Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2011

MILBANK GOES THERE.... It looks like much of the Beltway press was underwhelmed by House Speaker John Boehner's "so be it" problem, but to his credit, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank appreciated the seriousness of this in a terrific column.

To briefly review, Boehner was asked yesterday about expected job losses as a result of Republican budget cuts. "In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," he said. "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it."

Asked exactly how many thousands of Americans would be left unemployed as a result of GOP cuts, Boehner said he didn't know (and apparently, doesn't care). So, Milbank looked into it.

I checked with budget expert Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress, and, using the usual multipliers, he calculated that the cuts -- a net of $59 billion in the last half of fiscal 2011 -- would lead to the loss of 650,000 government jobs, and the indirect loss of 325,000 more jobs as fewer government workers travel and buy things. That's nearly 1 million jobs -- possibly enough to tip the economy back into recession.

So be it?

Let's assume that Boehner is not as heartless as his words sound. Let's accept that he really believes, as he put it, that "if we reduce spending we'll create a better environment for job creation in America." A more balanced budget would indeed improve the jobs market -- in the long run.

But in the short run, the cuts Boehner and his caucus propose would cause a shock to the economy that would slow, if not reverse, the recovery. And however pure Boehner's motives may be, the dirty truth is that a stall in the recovery would bring political benefits to the Republicans in the 2012 elections. It is in their political interests for unemployment to remain higher for the next two years. "So be it" is callous but rational.

This is pretty provocative stuff for a member of the D.C. establishment in good standing. Of course, given that the Speaker of the House, by his own admission, has announced his support for a budget plan that would make unemployment worse, on purpose, I'm not sure why more of Milbank's colleagues aren't taking this more seriously.

What's more, PolitiFact looked into Boehner's claim about 200,000 new federal jobs and found that the Speaker's claim just isn't true. This is important -- Boehner wants to force hundreds of thousands of Americans from their jobs, deliberately, and he's basing this decision in part on a statistic that he's simply made up.

How'd this guy even get to be Speaker in the first place? What kind of national leader looks at a 9% unemployment rate and presents a plan to knowingly make it worse?

I realize Boehner has a response. In his mind, those hundreds of thousands of workers who'd be laid off would, in time, get jobs in the private sector. The argument is exceedingly weak on policy grounds, but it's even worse as a rhetorical pitch: "Let's make unemployment worse on purpose, and maybe someday, these jobless Americans will find new jobs somewhere else."

Let's take that debate to the public, and see if voters buy it.

In general, the establishment media isn't pouncing on this -- some are strangely insisting it's not worth the attention -- but Chris Matthews mentioned it yesterday, and Rachel Maddow used this to make a larger case that John Boehner just isn't good at his job. I'm inclined to agree.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Huh. Put a million more unemployed on the streets with the example of Egypt at hand--things might get interesting.

Posted by: rabbit on February 16, 2011 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

Keeping the recession going is obviously a Rethug strategy for complete takeover in 2012. Pinning the problem on Obama, who is likely to own a lot of it legitimately anyway, is the keystone. Given how little the gullible public understands about how government works, whether the blame for the economic fallout lands on congress is an open question. Once again, it will be about who has the better propaganda machine, and we already know the answer to that.

Posted by: rrk1 on February 16, 2011 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

That Matthews and Maddow of MSNBC point this out isn't news.
When I hear something from those hibernating at CNN, like Wolf, and the 'worst political team on television,' maybe I'll start to believe that our MSM is finally waking up.
And if FOX covers this with an airbrush and audio tricks, get the defibrillator out because I'll need it.

In the meantime - Thanks, Dana!!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 16, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK


Breaking: Madison Schools Closed Due To Teacher Walk-Outs!





(The Beginning of People Not Taking GOP Cuts on the Poor & Working Class Anymore, While Extending Helping Hands to the Rich!)

Posted by: angellight on February 16, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

I was actually one of the "few readers" who suggested Politifact look into this after Steve's earlier post. I very quickly got a mail back saying they thought they would and got another mail later saying to expect a post in about an hour.

They are very responsive, so if you see obvious bullshit get in touch with the non-partisan fact checkers, Politifact and Factcheck.org.

Posted by: Vondo on February 16, 2011 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Ooops, the 2nd to last sentence in my comment above should read:

'And if FOX covers this WITHOUT an airbrush and audio tricks, get the defibrillator out because I'll need it.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 16, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner / The new / Micheal Steele /
America / The new / Hooverville /
Worse than the old Hooverville / News @ another time /
Blonde sweetie screams for attention /
Next ....

