NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In a speech that jumped between trashing President Barack Obama and allowing that some people may not believe in climate change, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) warned the crowd at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference not to trust the falling unemployment figures coming out of Washington.
"I'm going to say this quite plainly. The unemployment rate is a sham," Perry said Friday. "It leaves millions of American workers uncounted."
Perry has made the claim before, and it stems from conspiracy theories known as unemployment or BLS trutherism, in reference to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is responsible for producing the unemployment rate. Theories began cropping up in 2012, when the release of some surprisingly good job numbers boosted Obama's re-election campaign. Skeptical conservatives suggested Obama was cooking the books to make the economic recovery look stronger than it was.
"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," former General Electric CEO Jack Welch tweeted at the time.
But as The Washington Post reported, the BLS is structured in such a way that the White House can't mess with its math, regardless of which party is occupying it.
"Anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled," Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist at the Labor Department, tweeted in response to the claims.
Perry said Friday, though, that it's up to the Republican Party to "take a stand" for all the people who aren't being counted in unemployment numbers. He offered his own solution. Sort of.
"The answer is not to expand the welfare state," he said. "It's to build the freedom state."