the economy because the CBO reported that the deficit is down another $200 Billion. The segment concluded with Ezra bringing in Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, and Sam Stein, a reporter for The Huffington Post to discuss the Jobs report. Alice Rivlin explained the two reasons why the economy under President Obama isn't recovering as fast as it could.
Well, I think he did all that could have been done that the Congress would let him do. With hindsight the stimulus package should have been bigger, but at the time it was put together there were two things that were constraining it. One was, we didn't know how bad the economy was at that moment. It was still getting worse, but nobody knew how much worse it was getting. And the other was sort of sticker shock. It was a big number and the Congress wasn't prepared to vote more than that, and didn't want to come back to it.Despite all the obstructions Republicans have put in President Obama's path, he succeeded in improving our economy any way. Just imagine what the economy would be like today if Republicans in Congress weren't so driven by ideology and hate for our President, and had actually put what was best for America first by supporting the American Jobs Act and bills to repair infrastructure in this country? Of course, that would not help them attain their ultimate goals.
When the Jobs Report came out Friday, Republicans didn't just react the way Mitt Romney did in the clip above. (Did you notice how excited the crowd listening to President Obama was, and how quiet Romney's crowd was?) Oh no, they went full-throttle conspiracy theory starting with a tweet by former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh questioning whether or not the administration had tampered with the report. In the opening segment of The Rachel Maddow Show we were treated to a complete rundown of everything that ensued after Welsh's tweet. But first Rachel gave us a little history lesson about past conspiracy theories we've seen in politics. She concluded the segment that included an interview with Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities, with some sage advice for Republicans, which of course she knows they will not listen to.
I will say my take on this to my Republican friends who are watching, and I know you're watching because I can hear you complaining sometimes. Here's the thing about complaining about these numbers. You're not helping even your own guy. You heard what Jared just said there about how we are getting improving jobs numbers. We are getting accelerating economic growth, right? If you are going to lie about the numbers, you can only lie about the numbers for so long before people stop believing your conspiracy theory. And eventually, your candidate is going to need a theory and a case to the country for why he should be elected even though the economy is getting better. Denying that truth and thereby precluding him from making that argument, will not help him get elected president. Word to the wise that you will never take from me, I know.What possible "case to the country for why he should be elected" can Mitt Romney make to the country now that the one issue he has campaigned on for the longest time has been obliterated? Rachel is correct. People all over this country are seeing improvement in the economy and their own lives. While President Obama tempers his enthusiasm that we are going in the correct direction with the warning that we aren't where we should be yet, Romney has to make a case that the very people who brought us to the brink of destruction should be the ones to take the reigns of control. We all owe it to ourselves to remember as Eric Fleischauer points out in The forgotten recession how we got to where we are today, and where the blame for the recession truly belongs ... at the feet of ideological Republican ideas. As President Clinton pointed out in an appearance on The Daily Show last month.
If I come to you and I say we have this terrible national debt and here's my opening gambit. First thing I want to do is increase it by $5 trillion over a decade by doing another round of tax cuts that mostly benefit the people we benefited in the last decade, even thought it didn't produce jobs. Now we're in a really deep hole, much bigger than this clock I just showed you. Now let me tell you how we're going to get out of it. Well, what about the details? See me about that after the election.President Obama has put us on the correct road to recovery. He could do more with a Congress who wants to do what is best for this country rather than what is best for a political agenda.
So I wanted to try to explain that in very simple terms. No one else would do that; no one . Unless you were being driven by ideology instead of by evidence. This is a practical country. We have ideals. We have philosophies. But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you've already decided you've got to have. It doesn't work that way. Building an economy; rebuilding an economy is hard, practical nuts and bolts work.
People want you for who you are or what you have.
Yes, I have once again buried the lede by not beginning by explaining the quote in the title of this diary, but I wanted to first explain what made me start thinking about the quote. My mother died in 1987 when I was 32 years old, and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about her. Often during the course of a day, something she once said to me will pop into my head. I have mentioned this before in other diaries that I have written here. The quote I have used most often is what my mother said to me on her death bed. Tracy, If you ever have a problem write it down, which is one reason I attribute to the prolific writing I've been doing here these last few months.
