Invictus here. Been a while.  Been a bit busy and, frankly, not much to say of late.

As a general rule, I’d say that folks should refrain from posting on things they know nothing about.  The old saying (Abraham Lincoln, I believe, Mark Twain, according to commenters’ citations, attribution in dispute) comes to mind, “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”

Erick Erickson should not write about the economy, as he has demonstrated yet again that his knowledge of things economic is, to put it politely, somewhat lacking.

Just a while back, Mr. Erickson incorrectly claimed that  “after the 2003 tax cuts, the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since World War II. Let me repeat that:  the Bush economic program created the lowest unemployment level ever.”  Of course, the rate had been lower in just the last decade, under Bill Clinton.  And that fact was quite easily ascertainable via mouse click at or the St. Louis Fed.  I mean, really, we’re talking unemployment rate here, not some esoteric metric no one’s ever heard of and can’t research.  I don’t believe a correction has yet been posted on that particular item, nor am I holding my breath.

Not quite outdoing that egregious error, but giving it his best shot, Mr. Erickson came up with this gem regarding last week’s nonfarm payroll report:

The number Mr. Obama will want us to pay attention to is private sector job growth. According to the government, private sector jobs went up and the growth of unemployment is attributed to those census workers leaving their jobs.

At least National Review got it right:

The unemployment rate climbed to 9.6 percent as a result of many new entrants into the labor market (about half a million workers).

That the unemployment rate went up was a function, as NRO pointed out, of new entrants into the work force.  This is captured in the Household Survey, from which the unemployment rate is calculated.  It had nothing, zero, zilch, nada to do with “census workers leaving their jobs.”  Those losses were captured in the Establishment Survey.  And I would challenge Mr. Erickson to point to the government attributing the rise in the unemployment rate to jobless census workers.

Undaunted, he ventures on:

When unemployment was going down, it did so because of the hiring of the 500,000 census workers and Mr. Obama and his band of merry socialists were cheering the numbers as a sign of good news.

No, the unemployment rate did not go down because of census worker hiring.  Again, that was captured in the Establishment Survey.  The unemployment rate is derived from the Household Survey.  It had gone down for the opposite reason that it just went up — people had been leaving the labor market.  This concept of two surveys and which one captures what is really not all that challenging.  Or at least I didn’t think it was.

Live by the temporary census worker jobs.  Die by the temporary census worker jobs.

Except it simply did not go down that way.

Mr. Erickson should endeavor to write about topics on which he is a bit more knowledgeable, though I haven’t the foggiest as to what that might be.

Category: Employment, Financial Press, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

14 Responses to “Some Folks Should Not Post on the Economy”

  1. snapshot says:

    Barry, apparently YOU can comment on the economy and have it taken seriously. You were quoted at “Quoting the Crisis” yesterday…

  2. wngoju says:

    I: love this; thanks.

  3. Kevin Hassett shouldn’t comment either. He appears in the WSJ saying all the rubes should take a paycut.

  4. Dexter says:

    “after the 2003 tax cuts, the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since World War II. Let me repeat that: the Bush economic program created the lowest unemployment level ever.”
    Not only wrong, but then those same rates were in effect when the biggest crash since the 1930′s happened.
    Live by the 2003 tax cuts, die by the 2003 tax cuts.

  5. mwfadil says:

    as always, good post; however, it was Mark Twain, not Abe Lincoln who said “It’s better to keep one’s mouth closed and appear the fool, than to open it and end all doubt.”

  6. Molesworth says:

    Ok who is Invictus anyway? Mr Ritzholtz good twin?

    Sounds like Mr Erickson should have read BR posted article by George Mobos, What are the Limits of Sapient Judgement?”

    Inability to Imagine Counterfactuals Bias
    Related to over confidence is another weakness of the brain’s ability to generate counterfactual models in the first place. Numerous studies have shown that we humans are loathe to even consider alternatives to what we already believe.
    In fact, in order to more diligently assess possible (likely) outcomes we have to consider alternative models of what may happen. This is a function of imagination (creativity) that seems very weak in the majority of humans.
    Yet without the ability to generate and analyze counterfactual models, we have no ability to learn from actual experience. This is most evident in many peoples’ inability to learn from mistakes. What they are good at is generating excuses or rationalizations that let them off the hook for responsibility for errors of judgment.

  7. dapperdave says:

    “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”

    C’mon Invictus. A simple google finds that Mark Twain is the source (not Abe):

  8. diogeron says:

    Well, I think you’re just too hard on poor Erik Erickson for his incompetence in his purported area of expertise, economics. As I see it, this is just a clear example of regression to the mean. After all, how could Erik measure up in excellence to his ancient relative, Leif.

  9. clove says:

    FJM style in the econoblogesphere, great stuff.

  10. Invictus says:


    Would not doubt your find, but I got Lincoln here:

  11. Krugger says:

    This post from one of my other favorite blogs happened to address this very quote covered by Fred Shapiro of the Yale Book of Quotations. The short answer seems that it is likely neither Lincoln nor Twain said such a thing.
    Jeffrey asked:

    How about “It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”?
    Authors Uncovered

    I’ve heard Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln, and there are reportedly other sources.

    This is usually attributed to Lincoln, but is undoubtedly one of the many pseudo-Lincolnisms that get pinned on the 16th president, much as many humorous sayings get pinned on Mark Twain. The earliest version discovered by The Yale Book of Quotations was the Chicago Daily Tribune, May 10, 1923, which printed, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubts” as a submission by reader Benedict J. Goltra.

  12. peter north says:

    Good post, as usual Invictus. Check this one out: I think you’ll dig it. Absolutely savage takedown of Mitch Daniels. Basically says Daniels went “full retard.” (And everyone knows, you never go full retard.)

    peter north

    PS: My favorite Lincoln quote was, “Wish in one hand and crap in the other… Then see which one fills up first.”

  13. younkint says:

    Regarding the quote, everyone is wrong.

    King James Bible, Proverbs 17:28 – “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

  14. DonF says:

    When reading the title, I thought FOR SURE it was referring to the posts of the op-ed piece that ran in the WSJ this week titled The Obama Economy. I’m not sure why I subjected myself to those, but you can put 99% of the posters into this group as well.