The Obama administration keeps bragging about the falling topline unemployment rate, but their audience has not been convinced of an improvement. According to Gallup’s latest survey on priorities for Americans, joblessness has now become the top issue — exceeding the economy and even dissatisfaction with Congress and government:
Americans have a new No. 1 problem. Nearly one in four Americans mention jobs and unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, up from 16% in January. The government and politicians had topped the list since the government shutdown in October.
Prior to last fall, either jobs or the economy had led the “most important problem” list going back to February 2008, and these two have regained their top spots in the Feb. 6-9 poll.
Healthcare continues to rank among the top problems, with 15% naming it, unchanged from January. Mentions of the federal debt/budget deficit are stable at 8%, despite Congress’ increasing the debt ceiling in February.
Although Barack Obama often “pivots” to the economy, usually when his approval numbers start to fall, the White House has not sustained any economic policy except that which they implemented at the beginning of the Obama presidency. The stimulus turned five years old yesterday, and unemployment is still at the top of this list, followed by the economy — and combined they account for 43% of the responses. That tells us a lot more about the “success” of the stimulus than the jobless rate, which has become unmoored from its historical track thanks to a sharp decline in the workforce participation rate.
Instead, the White House has spent the last few months talking about “income inequality” and immigration. Those priorities account for 12% of the electorate, if one takes the 3% for both “lack of money” and “poverty” and combine it with the 6% for “immigration/illegal aliens.” Even health care only gets 15%, roughly the same percentage of Americans who were uninsured for any reason in 2009.
Obama may want to talk about immigration and income inequality, but most Americans want to talk about getting back to work and having a growth economy. Republicans had better pay attention to voters rather than get caught up in Obama’s non-sequiturs.
Speaking of the jobless rate, John Crudele made headlines last year when he accused the Census Bureau of tampering with its numbers just before the 2012 election. Yesterday, Crudele elaborated on the point, and says his sources indicate the problem was broader than his first report indicated, and may involve the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well (via Jeff Dunetz):
In late August 2011, a manila envelope containing evidence of falsified data was sent to Keith Hall, who was then in charge of the BLS. “The Philadelphia Regional office [of Census] … engaged in a cover-up after it was reported that members of its staff falsified data in an effort to meet goals,” said the anonymous letter, a copy of which I have in front of me.
The letter identified the two supervisors who arranged the cover-up.
“In an effort to satisfy the sponsor [the BLS] … the numbers were literally made up,” said the tipster.
The BLS never acted on the letter. And that’s ironic because Hall, who was pushed out of the Labor Department in 2012, had been skeptical of the truthfulness of the BLS’s jobless numbers.
I interviewed Hall last July for this column, and he said at the time that the unemployment rate was “misleadingly low.” However, back then Hall — who is now at George Mason University — was attributing the misrepresentation to statistical anomalies in the way the unemployment rate is calculated and not outright fraud.
I asked Hall Monday if he remembers receiving an envelope containing evidence that data was being falsified. He didn’t. “I would have remembered that,” he said.
Did the envelope get lost in the mail? The tipster had a tracer on it through the Postal Service. Did someone else read the note, which, admittedly, was a little confusing, and choose to ignore it?
Crudele notes that the House Oversight Committee has opened an investigation into the falsification allegations, as has the Inspector General at Commerce, which has responsibility for Census (BLS is in Labor, and Census conducts surveys for them). He also believes that the US Attorney in Philadelphia may be conducting a preliminary review of the case, too. We’ll see if anything comes of this, but even the numbers we have show a population with a serious and chronic joblessness problem, despite the topline jobless rate of 6.6%.