A few years before she died my mother once said to me, people want you for who you are or what you have. But that's not the full quote. She completed it by saying, and sex is something you have. Why would a quote about sex make me think about today's political climate? It's the first part that matters, and it is open to a lot of interpretations. For me, as it relates to politics, it means that there are people who would encourage me as a citizen to be the best I can be while there are others who are only concerned about what they can take from me.
I believe that government represents what we can do together that we can't do for ourselves individually. We are individuals, but we are also a community. For many years I was registered as an Independent, but switched my registration to Democrat in 2008. I still consider myself and Independent, but the reason I registered with a party is because here in Florida we have closed primaries, and unless I registered with a Party, I did not have a voice in the primaries.
Despite considering myself to be an Independent, I have come to realize that unless there is a major shift, and I mean a really major shift, in what the Republican Party stands for that there is no way I could ever vote for a Republican again. Republicans have proved to me that they don't approve of government and so they will do everything they can do smother it. They are not good stewards of government because they don't believe in government. They simply want to get elected so that they can destroy it from the inside. And so my mother's quote becomes.
Just like a man who only wants a woman just to have sex with her and will lie to her to attain his goal, Republicans will lie to Americans in order to get their votes.
People(Democrats) want you for who you are (and encourage your American dream by creating a level playing field so everyone has an opportunity to succeed by providing education and health care to everyone) or (Republicans want) what you have (those who already have want to keep what they have and they want more of it. They can afford education and heath care for their own, so they don't care if anybody else has access to these basic needs) ... and sex(your vote) is something you have. (In order for the rich to continue to get richer on the backs of those below, they have continue to hold power in government so that they can keep taxes low for the rich; get rid of regulations so that they can continue to lie, cheat and steal; and destroy anything that helps to educate the masses (PBS) or provide the poor with needed health services (Planned Parenthood).)
Narrator: When the cameras rolled a performance began, but the problem is that's all it was.Wow! I guess I finally figured it out. I'm not an Independent; I'm a Democrat and now I know why. Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 56 years old. It's about time I figured out who I am, what I stand for and why.
Mitt Romney: I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut.
On Screen: Yes he does.
Ezra Klein: He's got a tax cut that if you just implemented as were it would cost $5 trillion dollars.
Mitt Romney: I will not reduce the taxes paid by high income Americans.
On Screen: True?
Steve Kornacki: Is that actually true? No, his plan actually would dramatically decrease the tax burden on the wealthy in this country.
Mitt Romney: Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.
On Screen: Nope.
PolitiFact Commentator: I have to rate that mostly fiction [See Mitt Romney says his health care plan covers pre-existing conditions, Politifact, 3 October 2012.]
Narrator: Why was Romney so dishonest about his plan? His massive new tax cut for Millionaires means higher taxes on the middle class. And AARP says Romney's plan undermines Medicare by turning it into a voucher. We have real challenges to meet, children to educate, a middle class to rebuild. America needs a president with character, not a politician who just plays one.
The Last Word: Impact of Job Report on the Election
Here is the direct link to watch the video at MSNBC for those who use an iPad or other device that cannot view embedded videos.
Good evening I'm Ezra Klein in for Lawrence O'Donnell. It’s 32 days until the election. And though we are only five days into October, as Washington Post's Karen Tumulty mentions, we've already had two October surprises.
October is only five days old and already we've had two October surprises.— Karen Tumulty(@ktumulty) October 5, 2012
First there was President Obama's weak debate performance, and then today the Jobs Report, the second to last monthly jobs report to be released before the election, is very good news for President Obama. Unemployment has fallen below 8% for the first time since the President took office in January of 2009. The September Jobs Report shows the U.S. economy added 114,000 jobs in September with the unemployment rate dropping from 8.1% to 7.8%. The better news though is the Bureau of Labor Statistics revising jobs reports for the last two months, finding that in July the economy actually added 181,000 jobs up from an already okay number of 141,000. And in August the economy added 142,000 jobs up from the initially lackluster 96,000 initially reported. So there were in total 200,000 new jobs [Up 40,000 July + Up 46,000 Aug + 114,000 Sep = 200,000] on this jobs report.
