Rubber stamps for voters’ suspicions

Election season is full of conspiracies, but wary voters shouldn’t be fooled.

For all our enlightenment in this information age, conspiracy theories permeate American life, especially politics. Some of us will embrace such theories because they very conveniently rubber-stamp suspicions or biases we have, even when evidence is clearly lacking.

Latest example of this: last week’s wild-eyed claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics data reflecting a drop in the national unemployment rate was “cooked” to help President Barack Obama win re-election. No less than retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch, once a sage in matters of business, accused “these Chicago guys” of altering numbers in the monthly jobs report to show the lowest unemployment rate since Obama took office.

Welch subsequently admitted he has no evidence the labor numbers are being doctored, yet refuses to withdraw his widely twittered comment. Others have jumped on the bandwagon, again without a shred of proof of some massive conspiracy in the U.S. Department of Labor to fix numbers.

Sadly, this election has seen more absurd conspiracy theories and unverified claims than we ought to see — no doubt a testament to the high feelings in both political camps in a nation almost evenly divided in presidential preferences. We only hope undecided voters are discriminating enough to size up such claims for what they truly are: balderdash served up by desperate political hacks, public tricksters and publicity-seekers.

For instance, where are the howls of protest about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s irresponsible claim that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid no federal income taxes for much of the past decade? Same goes for the unsubstantiated claim that flamboyant business tycoon Donald Trump raised about Obama being born outside the United States and now sitting in the Oval Office in violation of the U.S. Constitution. So where’s the beef?

While a jobless rate of 7.8 percent for September (down from 8.1 percent in August) suggests some improvement in the economy, it’s hardly vindication of Obama’s policies of the past four years. He must answer for a flawed stimulus package, the abandonment of tax reform and a health care reform bill that proved a destructive distraction when the U.S. economy was flailing.

Republicans have more than enough credible complaints against the Obama administration to run on without relying on fanciful speculation. We suggest local voters ignore these wild leaps of fantasy and focus on detailed public policy stances — assuming one can squeeze them out of the candidates.

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