Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2011

GIVING THE GOP'S 'SO BE IT' RESPONSE A CLOSER LOOK.... As House Speaker John Boehner's "so be it" problem continues to percolate, I was glad to see some Republican officials take the time to respond to the concerns.

Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said in a statement sent to reporters late Tuesday evening that the government is hiring more people than it can afford.

"We also keep hearing from our Democrat friends that government jobs will be lost if government spending is cut," Mr. Dayspring said. "Yet, as our government keeps borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar that it spends, it begs the question, 'Why is the government continuing to hire workers that it can't afford to pay?' Couldn't we use fewer IRS agents and more small businessmen and entrepreneurs?"

Let's unpack this, because I think it's important.

First, they're Dayspring's "Democratic friends," and as a rule, "friends" tend to like it when you remember the name of their political party. Second, that's not how "begs the question" is supposed to be used.

Third, Democrats aren't the only ones saying jobs will be lost as a result of Republican spending cuts; Republicans are saying it, too. That's the point -- Boehner admitted that Americans would lose their jobs as the result of the GOP plan. In fact, he said, "so be it." By one credible count, the expected number of American workers forced from their jobs could total nearly 1 million, which would not only increase unemployment considerably, it'd likely bring the struggling economic recovery to a screeching halt.

Fourth, "Why is the government continuing to hire workers that it can't afford to pay?" In reality, on a per capita basis, the federal workforce is already at its lowest level since 1962.

And finally, the substance of Dayspring's argument is that Republicans should force hundreds of thousands of layoffs, on purpose, because of the deficit Republicans helped create under Bush. But then we get into a question about priorities -- if the deficit is so serious, why did Dayspring's caucus demand more tax breaks than made the deficit worse? To use his language, it "begs the question" as to why Republicans continue to cut taxes they can't pay for.

But wait, there's more.

Ezra Klein talked to John Boehner's spokesperson, Michael Steel, asking why the Speaker said the Obama administration has added 200,000 federal jobs in two year, when reality suggests otherwise. (By Ezra's count, the actual number is 58,000.)

An e-mail to John Boehner's office got me a bit closer. Michael Steel, his spokesman, directed me to "Federal Government Employees, Except U.S. Postal Service. December 2008 - January 2011." If you use that data, you get 153,000 more federal employees. But why are we excluding postal service workers? And why are we starting in December 2008, before Obama was inaugurated (if you start in January 2009, the difference is 141,000 workers)? And 153,000, of course, is still not 200,000.

Steel goes on to note that "they" meaning the Obama administration -- "created another 400K gov't Census jobs, so the total is actually more than twice what Boehner said." But those jobs are gone now, and they have been for some time. And it's not as if Obama created the Census: That's a constitutional duty. President John McCain would've had to hire those workers, too. And the administration actually worked to hold hiring for the census down -- perhaps to the detriment of the labor market.

As for the 58,000 new federal workers who were hired, most relate to military and homeland security, which Republicans claim to care about.

What we're left with is a House Republican caucus that isn't quite sharp enough to realize it's playing with fire, with the economy hanging in the balance. It picked an arbitrary number, came up with a spending-cut plan to meet it, and the result is a policy that would deliberately put in upwards of a million Americans out of work. Asked to defend the policy, GOP spokespersons are left with non-sequiturs, falsehoods, and gibberish.

These guys, in other words, have no idea what they're talking about, but they have the power to do enormous damage.

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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These guys, in other words, have no idea what they're talking about, but they have the power to do enormous damage.

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that a more succinct of the modern Republican Party has never been said.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on February 16, 2011 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Well, thank goodness the Democratic Party is fighting back by calling for a pay freeze for government employees. There's no better way to win an argument than by preemptively conceding all your opponents' premises.

Posted by: Tom Allen on February 16, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't we use fewer IRS agents and more small businessmen and entrepreneurs?" -- Dayspring (Cantor's megaphone)

Even ignoring the Freudian choice of the office to be axed... that's another fallacy to add to your list: those IRS agents and all other govt employees already support those small businessmen and entrepreneurs, either directly (buying whatever the businessmen have to offer) or via their taxes to the community where they reside and the businessmen operate. If they're let go, they'll go on the dole (expensive) and pinch pennies. They'll not turn into entrepreneurs all of a sudden.