President Obama tried to put today's good news Jobs Report in context, campaigning in Virginia.Video of President Obama: After losing about 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, our businesses have now added 5.2 million new jobs over the past two and a half years [loud cheers from crowd]. This morning we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest rate since I took office [loud cheers from crowd]. More Americans entered the workforce; more people are getting jobs. [break in tape] It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.Mitt Romney, also campaigning in Virginia, not as impressed.
Video of Mitt Romney: We don't have to stay on the path we've been on. We can do better. There was a report that just came out this morning on job creation this last month. There were fewer new jobs created this month then last month. And the unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it's come down nonetheless. The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work.What Mitt Romney's getting at there; when you look at a report like this when the employment rate is dropping but there aren't that many new jobs, you worry immediately that you're seeing a kind of trick. In particular, you worry that the unemployment rate dropped because discouraged workers gave up and they stopped looking. That did not happen this month. The number of people participating in the labor force went up, which means the rate didn't drop because there were fewer people looking for work. Average hourly earnings also increased. And, here's the bad news though about the Jobs Report, we're at this point in the campaign, 32 days out from the election, where people begin to go a little crazy. All they can think about is politics so to them everything looks political. A new conspiracy theory was born at 8:35 a.m. today with this tweet from former G.E. CEO Jack Welsh. He wrote:
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers— Jack Welch (@jack_welch) October 5, 2012
I wish that I could say that the completely absurd assertion that the Obama campaign in Chicago convinced the Labor Department to cook the books was universally decried. It was not. We will have much, much more on the birth of the jobbers, a new American conspiracy theory, coming up later in the show. But for now, the presidential campaign has been reshaped in a few fundamental ways. First Obama's record on jobs even including the first horrible months of the recession is now firmly positive. That's an important milestone and the way Obama achieved it; it's very none socialist actually. According to the latest numbers, under Obama the economy's created about 967,000 private sector jobs and lost 642,000 in government jobs. So if Obama is in fact a socialist, he's not very good at it. Second, in Romney's standard stump speech; one of his big applause lines is we've now had quote 43 straight months with unemployment over 8%. well, we are now under 8%. And third, and this is probably most important for the campaign, the debate was only two days ago. Today's Friday, the debate was Wednesay. But this is a big enough Jobs Report, striking enough that it has turned the whole national conversation. Romney could have used a few more days of momentum off of the debate, but now instead of having a weekend where all anyone can talk about is the debate and his performance there, the Jobs Report is dominating the headlines. Joining me now to talk about this is Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office. She is a senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution and was a member of President Obama's Debt Commission, she knows more about budgets than probably, I think anyone in the world; and Sam Stein, Huffington Post political editor and White House correspondence. Thank you for being here.
Sam Stein (SS): Thank you.
Ezra Klein (EK): Alice, 7.8 is a lot better than 8.1 but it's obviously not as low as we'd like. The progress has been somewhat slow over this last year, so when you look at the numbers, when you look at the trajectory of the economy over the year, how do you think a voter should understand the economy when their judging President Obama and Mitt Romney?
Alice Rivlin (AR): The economy is getting better. More jobs are being created. We aren't where we would like to be; 7.8 is still quite a high unemployment rate. We'd like it to be five or four or there was a couple of months in 1990s when it got under four. That would be terrific, but we're not there. We dug ourselves a huge hole after the financial crash of 2008. Needn't have happened, but it did happen and it was a huge crash and we had this Great Recession which took the economy down fast. And at the time Obama took over, the economy was in freefall, and since then it's gotten better. At first it got worse at a slower rate; that's not a great slogan. But for the last two and a half years it has gotten steadily better in the sense that jobs have grown every year; every month.
EK: And Sam when you talk to the Obama campaign, the particular way they see the voters who are going to side with him, or at least a lot of them, particularly the swing voters, is it what they believe, as Alice said, we had a very, very, very deep hole to dig out of and we're not there, we're not done, but we're doing about as good as we could really expect to be doing and there's been this very important psychological barrier of 8%. Does getting underneath that barrier; does getting down to 7.8% really do much for President Obama's talking point that we have come a long way and now voters should let him finish the job or do these kind of changes in numbers matter in Washington but they are not what voters see around them so they're just, kind of a story here but not actually in the campaign?
