Neutron Jack on the Jobs Numbers: a Justified Attack, or the Ranting of a Quack?

Oct. 11, 2012
Maybe legendary former General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch is getting to a stage in his life when he shouldn't be allowed to access the Internet -- or at least Twitter.

Many of us have been in the difficult situation of having to deal with an elderly parent or grandparent who refuses to yield to the realities of time, who insists that he or she is fully capable of mowing the lawn, driving to the grocery store or making a wobbly, harrowing trip up a ladder to clean out leaves from the gutters.

Maybe legendary former General Electric Co. (IW 500/5) CEO Jack Welch is getting to a stage in his life when he shouldn't be allowed to access the Internet -- or at least Twitter.

Welch, as you probably know by now, took to social media to express his outright incredulity over the recent drop in the unemployment rate, from 8.1% to 7.8%, suggesting that the Obama administration manipulated the numbers for political gain.

"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," Welch tweeted on Oct. 4, when the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest unemployment figures.

Since then, Welch hasn't backed down one iota from his assertion that the Obama administration cooked the books to help the incumbent win the election, appearing on cable TV and penning a defiant op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the pundits have had a field day.

My favorite take on Welch's ridiculous comments is from Nat Worden, a contributor to The Street website.

"It's no secret the elderly have trouble navigating the Internet, but I suspect Welch's accusation that the president of the United States is manipulating employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics must have come straight from the gut, to borrow a phrase from Neutron Jack's bestselling, add-to-the-pile book," Worden wrote.

Welch's comments are dripping with irony, Worden asserts, as Welch "achieved success at GE by slashing more than 100,000 jobs at the company in the 1980s to boost profits."

"Then the irony gets even thicker when one considers that Welch is now widely remembered as Corporate America's most skillful manipulator of quarterly earnings results and manager of expectations on Wall Street -- a skill that is particularly handy for CEOs overly focused on their stock price," Worden wrote.

"Absurd accusations of corruption" are business as usual for "partisan media propagandists," Worden continued. But to hear them come from the mouth -- or fingers -- of "a prominent business leader like Welch seems to be a sad comment on the woeful state of discourse in America from the highest echelons of society."

"But there's another point to all this, which is that the shine has long been removed from the once-stellar reputations of corporate captains from the 1980s and 1990s, such as Welch," Worden wrote.

"He looks more like a quack now than a leader, and when you combine that with the terrible performance of his company after his departure, it becomes clear that dumb luck probably had as much to do with Welch's business success as anything that he wrote in his book."

I'll concede that Worden's piece on is a knee-jerk, over-the-top reaction, no doubt fueled by the widespread resentment of excessive CEO pay, perks and power in a world where most of us in the middle are barely scraping by.

But then again, Welch's tweet was a knee-jerk, over-the-top reaction too. And a new low in the 2012 election campaign.

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