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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

To follow @JimPethokoukis on the day of a Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report is to see gears cranking in the right-wing spin machine.

The Money & Politics columnist-blogger for the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute and a frequent guest on CNBC’s Kudlow Report is a trained journalist, not an economist. But he’s much better at reading the monthly jobs report than most of his conservative brethren. And every month — regardless of how good or bad the numbers are — he’ll generally find some talking point for the right-wing media to fixate on.

Usually he’ll focus on what the unemployment rate would be if the labor force participation rate were as high as before the recession —  spoiler: much worse — and then he’ll remind you of what the Obama economic team promised (back before anyone had any idea how bad the recession was) the unemployment rate would be by  now —  spoiler: much better.

Then you’re likely to hear prominent Republican voices repeat this analysis as the day goes on. The data are based on fact, but read with a slant. It would be like constantly pointing out what the unemployment rate would be without government cuts — better — or what it would be if the Obama administration enjoyed government spending similar to the Reagan administration — even better.

Pethokoukis was one of the key players in feeding the myth that the Affordable Care Act was leading to a dramatic increase in part-time workers at the expense of full-time employment. This is based on the premise that the law will require employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance coverage, something that 98 percent of these companies already do.

He has been writing about the Obamacare’s “part-time” problem since at least May. And he tweeted about it regularly:

Then suddenly on Tuesday — when we finally got the September jobs report that had been delayed by the government shutdown — Pethokoukis began debunking his own talking point:

Why? The numbers that he’d been relying upon — while at times noting that such indications were volatile — had been proven wrong.