SS: Well first of all, I'm glad you asked Alice the economic question and left me with the political stuff; she's much better equipped to do that. No, I think it's a psychological motivator for a lot of people; especially for the campaign itself. You know, we did a video mash up of all the times that Mitt Romney talked about how the President had failed to get the unemployment rate below 8% in 43 straight months. So, obviously that's eliminated as a talking point. To the extent that this actually affects voters, that it seeps into their consciousness; I don't know. Obviously, the debate that happened on Wednesday night was watched by about 70 million people according to the Nielsen ratings. That's a lot of people, and a lot of people took away very positive impressions of Mitt Romney from that debate. I don't know if this competes with that. But certainly we saw in the past couple of months that people were beginning to feel a lot more confident about the economic situation both personally and for the country. You saw it in the polls. And we were wondering, why was this data turning around? What exactly was the instigator for it? And the convenient explanation was because Bill Clinton gave a great speech at the convention. And everyone loved what Bill Clinton said and henceforth, people started feeling great about the economy. And now it turns out that there was some underlying economic trends that were feeding that; that we didn't really know about but that makes sense now. And I think that if that's the case heading into the critical month of October which we're now in, and obviously in November where we're going to have one more Jobs Reports, I think that really does benefit the President because that's been the underlying issue of this entire campaign. It's been the issue that Mitt Romney's campaigned on from the get go.
EK: Alice, Sam mentions Bill Clinton and at the convention I think he framed Obama, the case for Obama, and particularly the case for Obama on the economy more clearly than anyone else has in the campaign, and I want to go back to it for a moment.
AR: He's very good at that.Bill Clinton speaking at the DNC: No president. No president. Not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years [thunderous applause; break in tape]. When President Barack Obama took office, the economy was in freefall, it had just shrunk nine full percent of GDP, we were losing 750 thousand jobs a month. Are we doing better than that today? The answer is yes [thunderous applause].EK: And we should say we are actually back now to where we were when Obama got into office.
EK: Unemployment is down to that level. But do you think Bill Clinton is right there? Is this about the best; did Obama do all that could have been done?
AR: Well, I think he did all that could have been done that the Congress would let him do. With hindsight the stimulus package should have been bigger, but at the time it was put together there were two things that were constraining it. One was, we didn't know how bad the economy was at that moment. It was still getting worse, but nobody knew how much worse it was getting. And the other was sort of sticker shock. It was a big number and the Congress wasn't prepared to vote more than that, and didn't want to come back to it.
EK: Right and of course, subsequently Republicans in Congress refused to vote for the American Jobs Act which would have done more, more recently. Alice Rivlin and Sam Stein, thank you both very much for joining me tonight and thank you for giving us your wisdom on this.
The Rachel Maddow Show: Good Jobs News Drives Right to Delusion
Here is the direct link to watch the video at MSNBC for those who use an iPad or other device that cannot view embedded videos.
Iran is getting its own Internet; its own private Internet. See the real Internet is very dissatisfying to the government of Iran. There's all sorts of stuff on the real Internet that the Iranian mullahs do not like. So they've been busy closing off bits of the Internet to the Irian public. You can's use Google. Now you can't use Youtube. You can't use specific sites where the government doesn't like what you can read there or what you can see there. They've been doing that forever; kind of playing whack-a-mole with the Internet [See Iran set to block access to Google, The Guardian UK, 23 September 2012]. But Iran's government is apparently getting tired of managing this increasingly complex patchwork of things that they want to block the people in their country from seeing online. And so instead, they have a genius idea. They're suggesting that they may just close off access to the real Internet altogether and instead build themselves their own internal government-approved Internet just for their own country [See Iran preparing internal version of Internet, The Washington Post, 20 September 2012]. So it's not really an Internet, it's more like an Iranternet. They will build their own; separate but equal. It's ridiculous, right? But you can understand that sort of controlling dictatorial impulse here that gives rise to that sort of ridiculousness.
