When I first heard that House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was considering hearings on the September jobs report, in all sincerity, I assumed it was a joke. Issa’s capable of some nutty stunts, but he’s not that far gone.
For those who can’t watch clips online, the video, posted by ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky, shows a report on Fox Business in which the host says Issa actually intends to hold congressional hearings to investigate how the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles its reports. On camera, Issa told Fox:
“The way it’s being done with the constant revisions – significant revisions – tells us that it’s not as exact a science as it needs to be and there’s got to be a better way to get those numbers or don’t put them out if they’re going to be wrong by as much as half a point.”
Let’s pause here to note that much of this is gibberish. For example, publishing preliminary data, then clarifying it with revised data, is a standard and uncontroversial practice. Realizing that the process relies on the best information available, but it’s not an “exact science” is just part of the process.
For that matter, I don’t believe there’s ever been an instance in which the BLS reports have been “wrong by as much as half a point” in the overall unemployment rate, making Issa’s complaints that much more difficult to take seriously.
Nevertheless, the Fox Business report added that Issa said his committee has “important jurisdiction” in this area, and hearings can help lawmakers “get it right.”
Even by the standards of House Republicans, we’re moving dangerously close to a cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs style of governance on Capitol Hill. It’s just not healthy – for the institution, for democracy, for anyone.
I realize that the right finds it terribly inconvenient that the unemployment rate has dropped so quickly over the last couple of years – I’ve never seen anyone root so aggressively for bad news – but to argue the Bureau of Labor Statistics is at the center of a grand conspiracy whenever the job market improves is deeply ridiculous.
Not only is there no evidence to support such nonsense, we know with certainty there was no manipulation. Republicans don’t have to pretend to be glad the unemployment rate is dropping, but there’s no reason for them to manufacture wild-eyed theories to explain the encouraging developments.
Indeed, after last week’s nuttiness (see Welch, Jack), I’d hoped conservatives would pause, realize how silly their tinfoil-hat rhetoric had become, and feel slightly chastened. Issa suggests the opposite is true.
In fairness, I should note that plenty of conservatives remain perfectly sane. AEI’s Michael Strain explained last week, Something that has been floating around the internet needs to be smacked down immediately: There’s no interference with the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. The White House didn’t lean on the BLS and influence them to kick the unemployment rate below 8 percent. That talk should be confined to crazytown.” Former Bush administration officials said largely the same thing.
Perhaps the chairman of the House Oversight Committee missed the memo.
This kind of madness is a national embarrassment. Here’s hoping the Fox Business report is wrong.
Update: The Huffington Post reports that Issa’s office does not currently have plans to hold a BLS hearing, but the congressman has not ruled them out, either.