Why Listening to TV Commentary Might Drive a Person Crazy

Today’s big story was that the nation’s official unemployment rate dropped to 7.8%. This is good news if you want the economy to improve.

Of course, it’s well-known that the unemployment rate calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t precise. It’s a statistical approximation based on various kinds of data. But the official rate does generally indicate whether unemployment is going up or down and roughly how many people are out of work.

Lately, when the number has been bad, Republicans have used this as evidence against the Democrats. Today, when the number was good, Republicans loudly suggested that the Obama administration somehow manipulated the number to its advantage. Right. When you like a number, it’s accurate. When you don’t, it’s phony. This behavior is so clearly hypocritical and self-serving that it’s hardly worth pointing out.

Unfortunately, I happened to switch to a cable news station today while the TV’s sound was on. What I immediately heard was this remark from one of the panelists: “I’m not smart enough to speculate on whether the number is accurate or not”.

Well, you’re apparently smart enough to be on TV. Shouldn’t you be smart enough to know that there is no reason to speculate at all? The unemployment rate is calculated by civil servants. There has never been any evidence that politicians have manipulated the official unemployment rate to their advantage. Isn’t it obvious that the Republicans are questioning the number this time because it’s bad news for them? Isn’t it obvious that people in the media were manipulated into speculating about the number’s accuracy in order to cast doubt in some voter’s minds about the economy and thereby affect the election? 

If you’re going to offer your opinions on television, you should at least be smart enough to know when to speculate and when not to.

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