In America, we don't have controlling mullahs. We don't have dictators, but when we have that same kind of impulse; when we are horrified by the real information in the world, and we want to wall ourselves off from it, and create a more comforting fake truth for ourselves; in America when we have that impulse, it looks like this.Video from Fox News: Conservatives obviously not happy with these mainstream polls that are out there. A lot of talk about the polls being weighted incorrectly.Video from Fox News: Well, I mean if you're curious about another take, go to unskewedpolls.com, which is an attempt to reweigh the polls.An attempt to reweigh the polls. When the polls were particularly dire for the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in the presidential election polling this last month, conservatives decided that these polls showing an American electorate that is choosing President Obama over Mitt Romney; these polls made them feel so uncomfortable, they decided to develop a new fantasy electorate that they would poll in theory. And their fantasy electorate which is not the real electorate would give them a much more comforting list of results in terms of their fake polls. It was the same dynamic at work when they invented Conservapedia. Remember Conservapedia? If something that you read about the world on Wikipedia makes you uncomfortable as a conservative, Conservapedia is guaranteed to only contain information that makes you feel okay. So if you are discomfitted by the idea that the human species is the result of millennia of biological evolution for example, Conservapedia has you covered [See Making 2013 be the WORST year in the history of evolutionism, atheism and agnostiism - a quick introduction, Conservapedia, 5 October 2012]. Don't worry. On Conservapedia not only has evolution been debunked by the obvious fact that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Hi Ho Silver! Not only did we coexist, but in fact according to Conservapeida, dinosaurs are actually still here. Dinosaurs have been seen in Papua New Guinea twice since 1990 [See Dinosaur, Conservapedia]. It says so on Conservapedia. So if you don't like the real world, invent your own.
But you know, it is not only the right that does this. This week we got a great lefty conspiracy theory about the first presidential debate. It was sort of an update on the Democratic conspiracy theory from the first debate in 2004. It was the theory that President George W Bush, remember this, had a listening device implanted in his suit while he was debating John Kerry. The problem with that George W. Bush conspiracy theory of course was always that John Kerry absolutely destroyed George W. Bush in that debate when Bush was supposed wearing the listening device. So if he was wearing the listening device, whoever was supposedly whispering in the president's ear was not whispering things that helped him. That was always the part of that that I didn't understand.
But the 2012 version of that theory now is that Mitt Romney cheated in the debate against President Obama this week; not by having somebody feed him the answers through an earpiece, but rather by bringing in an illegal crib sheet onto the debate stage with him. You see previous debate rules have said set out very clearly that quote no props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by any candidate [See Memorandum of understanding (2004 debate rules) (PDF)]. And yet, have a look at this damning evidence. [Video] This is at the very beginning of the debate on Wednesday night, and as you'll be able to see clearly here. Oh! What's that in your pocket? Mr. Romney very clearly pulls something from his right pocket and he pops it on to the podium in front of him. Violation! Violation! According to the conspiracy, complete with grainy slow-mo YouTube videos, this is Mr. Romney cheating. Yes, he must have been working from note cards the entire debate. The explanation on this from the Romney campaign is that Mr. Romney was not pulling notes out of his pocket; he was pulling out of his pocket a handkerchief. And sure enough a little later on, oop, in the debate Mr. Romney is seen wiping his nose with said handkerchief. So whether or not you are persuaded by Mitt Romney wiping his nose on what's supposed to be his crib sheet notes... But if you're on the left again like this is a conspiracy theory that just does not help. President Obama did not win the first debate against Mitt Romney, whether or not you're happy about that. He didn't win. But if your take away from this conspiracy theory in this debate is that the reason the President didn't is because Mitt Romney cheated, then what is the utility of that theory for you? What is the utility of that information? How do you think President Obama should then prepare for the second debate? Should he just do exactly what he did this past Wednesday night? Except keep a closer eye out for the cheating 'cause that's the only reason he lost? I mean it may be comforting to tell yourself that this is really what wrong here, but that is not what really went wrong here. And making the case that it was what went wrong does not help your candidate.
