The Washington Post reminds us there once was a President who tried to manipulate data coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
As first recounted by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their 1976 book “Final Days,” the frequently paranoid president [Nixon, in case you're too young to remember] — who had a history of anti-Semitic outbursts — became obsessed with the idea that a “Jewish cabal” at BLS was undermining him by issuing negative labor numbers. Nixon ordered his subordinates to tally up the number of Democrats and Jews in the agency.The rest of the article is here.
“There’s a Jewish cabal, you know, running through this,” Nixon fumed in July 1971 to his chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, according to White House tapes. “…And they all — they all only talk to Jews. Now, but there it is. But there’s the BLS staff. Now how the hell do you ever expect us to get anything from that staff, the raw data, let alone what the poor guys have to say [inaudible] that isn’t gonna be loaded against us? You understand?”
According to journalistic accounts and documents, the task fell to Nixon aide Fred Malek, who first counted high-ranking Democrats at BLS using voter registration lists and then identified employees with “Jewish-sounding” names. He reported the resulting statistics to Nixon in a 1971 letter that became known as the “Jew-counting” memo, identifying 25 Democrats and 13 employees who “fit the other demographic criterion that was discussed.”
Krugman is a partisan, of course, but he's also a man who knows something about the BLS reports.
For the record, it’s ridiculous to imagine that the Obama administration could arrange (on short notice, no less) to cook the jobs numbers. The sheer logistics would be impossible, plus these are civil servants who have to live under both parties.But conspiracies are more fun than being a grownup and facing the truth.
Update: Elsewhere in the Post, Ezra Klein runs on Krugman's theme:
Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “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.”Gee whiz, do you mean that in one stupid tweet Jack Welch turned from a business titan into a doddering old fool? Time to find a replacement on the corporate boards.