Fox News seized on a 2003 quote from former Obama White House adviser Austan Goolsbee to defend former GE CEO Jack Welch's assertion that the Obama administration falsified unemployment data to help President Obama's reelection chances. But in his 2003 op-ed, Goolsbee used the phrase “cooked the books” to describe how changes in eligibility criteria for some federal programs affected the unemployment rate; he did not accuse the Bush administration of manipulating unemployment data for political gain.
In 2003, Goolsbee Used “Cooked The Books” To Explain How Policy Changes Affected The Unemployment Rate
In 2003, Goolsbee Wrote That Policy Changes That Affecting The Size Of The Labor Force Meant That “The Government Has Cooked The Books.” From Goolsbee's 2003 New York Times op-ed:
The government reported that annual unemployment during this recession peaked at only around 6 percent, compared with more than 7 percent in 1992 and more than 9 percent in 1982. But the unemployment rate has been low only because government programs, especially Social Security disability, have effectively been buying people off the unemployment rolls and reclassifying them as ''not in the labor force.''
In other words, the government has cooked the books. It has been a more subtle manipulation than the one during the Reagan administration, when people serving in the military were reclassified from ''not in the labor force'' to ''employed'' in order to reduce the unemployment rate. Nonetheless, the impact has been the same. [The New York Times, 11/30/03]
Goolsbee: As Disability “Rolls Swelled, The Meaning Of The Official Unemployment Rate Changed As Millions Of People Were Left Out.” In his op-ed, Goolsbee cited the work of economists David Autor and Mark Duggan who showed that changes in the eligibility criteria for the Social Security Disability program increased the number of people in those programs -- leading them to be removed from BLS' labor force statistics. Goolsbee called this “a kind of invisible unemployment.” He added that “as the rolls swelled, the meaning of the official unemployment rate changed as millions of people were left out.” [The New York Times, 11/30/03]
Goolsbee: Invisible Unemployment “Has Exploded” During 2001 Recession. Goolsbee wrote that “with the arrival of this  recession,” invisible unemployment “has exploded.” He pointed out that “from 1999 to 2003, applications for disability payments rose more than 50 percent and the number of people enrolled has grown by one million.” [The New York Times, 11/30/03]
But Fox Used Goolsbee Quote To Claim He Accused Bush Admin Of Manipulating Jobs Numbers
Eric Bolling: Goolsbee Attacked President Bush “For The Exact Same Thing.” On The Five, co-host Eric Bolling brought up the 2003 Goolsbee op-ed and claimed that Goolsbee had done “the exact same thing” as Welch. He read this one sentence from the op-ed: “In other words, the government has cooked the books.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/10/12]
Fox Graphic Quoted Goolsbee: “In Other Words, The Government Has Cooked The Books.” From Fox's The Five:
[Fox News, The Five, 10/10/12]
In Fact, Goolsbee “Did Not Charge That The Rate Was Being Manipulated By The White House”
CNN Money: Goolsbee “Did Not Charge That The [Unemployment] Rate Was Being Manipulated By The White House For Short-Term Political Motivations.” CNN Money reported on the public dust-up between Goolsbee and Welch and pointed out that Welch's accusations are different from the charge Goolsbee made in 2003. The report said that “there is no evidence that a jump in those on disability caused the large drop in September's unemployment rate.” From CNN Money:
In 2003, Goolsbee argued the unemployment situation was worse than being reflected in official numbers, saying some jobless were not being counted as unemployed due to changes in law and policy. He did not charge that the rate was being manipulated by the White House for short-term political motivations. [CNN Money, 10/10/12]