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Is Obama Manipulating Historical Economic Data so His Economy Doesn't Look so Bad?

Drudge has this headline, but no link quite yet:

The government plans big revisions to historical economic data... Developing...

Well, well, well. President Obama is asking his people to revise down the economic numbers from past years so his economic numbers today don't look quite as bad as they are in reality. Because Obama predicted that the economy would begin to come out of its recession by the end of this year, he's got to deliver, especially since so many private sector economists blasted his team's predictions as pie in the sky.

Economic data are expressed through comparisons, i.e. the economy grew or contracted by X% compared to the same period last year. If you want this year's economic numbers to look better than they actually are, then you manipulate the numbers from months and years past that you compare them to. This is what Obama's economic team is doing in order to save the president's butt. Obama now has pointed to those revised numbers and has announced in his Saturday morning video address, "Look our stimulus boondoggle is working! We said the economy would start to show signs of life by the end of the year, and now with our revisionist economic history, by gosh it is!"

It's blatantly corrupt and manipulative, which falls in line with this administration's MO. It's also another opportunity to prepare for the health care fight that's coming in September. If he can convince the American people that his economic policies are working, he has a better chance of ramming his health care reform plan through.

Interestingly, it seems these revisions have been taking place for a few months now. Keen-eyed Michael Panzner at The Big Picture picked up on a bit of downward economic revisionism that was taking place a few months back in May:

Well, I went back and had a look at the differences between the reported and revised data for various series, including monthly retail sales, nonfarm payrolls, industrial production, and durable goods orders, to try and figure out if the cynics are right.

Using data from Bloomberg, I calculated whether the revised data for each month was lower than the first-cut estimate. Then I tabulated 12-month running totals for each series to see if there has been some sort of systematic bias (in other words, whether the pattern of monthly downward revisions was trending higher instead of undulating up and down).

To make the comparisons easier, I subtracted the 12-month tally as of May 2002 (an arbitarily chosen date) from the monthly totals for all four economic series so that the starting point for each would be the same -- zero.

Based on a quick read of a graph of the data (see below), it does seem as though the pattern of negative revisions has been trending higher lately, especially during the past year or so, suggesting that the cynics may be on to something.

After the president made his announcement yesterday using his team's revised economic data, the water-carrying mainstream media fell in line:

CBS/AP: Last Year's Economy Worse Than Imagined; Commerce Dept. Revises GDP for 2008; Economy Grew Just 0.4 Percent, Not 1.1 Percent As Previously Reported

MSNBC: Recession eased in second quarter, data show GDP dips at better-than-expected 1 percent pace, but revisions are deep

KSAT: Recession was Deeper in 08 Than Thought

Yahoo News: Recession was Deeper in 08 than Previously Known

The Washington Post's headline is especially sycophantic. The editors at the Post have gone above and beyond the call of duty in its headlining to make absolutely sure the American people know that this new economic data coming out of the White House is the absolute truth: Now, a Clear Reading on Recovery; GDP Data Will Settle Whether Positive Signs Elsewhere Add Up to Progress

The content of the article is especially thick with Obama's brand of hopenchange:

Friday morning, word on how fast the U.S. economy shrunk this spring will cross financial wires -- and with it, new clarity on whether the deepest recession in generations is winding down.

The Commerce Department plans to announce gross domestic product data for the quarter from April through June. It is the broadest measure of the nation's economy. The report, on the value of goods and services the nation produced, generally looks backward, offering a historical view of where the economy has been.

This time, though, it will help answer one of the great questions of the summer -- is the economy on the verge of expanding again, or have signs of progress in other data represented a false dawn?

Just ignore the men who are revising economic data behind the curtain.


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Comments (18)

Is Obama Manipulat... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Is Obama Manipulating Historical Economic Data so His Economy Doesn't Look so Bad?

Yes, and I made that claim weeks ago in a comment on these pages. In politics perception is reality, so by making the pre-Obama economy look worse than it really was it tends to make the current bad economy look better than it is.

It's also the reason why Obama continues to withhold the memos Cheney asked to have released. By showing what America was saved from by the use of enhanced interrogation techniques the perception would be that Obama doesn't know how to keep America safe.

With Obama's poll numbers starting to reflect his poor performance, Obama is becoming desperate for positive results, and if he can't get that, then it's time for more propaganda.

Those embargoed July econom... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Those embargoed July economic numbers must really be bad for Barry to pull this ploy. Wonder if he and Rahm realize that they're playing with the numbers is a double edged sword. Ain't gonna be nice when the public realizes they've been lied to. And the MSM is still operating under the delusion that they are the only source of 'news' anymore.

Um, wrong.This is ... (Below threshold)

Um, wrong.

This is a bureaucratic statistical update that was 1st announced 2 years ago.

A few white papers detail the changes

• Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision of the NIPAs Statistical Changes by Clinton P. McCully and Steven Payson describe the statistical changes being made. (BEA, May 2009)

• Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision of the National Income and Product Accounts by Clinton P. McCully and Teresita D. Teensma provides de­tailed explanation of the new classification system. (BEA, May 2008)

• Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision of the NIPAs Changes in Definitions and Presentations by Eugene P. Seskin and Shelly Smith discusses major changes in definitions and classifications (BEA, March 2009)

Another Obama first: A pre... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

Another Obama first: A president cheerleading the Economy.

