Critics: Bureau of Labor Statistics nominee linked to left-wing groups

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The president’s nominee to run the highly visible Bureau of Labor Statistics is on track to win Senate approval despite her ties to decidedly left-wing political groups, her critics say.

Erica Groshen’s left-wing ties include her 1998 co-authorship of an article urging an end to small businesses’ exemption from expensive federal regulations, and her husband’s 2011 donation to the far-left Working Families Party.

“The integrity of the Bureau of Labor Statistics lies entirely in the belief that the data they present is not skewed by political opinion,” said Rick Manning, communications director at Americans for Limited Government, which opposes her confirmation to the four-year post.

But no Republican senator has put a hold on her nomination to be the agency’s next commissioner, despite the fact that monthly job announcements from the BLS are already attracting massive media attention in an election year marked by record unemployment.

Unless a GOP senator puts a hold on her nomination, she’s on track to be confirmed by the Democrat-controlled Senate before the end of the year.

Groshen co-authored her 1998 article, in which she argued against regulatory exemptions for small firms, for the union-backed Economic Policy Institute. That organization’s chief economist at the time, Jared Bernstein, later served as Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Large firms are doing well by employees, and themselves, by providing jobs with higher wages and benefits and greater job security,” read the article. “[P]ublic policy, rather than favoring small business by exempting it from many forms of regulation, should strive to be size neutral.”

The article was titled “Small consolation: The dubious benefits of small business for job growth and wages.”

Groshen’s husband, Christopher W. Bazinet, is an university-based genetics researcher in New York. In May 2011, he contributed a small amount, $20, to the far left, New York-based Working Families Party.

The party’s platform calls for steady increases in New York’s minimum wage, and urges recognition and legal benefits for illegal immigrants.

“The Working Families Party believes, despite occasional frictions, that the economic interests of native-born and immigrant workers are fundamentally the same,” the party’s website reads.

Many free-market economists argue that minimum wage hikes boost unemployment among lower-skilled U.S. workers, as employers are forced to shrink their payrolls to cover higher labor costs. Easier immigration rules also disadvantage low-skill workers while ensuring cheaper services for well-off professionals, as well as election-day support for government unions and Democratic candidates.

If Groshen gets the job, Manning said, she’ll be in a position to spin the BLS reports for four years, including the last few months before the 2012 election and even through a possible first presidential term for Mitt Romney.

Each month, the jobs reports are presented to a sequestered panel of reporters 30 minutes before their official release. The reporters have little time to prepare their reports, Manning explained, making them vulnerable to any skew BLS may put on the data.

The reporters’ follow-up reports are more in-depth but can’t break the impression set by the first bulletins, he said. “Reporters [initially] don’t have time to dig deep into the data, so that’s the impression that comes out,” he said.

“If she imposes her perspective on the data releases and how they’re presented to the media, she will be doing a great disservice to the country and to the professionals who work so hard at the BLS,” Manning said.
 But Groshen’s chances have improved with support from other economists, including free-market specialists affiliated with the GOP.

“She’s a left-wing economist … but her public record is excellent — she hasn’t written anything weird,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

“She’s a very, very good economist and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her,” Furchtgott-Roth said, adding that “no-one could be more Republican than I am.”

She also said that no BLS commissioner could, by herself, skew the agency’s research or products. The BLS is “a vast bureaucracy with one person at the helm. … It’s just very difficult to change that vast group of technocrats,” she said.

Groshen could only have a minor impact on how monthly unemployment numbers are presented to the the public, Furchtgott-Roth said, adding that even that impact would be curbed by extensive rules that govern the language used in BLS monthly jobs reports.

Manning, however, wasn’t persuaded. “To place at the head of the bureau someone with a far-left record,” he told The Daily Caller, “has the potential to diminish the believability of the information that they produce.”

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