The worst example of this, though; the invention of a comforting new parallel reality that does not mean you have to face hard truths. The worst new instance of this is how the right today responded to the new jobs numbers. Today the unemployment number dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%. And it didn't drop for any of the bad reasons that the unemployment rate sometimes drops. It dropped for the good reasons. It was actually a pretty good jobs report which of course to the right is terrible news. And so they have chosen to not believe the new jobs numbers. The first place this blew up today was on Twitter. The former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch (General Electric I should say is a minority owner of this company.); Mr. Welch tweeted, quote
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers— Jack Welch (@jack_welch) October 5, 2012
Jack Welch accusing the Obama campaign of manipulating; I mean accusing the White House of, right, of manipulating this month's job data so that it would look better for the president. Always up for a good conspiracy theory, Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida concurred, he wrote quote
In regards to today's Jobs report---I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here...tinyurl.com/9rbommz— Allen West (@AllenWest) October 5, 2012
And from there it was sort of off to the races. Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, quote
RELEASE: Broun: September Jobs Report Raises Questionsbroun.house.gov/news/documents…— Paul Broun (@RepPaulBrounMD) October 5, 2012
I don't think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) October 5, 2012
That was from a senior writer at something called The Washington Examiner, a conservative think online. Eric Bolling who is at Fox News; he wrote
WOW Obama Labor Dept (7.8%)smarter than all 25 of Americas top Economists (8.2%est)..or something far more insideous 4p&5p FNC/DVR— ericbolling (@ericbolling) October 5, 2012
[Rachel, has fun trying to pronounce insideous (which is correctly spelled insidious).] I don't know. Then there was this from conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham
Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda--labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 5, 2012
Just looking on Twitter you could just see the groundswell on the right; that they were going to build their own Iranternet on this. Forget the real world; they were going to build their own private world that made them happier. The real Internet is inconvenient; we will have our own! The real facts will not be accepted; we will have our own! It was time for fresh facts, right? You could see this groundswell building for this on the right. First online, but then of course where it fully blossomed was on cable news.
Video of Stuart Varney, Fox News: Oh how convenient that the rate drops below 8% for the first time in 43 months; five weeks before an election. That's why there's some mistrust at these numbers.Video of Rick Santelli screaming on CNBC: I told you I'd get it under 8%. They did. You can let America decide how they got it there.Video of Guest talking to Stuart Varney, Fox News: Some people will be very cynical that a government number will come out this great on the eve of the election. [break in tape.] I'm going to make a guarantee right now. And I don't like to do this, but I guarantee when this is revised, this number, the unemployment rate, will be back up above 8%.Video of CNBC Host talking to Allen West (R-FL): Alleging specifically that the President is engaging in a coverup of the data. You are saying that the administration is actively manipulating that data, correct?
Allen West: Well, absolutely.Video of Eric Bolling, Fox News interviewing Jack Welch: Let me do this. Guys pull up the full screen; something we found out today. We deal in assumptions, but we also did our homework a little bit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics full screen if you can show that [image of BLS logo with a name on each side]. There are at least two, Harley Frazis and Stephen Phillips, that work at the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently who've both been donors to the Obama campaign.Video of Jack Welch, guest on Fox News: Look, I don't know what the right number is, but I'll tell you these numbers don't smell right when you think about where the economy is rightnow.Chris Matthews on MSNBC interviewing Jack Welch: What evidence do you have that they got to the BLS; that the Chicago guys to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and jimmied these numbers by point three percentage, you put it?
Jack Welch: I have no evidence to prove that. I just raised the question.
Chris Matthews: But you know, you didn't raise the question. You said these Chicago guys will do anything so they so changed the numbers.
Jack Welch: Yeah... [break in tape.]
Chris Matthews: You say these Chicago guys will do anything so they change the numbers. Do you want to take that back?
Jack Welch: No I don't want to take anything back.
Chris Matthews: This is an assertion that there was jimmying with these numbers. There was corruption here and infiltration or a getting to ...
Jack Welch: [Laughs]
Chris Matthews: It's not funny Jack. You're talking about the president of the United States playing with the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. This is Nixon stuff. [break in tape.] Jack, do you want to take back the charge ...
Jack Welch: No I don't want to take back
Chris Matthews ... that there was corruption here?
Jack Welch: I don't want to take back one word in that tweet. [break in tape] You don't think it's coincidental that we've got the biggest surge since 1983; in the jobs surge? Come on, Chris. [break in tape]
Chris Matthews: Do you mean it's a coincidence or do you mean you have evidence that there's corruption here in these numbers.