But, like with everything else, the Amen (so be it) Brigade doesn't see that far. Or, if they do, they hope the rest of us won't.

Posted by: exlibra on February 16, 2011 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

in a nutshell, the GOP considers "government worker" an oxymoron.

Posted by: DAY on February 16, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Begs the question" has become so widely misused that I think we need, alas, to give up the idea of saving it. Hearing it used correctly would probably just confuse people these days.

Posted by: karen on February 16, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I think we should amend the Constitution to eliminate the job-killing decennial census requirement. There's really no need to have House districts of basically equal population. Just keep the ones we have now. That would dramatically increase the likelihood we'd get to keep the Representatives we have now for LONG time. And, you know, it's such a good group of folks, why would we want to run the risk of any of the being defeated in a, you know, election?

Posted by: jpeckjr on February 16, 2011 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

run the risk of any of them being defeated in, you know, an election? would be, you know, better writing.

Posted by: jpeckjr on February 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I have been looking at the videos of crowds demonstrating today against the repub governor who has threatened them with the National Guard. There are lots of people - I must admit I have to wonder if any of them voted for a republican when this man was elected, I think a lot of people are going to have buyers remorse when the new crop of tea baggers get up to speed.

Posted by: j on February 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"What we're left with is a House Republican caucus that isn't quite sharp enough to realize it's playing with fire, with the economy hanging in the balance."

They WANT the economy hanging in the balance, and they'd be happy to do more than play with fire if it meant they'd get control of the Senate and the Executive, to add to the House.

Hell, they'd torch the whole damned f*cking economy in a nano-second to regain total power.

These are NOT your Grandparent's Republicans!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 16, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

The best line in Cantor's mouthpiece's response:

"Couldn't we use fewer IRS agents and more small businessmen and entrepreneurs?"

Because clearly, the only thing keeping those people from success as entrepreneurs is those damn jobs at the IRS. They'll be so grateful to be freed of those burdens!
(And -- since it's the IRS in particular that was cited -- the rich tax cheats will have even less fear than they do now of the possibility of being caught in their deceptions. It's a win/win/win/WIN!)


"...a House Republican caucus that isn't quite sharp enough to realize it's playing with fire, with the economy hanging in the balance."
�Steve Benen 3:05 PM

I suppose that's a possibility.
But it's far more likely that they know exactly what they're doing:
they want the recovery to stall;
they want unemployment to increase;
they want Americans to hurt more, not less...
...because that's what got them the House in the recent election.
And -- as they've publicly announced -- their only goal right now is the replacement of Obama with a Publican President.
(Well, that and a majority of the Senate, of course.)
And, with the help of the corporate media (and Obama's eager reinforcement of Publican memes), it's not at all inconceivable that it will work.
Why do you persist in not listening to what they themselves are saying?
Or is it that, since they lie about everything else, you assume they're lying about that as well -- and they really do care about the lives of the 95+% of Americans who don't have 7-figure net worths?

Posted by: smartalek on February 16, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

The sad part on all of this is that the American public will hear the 200,000 number and not the 58,000 number because the media is so wired for the Republican noise machine

Posted by: Les Ismore on February 16, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Rethugs don't care if what they claim is wrong, or a lie. We engage their prevarication and spin as if they're making a serious argument needing to be debunked. But they don't care, and tomorrow they'll have three more nonsense talking points to tie up the fact checkers. Ultimately, they also have the media megaphone, and the Dems don't. Unless there's a better balance in the propaganda department progressives, liberals, Democrats, rational types with a few brain cells left, are going to lose to the know-nothings.

Posted by: rrk1 on February 16, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Note that John Boehner isn't suggesting firing the 200,000 new soldiers, marines and TSA agents they've hired. He's suggesting firing 200,000 IRS agents and food inspectors to make up for the 200,000 new soldiers, marins and TSA agents.

Posted by: Lance on February 16, 2011 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen is shocked several times a day that the media doesn't publish the crazy comments made by Republican leaders, and when the MSM does it glosses over their significance. Right now there are demonstrations going on in Madison WI that are being largely ignored by the MSM.

At this site we seem to spend all day, every day waiting on the MSM to tell the truth.