Posted by: FRP on February 16, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

John Boehner just isn't good at his job

That may depend on what his job is. If it's supporting his corporate masters, or if it's keeping his own job, he's doing just fine. There is no need to mess that up with consistency or facts.

Posted by: anandine on February 16, 2011 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

"If some of those jobs are lost, so be it."

Of course, Boehner sings a different tune when it comes to spending billions on jobs in Ohio to make an airplane engine the Pentagon doesn't need or want.

Posted by: Gregory on February 16, 2011 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner didnt care about jobs during the Bush years...why would he care now?

His primary concern is getting the highest ROI for his corporate masters in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, earmarks, loans etc etc.

Why just look at Paul Ryans budget plan...it raises taxes some 7% for the bottom 80% while cutting even more for his 20% owners.

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 16, 2011 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

In general, the establishment media isn't pouncing on this -- some are strangely insisting it's not worth the attention

Darn that "liberal media"!

Posted by: Gregory on February 16, 2011 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the 1 million number is understated. In addition to the loss of jobs of government workers, and indirect losses from the reduction in consumer demand by those workers, what about the job losses resulting in the private sector (in particular the non-for-profit sector) as funding for programs is cut? When money for Head Start is reduced, Head Start will have to close some facilities and lay off workers. Was this factored in anyone's numbers?

Posted by: DRF on February 16, 2011 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think we all enjoy draughts from the river of time , whose ameliorating hands turn back the sharp edges of memory .
Dennis Hastert was the equal to Boehner in every callous and ignorant breathe he took .

As wise old Billy Preston sez

Nothing from nothing is nothing
and you gotta have something
I'm not tryin' to be your hero
'Cause that zero is too cold for me, Brrr
I'm not tryin' to be your highness
'Cause that minus is too low to see, yeah

Posted by: FRP on February 16, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

When even Dana Milbank gets it we can rule out stupidity as an excuse and move on to collusion.

Posted by: SW on February 16, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner wants to force hundreds of thousands of Americans from their jobs, deliberately, and he's basing this decision in part on a statistic that he's simply made up.

Well, as they say, 90% of statistics are made up.

Posted by: martin on February 16, 2011 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Government job" is so nebulous as to be meaningless. Just what ARE those jobs Obama created? Prison guards? Unemployment processors? Second Deputy Assistant to the Undersecretary for the Interstate Commerce Commission?

Like sperm, every job is sacred, but some gets spilled, nonetheless.

Posted by: DAY on February 16, 2011 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how much of all of this is pure kabuki. Boehner gets the House to pass the cuts, shoring up his bona-fides with the wingnuts. The Senate denies the extreme cuts, or Obama vetoes, shoring up their bona-fides; the economy limps along, maybe slowly recovering. Nobody deals with the debt in the short-term, and any major fixes get kicked down the road apiece with nobody paying any significant political price in 2012.

Posted by: beejeez on February 16, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

If there is the spine for a fight , it doesn't get kicked doun the road a bit , it gets kicked up in our faces a lot . We all enjoyed figuring out when the pain was going to arrive just yesterday , via our checks , and if I read the tea leaves correctly its a comin'
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own soul
Have pity on those whose choices grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Kingdom's throne

People get ready
There's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage you just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesel comin'
Don't need no ticket you just thank the
Blue dogs and their Republican fren's
For bringing the pain

Posted by: FRP on February 16, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

I looked into the actual 58,000 net new federal government jobs that have been created in the last two years. About half of those new jobs were created by DOD and the VA. I doubt if these are the new jobs the Speaker wants to go away.

Posted by: BobK on February 16, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Without contradicting the veracity of these job loss calculations, the missing point here is that this would be the effect to the economy if the only thing that these workers did was collect and spend their paychecks. Now this might be the conservative thinking on this, and might even be used as a rational; but the reality is that these workers do things which, if left undone, would certainly have an effect on the economy, and there must be some way to estimate how bad an effect this would be.

Posted by: jhm on February 16, 2011 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

And I'm sure the already jobless would welcome the additional competition from the newly jobless. But that would likely be Boehner's goal: more competitors for existing jobs would mean employers could offer lower wages to new hires (simultaneously putting pressure on the wages of existing employees), leading to higher profits to invest overseas (or just to sit on), a further fattening of executives' paychecks, and increased contributions from corporatists to Republican candidates as gratitude for further driving blue-collar and middle-class workers' wages into the ground.

