“If You Torture Data Sufficiently It Will Confess to Anything”
That’s a wonderfully enlightened statement made by Ronald H. Coase, a renowned British Economist and it applies to enormous swaths of numbers and figures society depends upon. Coase was a British economist and author, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School, where he arrived in 1964 and remained for the rest of his life. Thus, we Americans can make a small claim on his wit and wisdom. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1991.
But our subject today is unemployment in America and, particularly, CNN’s announcement that Jobless claims hit a new 52-year low in the latest government report.
In that context, another of my favorite sayings is “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”
Jobless claims hitting a half-century low would suggest that ‘happy days are here again’ in the job market, while millions are refusing to return to shit jobs, zero-hours contracts are rampant in the work force, college grads are living with their parents and the national minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 an hour.
Did you ever wonder where the term ‘vested interests’ comes from?
There are two versions of the term, mine and Britannica’s. Mine is more fun and (possibly) closer to the truth. Not-my-version wraps itself in legalese, the tool of miscreants and deceivers who hide their true intentions behind abstraction. Try this on for size: “a legal term, a share of a trust/estate can be contingent and a person only becomes entitled to it on fulfilling certain conditions. A share is called 'an interest' in law and when the person acquires ownership rights, the interest is said to 'vest' in them.”
My version: “an interest in some tangible or intangible item of value, expressed by anyone in a three-piece (vested) suit.” I don’t claim that definition to be all-encompassing, but a lifetime of observation suggests to me that when chicanery is involved, a three-piece suit is almost sure to be somewhere in the room, even if the suit-jacket resides on the back of a chair and the wearer’s shirtsleeves are rolled to the elbows, the dust having settled and the robbery complete.
The United States Congress and the business community each have a vested interest in unemployment and underemployment in America. Politicians work to fudge the numbers in order to appear as if they give a shit and to seem ahead of the game come election time. Business uses the numbers to hold down wages and undercut any worker inclination to unionize.
When business and Congress are on the same page, as they have been ever since Ronald Reagan, the demise of the middle class is a book that never ends. Don’t bother calling me a socialist, I am a conservative in the true sense of the word—a man who struggles to conserve what is worthwhile to society.
My complaint is with the media—in this case, CNN.
CNN knows the figures are bullshit and yet they print that story as if it had some reasonable degree of truth. The smallest spark of journalistic effort would uncover what more honest reporting has known for decades—the data has been tortured by having been selectively collected. The Washington Post more correctly asks, “Why is there such a big gap in the data?”
“The United States currently has a lot of people out of work — even more than during the worst point of the Great Depression. But exactly how many people are unemployed right now is a surprisingly tricky question to answer. And some economists think the official count is far too low.
“The official number of unemployed Americans is 10.1 million, according to the Labor Department. That statistic comes from the monthly jobs report that the Labor Department puts out the first Friday of each month, which shows the official unemployment rate at the moment is 6.3 percent.
But there’s another government data source that indicates a much higher number of unemployed. Every Thursday, the Labor Department reports how many people are receiving jobless aid from the government. The latest data indicates 18.3 million people were receiving weekly unemployment payments through Jan. 30. That figure fluctuates a bit week to week, but it has hovered close to 20 million for the past few months.”
The big lie is in how the 20 million are counted.
In order for Washington to list you as ‘unemployed’ you must have been recorded as having applied for a job in the past three weeks.
Where are the chronically unemployed who have given up even looking for work? Where are those who have no permanent address, the homeless, the undocumented, the severely underemployed and the zero-hours contract workers who catch-as-catch-can with no benefits, health insurance or job security?
Media does their readers and viewers no service by allowing badly investigated and purposely deceitful statistics to slip by their headlines and commentary.
Investigative journalism still matters.
Correction for yesterday’s ‘on another matter.’
I gave an incorrect link for Alex Went’s King of Herbs article. The absolutely correct and tested link is to be found here and I hope you’ll check it out, because Alex’s writing is always to be admired and—besides that—how can anyone ever know enough about Roots and Fruits?