It's positively insidious!

Adrian, until the housing b... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Adrian, until the housing bubble broke, the economy was move along just fine. The Dems had thrown the wrench into the works long ago with loan policies from Fannie and Freddie, but that information is wasted on you. Drug addicts like to point at other addicts as a tool to make their addiction seem less than what it is. Obama can lie and manipulate the information but the fact is, more people had jobs before Obama took office than after. The national debt was much less before Obama took office than now. If you are prone to believe lies, I have a bridge forsale. Actually several. I can make you a deal on Florida property as well, and your check is in the mail.

Yes, the real problems with... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

Yes, the real problems with the economy started on January 20, 2009 at 12:01. It was almost like some kind of magic spell.

I would never have voted for Obama if I had thought he was going to talk up the Economy. Shame on him.

Another Obama business as u... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Another Obama business as usual: A President badmouthing the previous Administration

It's positively Hope and Change!

Before Obama took office, b... (Below threshold)
exceller:

Before Obama took office, before the stimulus, it was virtually unanimous amongst the economic pundits that the recession would not lift until the third or fourth quarter of 2009. The stimulus was sold as something that was going to have an immediate effect, to jumpstart the economy. There is no way they should be able to take credit for the stimulus reviving the economy this late in the year, since that is what everyone expected without the stimulus.

"Is Obama Manipulating Hist... (Below threshold)
davidt:

"Is Obama Manipulating Historical Economic Data so His Economy Doesn't Look so Bad?"

Winston Smith, please call your office.

Yes, the real problems with... (Below threshold)
justpassingthrough:

Yes, the real problems with the economy started on January 20, 2009 at 12:01. It was almost like some kind of magic spell.

I would never have voted for Obama if I had thought he was going to talk up the Economy. Shame on him.

6. Posted by Adrian Browne | August 1, 2009 11:16 AM |


He was actually talking it down so he pass his stimulus bill. Now were broke.

"Yes, the real problems wit... (Below threshold)
cirby:

"Yes, the real problems with the economy started on January 20, 2009 at 12:01. It was almost like some kind of magic spell."

No, most of them go back about two years before that. You know, when Pelosi and company took over the financial reins of the country.

...you mean you didn't know which part of the government holds the purse strings, and which party has controlled it for the last couple of years? I knew a lot of Dems were trying to pretend otherwise, but there's not much you can argue with on that point.

It looks bad regardless of ... (Below threshold)
914_62:

It looks bad regardless of Dumbo's attempts.

Although this may be true, ... (Below threshold)
George R. Clark:

Although this may be true, and I'm not going to deny it. It has been going on since I was young, about 55 years ago. All parties try to spin things their way, using tricks and out-right lies. Instead of promoting America, they try to promote their party or themselves.

Liberty is but happiness in... (Below threshold)

Liberty is but happiness in the cradle that does not sleep
when rocked but rises to defend its self.
There are no existing parties capable or being Public
Servants in this great Republic. Our existing marshmallow
politicians with wet noodle spines take it as an insult to be
called a Public Servant.
This Rebublic is in dire need of It's children to restore it's
rightful place in the World.
How can someone vote for or against something they know
nothing about?
This Republic will no longer submit to or follow marshmallow
politicians with wet noodle spines! The streets are waiting


George Custer was warned time and again about harassing the Sioux Indians and after he ran up on them at Little Big Horn. Custer and all his men were killed. An old Sioux woman, carring a buffalo bone needle, walked out to the body of Custer, knelt down next to his body, inserted the needle in one of Custers ears and hammered it in, then she put the needle in his other ear and hammered it in. After doing this she talked into each ear saying "Can you hear now?" This reminds me of todays politicians, all of them, and the President.

There are more trolls here... (Below threshold)
jaiphx:

There are more trolls here than any other site I visit, and not very good ones either.

Billy Thomas... cut and pas... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Billy Thomas... cut and paste corn holer

"There are more trolls here... (Below threshold)
John S:

"There are more trolls here than any other site I visit, and not very good ones either."

Yeh, we should ban them like the lefties used to over at "Blue."

I doubt Obama is manipulating anything here. It was Slick Willy who made the unemployment statistics meaningless and why Obama isn't now dealing with the real 19% unemployment number. But if the Dems are messing with history, it will lead to the Mother of all Backfires when the recession double dips at the end of 2009.

Honestly, I have no say so ... (Below threshold)
Brehanna Rodrigues:

Honestly, I have no say so in what Obama is doing in office. In my own opinion, I dont feel that any one man, other than God can controll the world. I can't be the president so I don't fault Obama or doubt him in any which way. He was voted to do the job. He won, in my eyes he is the man, until otherwise another president is elected. Our world today is so messed up in so many different ways. I don't see, know or understand how fastly it can be fixed, thats the main reason why I have no judgement. He can be manipulating the economy so it doesn't look so bad, but either way, no one will know the truth because they arent actually Obama, so until then everyone else is entitled to thier own opinion, but yet, they don't know the truth and can't judge him. I STILL VOTE OBAMA.




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