This visual actually aired, without a hint of irony or shame, on Fox News today, as if it presented accurate, legitimate information to its audience. Media Matters’ Zachary Pleat called it “dishonest,” but really, that’s being overly generous. I’m more inclined to say Fox News is deliberately deceiving its viewers, assuming they won’t know the difference.
There are two main elements to this. The first is the notion that the “real” unemployment rate nearly doubled on President Obama’s watch. To arrive at this figure, Fox News began with the standard U-3 unemployment rate from January 2009, and then compared it to August 2012 U-6 unemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who want to work full-time and those who’ve given up.
The only reason to equate a U-3 rate and a U-6 rate at the same time – a classic apples to oranges comparison – is to wildly mislead people. It’s about as honest as saying a team that scored two touchdowns loses to a team that scored three field goals, because three is greater than two, and when you weren’t looking, we decided to count by how many times each team scores.
The truth, for anyone who’s interested, isn’t hard to find. In February 2009, Obama’s first full month in office, the U.S. economy lost 726,000 jobs and the standard unemployment rate was 8.2%. In August 2012, the U.S. economy added about 100,000 jobs and unemployment fell to 8.1%. Republicans can argue that’s not good enough, and they can argue they would have done better, but if they don’t want to be laughed at, they shouldn’t try silly stunts like Fox News’.
The second is the jobless rate among “government workers” – Fox wants its viewers to think hard-working folks in the private sector are struggling, while those public-sector workers have it easy. Reality, however, gets in the way of the narrative – since the economy bottomed out, America’s private sector has added 4.6 million jobs, while the nation’s public sector has shed 571,000 jobs. Since the start of the recession, we’ve lost more jobs in government than any other sector of the economy. The public sector hasn’t had it better than everyone else; the public sector has had it worse than everyone else
After the graphic aired, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham asked, “Other than Fox News, where are you really seeing those statistics?” What a good question.
Update: “Fox & Friends” will reportedly air a correction tomorrow.