February 12, 2017 – TOLD YOU SO

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In a particularly prescient Pickings post (January 4, 2017) we suggested the least of President Trump’s problems would be hostile media. More danger would come from the federal bureaucracy which would obstruct him whenever possible. For example, we said, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) would find a way to accomplish “the reappearance of the disappeared.” Here’s that from a month ago;

“The media will be the least of Trump’s problems. Wait until the federal bureaucrats get into action. They will be on President Trump’s agenda like white on rice. During the last eight years the Bureau of Labor Statistics statistically disappeared 15 million people. They have increased the number of people “not in the labor force” to 95 million from 80 million. This created favorable unemployment rates for the current administration. Pickerhead predicts the reappearance of the disappeared. … 

Guess what? The BLS started the very first month. Here’s a report from Washington Free Beacon;

The number of Americans not participating in the labor force declined to 94,366,000 in January, according to the latest numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More Americans joined the labor force this month, leading to an uptick in the labor force participation rate and a decline in the number of Americans who are out of the labor force.

The number of Americans not in the labor force hit a record-high of 95,102,000 in December. This month, that number declined by 736,000 individuals.

The bureau counts those not in the labor force as people who do not have a job and did not actively seek one in the past four weeks. … 

There is a website for the BLS. Exploring there produced a two interesting charts. The first is a monthly chart for 10 years of the raw numbers for those not in the labor force. It is below. The only one found is for the unadjusted numbers which show a drop of 368,000 not the 736,000 indicated by the Free Beacon above. Presumably the difference comes from seasonal adjustments, but that could not be confirmed. Spend a lot of time on the BLS site and your hair starts to hurt. Is BLS an acronym for bullshit? One thing that stands out in the numbers, is that the January report, the first in the Trump administration, was the first time in 7 years the ‘not in the labor force’ number dropped from December to January. Coincidence? 

The next chart is 10 years of the monthly unemployment rate we’re all familiar with. Something interesting is here. Going back six years of a settled economy we track the year-to-year drop in unemployment from October to October. In three of those years the drop averaged 1.23%. In the other three the drop averaged .63%. The years with the largest drop in unemployment rates were 2012, 2014, and 2016. Why October you ask? Because that’s the last report issued before nationwide elections. And what do the three best unemployment reporting years have in common? Why they’re election years dummy! Coincidence? 

Here’s another item, this from the chart of unemployment rates. In September 2012 the rate went through the 8% level to 7.8 which carried forward to October. In fact, the September rate was revised to that level in the October report, so the October report was the first to reach the magic 7 percent level. Trouble is, it was over done and the December rate moved up to 7.9% and January was 8.0%. Would you be surprised to learn that was the only time in the six years we’re covering there was a sustained (4 months) increase in the unemployment rate? But the job was done. A Democrat president was reelected. Coincidence?


Over the six years covered in the charts below, there were four anomalies. First was the large January 2017 decrease in citizens “not in the labor force.” Next, for the first time in seven years those not in the labor force decreased from December to January. Third we see the large drops in unemployment occurred in election years. And fourth, the rate of unemployment rose for only one four month period; the one following the reelection of a Democrat president. What are the chances that all four of those anomalies would benefit one political party? These are the people who lay in wait for Donald Trump. 

It was Mark Twain who popularized the phrase “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” which Twain attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister. From the January 4th post also; “Fooling with statistics is how you get a paragraph like this from Aaron MacLean of the Free Beacon.

… For years, Americans were told that after the financial panic in 2008, the president’s policies had put us on a steady course to a strong economy. But in much of the country, people looked around them and thought, That just doesn’t seem right. Especially in those parts of the country hit the hardest by the transition from the Industrial Era to the Information Age, people asked a number of questions. If the economy is doing so great, why are my adult children not moving out? If the unemployment rate is declining, why are so many prime-age males not working? And doesn’t it matter that the quality of jobs for non-college graduates is so obviously worse than it was a generation ago? Why, instead of working, are so many people dependent on public benefits and falling prey to addiction? …”

So out of nowhere, Trump is elected and the bien pensants on the coasts can’t understand why. It is partly because they believe the lies of simple servants and the subsequent applause of the media. The media, by the way, that should have been drilling into the numbers, but never has.



A broader look at federal bureaucrats written by Tevi Troy, was in Commentary. The title of his article is “Will There be an Internal Revolt Against Trump?” To which we ask, “Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear poop in the forest? etc. etc.

My first face-to-face encounter with the federal bureaucracy came on January 22, 2001. I was the deputy director of a “parachute team” for incoming president George W. Bush, and our job was to “secure the beachhead” at the Department of Labor on the first day of the new administration. (The political realm loves to borrow military metaphors.) That meant stopping the department from issuing guidance, rules, and statements that reflected the views of the departing Clinton administration. The most important tactical objective in this mission, we were told, was this: Secure the fax machine! (It was 2001, after all.) At that time, there was one specially designated fax machine used to send new regulatory language to the Federal Register, which publishes all newly minted regulations. There was a bureaucrat I’ll call Mitchell Sykes whose job it was to man that fax machine. We were to find Sykes and stop him from doing anything. …


… There were indications of bureaucratic resistance to the legitimately elected president during the transition period. In one Politico piece, career officials at HHS were disturbingly candid about their disdain for President-elect Trump, while at the same time protecting themselves in the veil of anonymity. One told reporter Dan Diamond that “it’s tough from the career staff side,” before asking, “Do you stay and try and be the internal saboteur?” Another called the Trump win “obviously shocking and upsetting,” a third “soul crushing.” One of the staffers quoted paid lip service to the fact that they “respect the need to have a peaceful transition of power,” but added that “it’s just frustrating to calmly hand over the keys when you know they’ll wreck the car.” Politico’s Blake Hounsell quoted one anonymous, presumably career, official lamenting the appointment of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson at the State Department: “I’ve been resisting the urge to drink since 7 a.m., when I read the news.” 

Diamond noted in his story that the older, more senior career HHS officials he spoke to were “more sanguine,” having seen transitions in the past. It’s possible, therefore, to say that the less judicious individuals were just venting and will come into line come the inauguration. But it’s also possible that these younger staffers may represent the new face of a more partisan career bureaucracy. First, the overtness of the career officials cited was alarming, especially given how careful they typically are. Second, Diamond points out that there are 1,000 HHS officials who “can trace their jobs back to Obamacare.” Presumably, these individuals will be most resistant to repealing and replacing Obamacare, the stated policy of the new president. And finally, the open speculation from a career official, even if anonymous, about serving as an “internal saboteur” should raise alarm bells among not only incoming political officials but also career employees, whose jobs are directly tied to their ability to work with, and generate the trust of, political appointees. …


Yes, we did find some humor.

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