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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Doubling Down on Attacking Feds

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I guess it would be unrealistic to expect a hard-charging corporate executive like Jack Welch to simply walk away from his inflammatory charge that careeer federal employees and the Obama administration conspired to cook unemployment figures to help the president's reelection prospects. And in fact, rather than back down, Welch doubles down on his accusations in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. But he still doesn't provide anything in the way of evidence to back up his claims.

In his piece, Welch casts himself in the role of victim, comparing his adversaries to officials in communist dictatorships. "Imagine a country," he writes, "where challenging the ruling authorities—questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters—would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel 'embarrassed' and labeling you a fool, or worse. Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China? Nope, that would be the United States right now, when a person (like me, for instance) suggests that a certain government datum (like the September unemployment rate of 7.8%) doesn't make sense."

Welch insists that he was only questioning how the unemployment number could have dropped so rapidly, and wondering aloud about the validity of the methods used to calculate it. "To suggest that the input to the BLS data-collection system is precise and bias-free is—well, let's just say, overstated," he writes.

It may be true that the methods used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies to collect the data that goes into the unemplyment rate are imperfect. With all due respect, though, Welch went much further than that last week. He tweeted, "these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers." That's a direct allegation of a conspiracy, in which dozens, if not hundreds of federal employees who have sworn an oath to uphold the Consitution would have to have been complicit.

Now Welch says that if he had it to do over again, he'd add a couple of question marks to the tweet (I guess one question mark just wouldn't be quite questioning enough) to indicate that he was simply raising an eyebrow over the numbers. That might provide him the tiniest amount of cover, but it certainly wouldn't change the fact that he was floating that idea that the fix was in, and that career federal employees were involved in it. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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