Here’s something I discovered in the course of preparing a column which will appear elsewhere. It appears to speak to the lengths to which Barack Obama’s administration and his campaign went to avoid having any kind of bad economic news appear before the fall elections.
By July of last year, the increase in food stamp program participation in the 42 months since Obama took office exceeded the increase seen during George W. Bush’s entire eight years. But “somehow,” the last monthly report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before Election Day didn’t reflect that reality. It turns out that USDA made an almost unheard-of substantial upward revision to reported July participation on December 7 in its second — not its first — post-election report. It is not at all unreasonable to believe that the original understatement was designed to ensure that Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates would not be able to capitalize on that grim comparative milestone, and that the revision delay until the second post-election report was designed to minimize the deception’s visibility. The establishment press should have caught this, and didn’t — or worse, someone caught it and didn’t care to report it.
The last pre-election report released on September 28 showed an enrollment increase of just under 14.7 million during Obama’s first 42 months. As large as that increase was, it was still 67,000 below the Bush administration’s eight-year increase of 14.765 million.
On December 7, that all changed when USDA inexplicably increased July’s participation figure by over 154,000, meaning that the food stamp rolls had by July grown by 14.853 million — 87,000 more than the increase during Bush’s eight years.
Unlike what we see in other economy-related government reports, USDA’s upward revision was highly unusual. I reviewed the past two years of USDA monthly releases (to the extent they are available) by visiting archive.org, and found no instance of any revision to any month greater than a few hundred.
Of course, whether or not Republicans would have been smart enough to leverage the news to electoral advantage is unknown. But it would appear that the Obama administration and campaign wanted to ensure that we would never find out.