Posted by: Anon on February 16, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I think that John Boehner can lie without suffering any consequences for it is at the heart of what is wrong with America today. The unrelenting lying that has been going on has made it impossible to have serious debates on issues, and that is very bad for a democracy.
When the media refuses to point out when someone is lying, they are not being objective. They are misinforming their audience and acting cowardly.

Posted by: david1234 on February 16, 2011 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think that Boehner is necessarily lying; I think it's more likely that he simply doesn't understand the underlying economics of many of these issues. I always had the sense that the health care reform issues were just over his head, so he relied on talking points fed him by political consultants and aides.

Unfortunately, I think this is also true of others in the Republican House leadership. Cantor and Pence are generally regarded as not being all that sharp, and obviously there are a large number of plain old idiots among the Republicans in the House. (I know that there are Democratic Representatives who are also intellectually challenged, but there seem to be fewer of them and they aren't in leadership positions.)

In any event, I found Boehner's statement remarkable only in how badly his messaging was; obviously, he comes across as extremely callous (which is, no doubt, true). Clearly, when you cut funding you are going to cut jobs. The Republican policy position is that, in the long run, it's better for the economy to reduce the deficit, even if in the short run it increases the number of unemployed; that reducing the deficit will allow for a climate which encourages economic growth and, therefore, more employment. Whether you accept that theory or not, it's at least coherent, and Boehner completely failed to make this point.

Posted by: DRF on February 16, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

If Dems play their cards right they can make "So be it" the "No new taxes" of 2012.

Every single Dem should frame ANY potential Repbulican cuts to vital government programs with "So be it"

Voting against clean water...so be it
No WIC coverage for women and children...so be it
Cutting Federal Jobs...So be it
Forcible Rape provisions...so be it

The beauty is that Republicans are so arrogant that they will embrace the "So be it" as a badge of honor (ie Joe "You Lie" Wilson)

This embrace will help Dems further enforce Republican callousness towards the middle class

Posted by: lib4 on February 16, 2011 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Lying? Maybe; hell, even probably. Stupid? No question, if for no other reason than it looks like Boehner thinks he can fool all of the people all of the time.

The real problem is that the truly stupid ones (Cantor, Pence, the box of rocks from MN-6, the bowl of dirt from NC-5 and, on the other side of the hill, good 'ol Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III) are so damn stupid that Boehner looks better by comparison. I mean, come on, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee doesn't understand the commutative property of multiplication.

Posted by: JustBeingPedantic on February 16, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

What would be helpful would be a list of possible jobs that would be cut and how that would affect the general public. To many people government jobs = waste. But if one could say "x number of food inspectors would be fired, and you'd have y greater chance of being poisoned" and so on, then, just maybe people would get the picture.

Posted by: Hannah on February 16, 2011 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

lib 4,@10:55:

Since "so be it" means "amen", I should think the Repubs in general, and Teabaggers in particular, would embrace it with zeal.

Indeed, the way Boehner constructed his whole utterance sounds as if he equates God and Government: the Government giveth (the jobs) and the Government (Congress) taketh away. Amen.

Posted by: exlibra on February 16, 2011 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Dana Milbank said: "A more balanced budget would indeed improve the jobs market -- in the long run."

Yeah, that's not even true. I realize war-supporting "leftie" putzes like Milbank (like all of our media, actually) have to type the obligatory "to be sure" paragraph, granting the legitimacy of the loonie opposition, but this one's not really true.

Posted by: flubber on February 16, 2011 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the job of the American people to tell John Boehner what to think -- or even to think at all!

Posted by: Buffalo Harold on February 16, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

boehner's job is to retain power for the republicans in the house and the scotus and to gain the power in senate and the presidency. The cons don't care about anything else. It's that simple.

Posted by: Carol from CO on February 16, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

A little while back the thought that perhaps the Republicans really wanted the economy to tank in order to push their electoral advantage started to gain steam but then seemed to peter out. However it was clear then and it's clear now, damage to the economy is a feature, not a bug, of the Republican philosophy. They truly believe it's their ticket to big wins in 2012. Like Dana Milbank we all need to "go there." It's time to expose their itty bitty black hearts. If they take offense then challenge them to prove us wrong.

Posted by: Letitia on February 16, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK



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