The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


15 October 2012

At least 45 percent of Montanans will believe anything

That’s the only conclusion I can draw from this finding from the 10 October poll of Montana by Public Policy Polling:


PPP asked the question after erstwhile GE CEO Jack Welch, a prominent Romney supporter (he gave Mitt’s campaign $5,000, the maximum allowed), Tweeted that jobs numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics released in early October were too good to be true:


Although now 76, Welch is no addled old fool. He knew exactly what he was doing: he was accusing the President of the United States of fraud, of cooking the books of one the most highly respected agencies of the federal government.

That, according to Lawrence Mishel, put Neutron Jack in tricky company:

Of course, this flaming of BLS reminds us of the episode where President Nixon thought that BLS was manipulating the unemployment data and as part of some Jewish conspiracy against him. He sent White House personnel director Fred Malek (more recently, the national finance co-chair of the McCain campaign) to count the Jews at BLS. Tim Noah wrote the story a few years ago. The Washington Post also covered it.

Despite being treated as revealed truth by the usual right wing blathermouths, Welch's Tweet was skewered, and quickly, by economic experts across the political spectrum.

"It was nonsense, of course," wrote Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman:

Job numbers are prepared by professional civil servants, at an agency that currently has no political appointees. But then maybe Mr. Welch — under whose leadership G.E. reported remarkably smooth earnings growth, with none of the short-term fluctuations you might have expected (fluctuations that reappeared under his successor) — doesn’t know how hard it would be to cook the jobs data.

Furthermore, the methods the bureau uses are public — and anyone familiar with the data understands that they are “noisy,” that especially good (or bad) months will be reported now and then as a simple consequence of statistical randomness. And that in turn means that you shouldn’t put much weight on any one month’s report.

In that case, however, what is the somewhat longer-term trend? Is the U.S. employment picture getting better? Yes, it is.

Even “Romney campaign aides said they weren’t disputing the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, keeping their focus on criticism of Obama’s record,” reported Bloomberg News.

I could quote more denunciations of the BLS Truther’s charges, but that’s not necessary. The facts are clear: Welch’s Tweet was a crock. The BLS is professional, non-partisan, reliable, and not influenced by politics.

So why do almost half of Montana’s likely voters think otherwise? How can they be so poorly informed about the workings of government, so ready to believe the worst on the flimsiest of evidence? No wonder we so often get the kind of government we don’t deserve.