Jack Welch: I have no evidence of corruption; none whatsoever.
Chris Matthews: Okay, okay so these Chicago guys had nothing to do with the number coming out today.
Jack Welch: Well I don't know that. [Watch the entire video of Chris Matthews interview Jack Welsh.]Video of Jared Bernstein: What I just heard from Jack Welch was about, with respect I guess, was about you know ten minutes of absolute nonsense with no grounding in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually does.Rachel Maddow: Joining us now is Jared Bernstein who you just saw there responding to Jack Welch on Hardball today. He's a senior fellow at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities; an MSNBC and CNBC contributor. Jared, thank you for being here; I was absolutely riveted by that today and could not wait to continue the conversation.
Jared Bernstein: Look, it's funny I just walked by the BLS on my way up here. It is a venerable institution. You know, they've been putting out reports for, you know, well over 50 years and there's never been any allegation or any substance to a claim like that at all. And in fact I was trying to remember; there was something, and it was back in 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics mistakenly released a report 25 seconds early. And boy heads rolled and they had to do a whole investigation of the data release procedure. I mean, this is an agency where statistical integrity is above all; if I took you through some of the procedures, the encryption, the discipline. I mean, when they have meetings with these data they put paper over the windows. The janitors aren't allowed to empty their wastebaskets until the reports are released. So if you're going to make an allegation like Jack Welsh made, you better have some really solid evidence. And he does not even have unsolid evidence. He had nothing.
RM: Jared, one of the things we've seen over the course of, I guess it's more than the past year, it's sort of the ramp up of the presidential campaign, so maybe in the past 18 months or two years, is that every time there's a bad jobs number, the right moves on it as if it is gospel. But every time there is a good jobs number, good unemployment number; they have been questioning it more or less, today was definitely more, but more or less for more than a year now. I mean is there any, you just described the carefulness of the BLS, is there any history of these things in modern times being jimmied for political gain? Is this; are they going on anything that's real?
JB: No, they are not going on anything that's real. There is absolutely no history. Now what there is, and you just got at this, what there is; these are sample data. They come from a sample of about 50,000 households every month. Now when you have samples, you have statistical noise; margins of error. The same thing you talk about when you say a poll results are within this many points margin of error; these samples and these results have those same margins. And sometimes you get a large positive outlier like we had in the jobs side today, and sometimes a large negative outlier. In fact, one of the things I wrote in my report on these numbers earlier this morning before all that Jack Welsh craziness, was that I would discount this number because; but over the last three months the jobs numbers from the household survey have been essentially flat and I knew that was wrong too. In fact, they had a couple of negatives in there. So you have to average over the past few months. Now if you take that average; if you do that, you will find that, and now I'm using the establishment data which is more reliable month to month. So let's talk a little bit about facts here. If you actually average the jobs data, you'll find that over the past three months we've been adding 146,000 jobs per month. If you go back to the previous quarter, the second quarter of the year, we were adding 67,000 jobs per month. So no question that there's been an acceleration in the pace of job growth and that is a good sign. There is some momentum in the labor marker.
RM: It's a good sign provided that you want good things for the country. It's a bad sign if you want the economy to be bad so you can blame the incumbent president and beat him at the election.
JB: Providing you’re amenable to facts and reasonable discourse and you know something about the way statistical procedures works; it is a good thing to know, yes.
RM: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities; thank you very much for your time tonight and for being willing to call B.S. where it needed to be called, sir. Thank you.
JB: Thank you.
RM: I will say my take on this to my Republican friends who are watching, and I know you're watching because I can hear you complaining sometimes. Here's the thing about complaining about these numbers. You're not helping even your own guy. You heard what Jared just said there about how we are getting improving jobs numbers. We are getting accelerating economic growth, right? If you are going to lie about the numbers, you can only lie about the numbers for so long before people stop believing your conspiracy theory. And eventually, your candidate is going to need a theory and a case to the country for why he should be elected even though the economy is getting better. Denying that truth and thereby precluding him from making that argument, will not help him get elected president. Word to the wise that you will never take from me, I know. We'll be right back.