Fox News' Stuart Varney suggested that third quarter economic growth as measured by the Commerce Department was a conspiracy to help reelect President Obama, pointing to the fact that economic growth was driven in part by increased government spending.
On Friday, the Commerce Department released its initial estimate of gross domestic product, reporting that the economy grew by 2 percent in the third quarter. That figure was slightly higher than what economists had estimated.
Varney, discussing the figure on Fox News, raised doubts about the numbers, saying: “Dig deeper. Look inside that report, and you see a big 9.6 percent jump in government spending. There is some suspicion that these numbers have been juiced by government spending deliberately in that quarter, in the report, right before the election.”
The increase in government spending during the third quarter marked the first quarter in two years when government spending increased. But the rate of increase was not unprecedented, undermining Varney's effort to make this an election year conspiracy. Spending by the federal government jumped by 9.6 percent during the third quarter, driven primarily by increased defense spending. Federal spending increased at a similar rate during the final three months of 2008 and during the second quarter of 2010. Federal spending increased by 13.7 percent during the second quarter of 2009.
Varney's GDP trutherism comes on the heels of his suggestion earlier this month that the Bureau of Labor Statistics was manipulating unemployment data to boost Obama's reelection chances, part of a broader right-wing effort to downplay positive economic news.