Rand Paul and the Cherry Tree
|September 12, 2012||Posted by Adam T under News Bump, Political News, Political News - U.S.|
In an amazing example of retroactive continuity and facts replacement in politics, Rand Paul went on the ABC Sunday morning show ABC This Week and argued that “the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama.”
The impression is that Rand Paul did not know that overall government employment has been shedding jobs pretty consistently since Obama’s first month in office:
PAUL: The thing I don’t understand is that you’re arguing that the government sector is struggling. Are you arguing that there are fewer government employees under Obama than there were under Bush?
KRUGMAN: Of course. That’s a fact. That’s a tremendous fact.
PAUL: No, the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama.
KRUGMAN: If government employment had grown as fast under Obama as it did under Bush, we’d have a million and a half more people employed right now — directly.
PAUL: Are there less people employed or more people employed now by government?
The actual facts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are that overall government employment – public jobs – are down. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has screens that you can click through to get data on employment, unemployment, and other labor statistics. You can look at all government jobs and use simple math to get the difference between two months of data. For all government jobs, that difference is -676,000, or 676,000 less in August 2012 than in January 2009. Add to this the fact that even the conservative outlet American Enterprise Institute includes state and local numbers, and you have broad bipartisan agreement on where the measure of jobs numbers should be.
Giving himself some cover, Rand Paul then later insisted that what he meant was Federal employment. Here’s what he said.
Under President Obama, the federal workforce has grown by 143,000 according to the Labor Department… Yet Professor Krugman added in local and state workers to inflate this number, an irrelevant point at best.
The problem with his number is that it specifically excludes postal workers, which he uses to inflate his own number (in case you missed it, that’s what Rand Paul accused Krugman of doing). If you include postal workers, the increase in overall Federal employment is 27,000 total, from January 2009 to August 2012.
Just in case there is any doubt as to whether or not the cherry picking from the job numbers tree is being done by both sides, some clarification is in order.
First, from the beginning of the talks of jobs numbers, everyone mostly agrees that January 2009 is the starting point. Everyone has also pretty much agreed that the number of overall public sector jobs is the number to include if you’re parsing public versus private. That public number includes state and local government jobs. What Rand Paul was saying in his original statement was “government,” and the benefit of the doubt went to him when he claimed he only meant Federal jobs. And one may think that he didn’t specifically exclude postal workers to inflate his number, giving him further benefit of the doubt.
There’s just one problem with giving him the benefit of the doubt the second time around. Here’s a relevant selection screen when doing data mining on the jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Notice anything? The data metric for “Federal” immediately precedes the data measurement for “Federal, except U.S. Postal Service.” In essence, Rand Paul had to deliberately skip the Federal government numbers and choose “Federal, except U.S. Postal Service” instead.
It seems pretty conclusive that Rand Paul cherry picked his own number, and that he did so after getting caught on camera thinking, without evidence, that the government was larger under Obama. He might have been slightly more credible if he hadn’t chosen to specifically ignore the U.S. Postal Service to make his point. But instead, he chose to cherry pick a number that would make his argument look better than if he had simply picked the Federal jobs numbers.