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Harold Goldstein

Now 90, Harold Goldstein was the assistant commisssioner of employment statistics at the Bureau of Labor Statistics when, at a press conference in 1971, he referred to a drop in the unemployment rate from 6.2% to 6.0% as “marginally significant,” contrasting with then-President Richard Nixon’s rosy assessment of the drop and drawing the president’s ire. Nixon soon became convinced there was a “Jewish cabal” in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and ordered Fred Malek to compile a list of the Jews at the top of the bureau, and Goldstein was listed among 12 others. Both Goldstein and Peter Henle (who wrote a memo defending Goldstein) were reassigned two months later.
Goldstein, who now lives in a retirement community in Battery Park City, said he didn’t feel his being Jewish contributed significantly to his being reassigned, and that “I don’t hold it particularly against Malek, he was in there working for a rotten boss, and the rotten boss asked him to do a nasty job, and he did, it wasn’t illegal; it certainly wasn’t a friendly thing to do…I don’t have a feud with malek for the rest of my life.”
At the time of the initial press conference, Goldstein “was in charge of two major areas of work…the statistics of employment and unemployment, and the other was the production of information for kids about occupations…what the employment prospects were…the Occupational Outlook Handbook.” In late 1971, the first part of his job description was handed off to someone else, and a new supervisor was place above him, though he received no reduction in salary or title. Already eligible for retirement, he retired soon after in mid-1972 at the age of 57.
“I guess I retired with some anger, but I knew that my boss, the commissioner, had been given his orders…that was it, it was not a disastrous thing that happened to me,” he said.
He became a freelance consultant, including for the department of labor.
When the Jew-counting was revealed in 1988, Goldstein said, “I didn’t think much of the president for having asked him to do that…the president was paranoid about a lot of things besides Jews.” Nixon’s notions of a Jewish cabal in the BLS were “just one of a typical set of anti-Semitic paranoia, and I think he’s responsible for it – and people like Malek” were just following orders.
Goldstein asserted that Malek shouldn’t be blamed for his actions in part because of prevalent anti-Semitism at the time: “Being against Jews was just so common in the culture of our American civilization that this was just an extension of generasl mild disapproval of Jews…it didn’t take much to make that step up to anti-Semitic actions if their job required it.”
“I hope that I’m not depriving you of a story by saying that the Jewish angle is not an important angle,” he offered, asserting “my own feeling is that that was just one of Nixon’s stupid ideas; he probably threw out a lot of stupid ideas and his staff was assigned to follow one or another,…there were quite a few Jews in the bureau of labor statistics…I don’t think that’s much of a story, the real story is the one that I’m trying to write and I can’t do it, the conflict between professionals who want to do their job and an administration with an agenda…look what the present administration is doing, look what’s coming out about rove after all these years, this guy [Bush] is as bad as Nixon, maybe worse.”
He said that standing up for the statistical findings was “where we came into conflict with president Nixon…I don’t consider it a Jewish issue.”
The writing Goldstein’s referring to is the product of a memoir-writing class in his retirement community. About a third of the memoirs, entitled “Memoirs of a Madman,” which he shares with family and friends, have been posted on a friend’s Website.
Like Henle, Goldstein said he, too, got “a laugh” from Nixon’s concern about Jews, as “I was never given a religious education…in the latter part of the 19th century, in all western countries, there was a rebellion against religion and against traditionalism, and my parents were a part of that.”
“Other than the Bible,” he said the only other “religious text in our house was the lectures of Colonel Robert Ingersoll.”
Of Henle, Goldstein said “Well, Pete was a very good and competent economist, and I think he got a bum deal from the bureau of labor statistics…he was supporting me in that whole business, and I forget what exactly they did to him…he had taken a leave, an official leave…and when he wanted to come back his job had disappeared…he wrote a memo opposing what the bureau was doing in knuckling under to the administration in this issue.” The two, he said, were “good friends.”
Goldstein lost his wife some years ago, and his two daughters passed away rather young, at 25 and 41, of a congenital disease. He has some grandchildren from his older daughter.

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