The MSM isn't going to, ever. It is not in the MSM's interest to tell the truth. They work for the corporations. Even if they didn't they make money selling stuff. Man bites dog sells. Fights sell. He said, she said sells. The Truth, not so much.

My suggestion to all of us is that we use the power of social media for something other than telling our friends and neighbors who we want to sleep with or what we want for dinner tonight.

I suggest we take a page from the Egyptians and use social media to spread the truth. We should use the social media to tell our story. It is time we got organized.

Stop waiting for the media to do our job. Stop it, already.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 16, 2011 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

You want to spread the truth, post on your social media pages the true number of new employees under Obama. Get the word out on twitter. If we all do it, the truth will spread. In a week or two the MSM will start telling it.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 16, 2011 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The government is doing big time hiring - that's a new one to me.

Posted by: ET on February 16, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what the figures are like now, but back when Reagan cut the number of IRS auditors to save money, it was widely pointed out that the IRS workers actually make money beyond their salaries by catching tax cheaters. It may be that the gop doesn't want tax cheaters caught, but the claim that cutting IRS agents will save the government as a whole money needs to be checked against reality where it is likely, as with most Republican claims, it will fail.

Posted by: john sherman on February 16, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK
Second, that's not how "begs the question" is supposed to be used.

This complaint is, well, ridiculous. The usage of "begs the question" here is the most common usage, and it is a usage that is exclusively transitive, so it can never be confused with the translation of the Latin petitio principii that obnoxious pedants insist is the only "correct" usage of the phrase "begs the question" in the English language, as that "correct" form can only be used in intransitive constructions.

The phrase has two current usages which are impossible to confuse with each other. The more common one is not wrong, and modern English isn't a cosmetic veneer over Renaissance-era academic Latin.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The government is doing big time hiring - that's a new one to me."

Posted by: ET on February 16, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Obviously you don't watch Fox News. Big time hiring and giant increases in the Department of Education, Energy Department and the EPA budgets are widely accepted Republican "truths."

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 16, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

The disingenuous use of "Democrat friend" is the tell! Dayspring is not an honest broker of information, real-life circumstances, nor policy debate!

He is a paid hack!

An honest rendering of Boehner's utterance would have been, "My bad, I don't condone job losses at a time of economic uncertainty, but I do have a difference of opinion as to whether or not the governmental workforce is actually carrying out relevant jobs, or just earning wasteful government spending."

But no, we get "Hey critics, I think the American electorate is so stupid I can keep holding a mirror up to others to criticize, but will not take responsibility for my own flaws, knowing I can hoodwink the electorate when it counts - during my re-election campaign!"

The Republican Brand is actively working for the failure of our great and beloved nation! To our Republican leaders, the American middle class is on its own, and will get no quarter from their policy proposals.

No one can carry out an honest debate with a side whose only interest is increasing the pocket cash and bottom line for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their allies, the Kock brothers.

Those who represent this side are most willing to talk out of both sides of their mouths if for no other reason than to confuse the national debate so no reforms can be achieved - especially reforms that would speak well of our nationally elected leader who has been trying to solve our national woes while having Mitch, John and Eric tied around his neck like albatrosses! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 16, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Now the President is being accused of hiring too many many people?

Posted by: cdrone on February 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't we use fewer IRS agents and more small businessmen and entrepreneurs?"

What's the logic here? How do these professions interconvert? Is the government depleting the pool of small businessmen and entrepreneurs by forcing them to work as IRS agents? Or are these pesky IRS agents harming small businessmen and entrepreneurs by prohibiting them to be 'creative' on their taxes?

Please expand, Mr Dayspring (what an adorable name!), inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: eserwe on February 16, 2011 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Steve,

Thanks for the exposition on the GOPs fallacious arguments.

And speaking of fallacies, thanks so much for pointing out the errant usage of "begs the question"!

Posted by: skang on February 16, 2011 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Couldn't we use fewer IRS agents and more small businessmen and entrepreneurs?"

I understand why he would want many fewer IRS agents what with his creative accounting, but it also occurs to me that by "small businessmen and entrepreneurs" he is referring to the people on Wall St. and others who will fill the repub bank accounts.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on February 17, 2011 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

To points above:

a) I have no quibble with this common usage of "begs the question" as cited, because it makes perfect transparent sense.

And b) I post one political link a day on Facebook, about 50% of them linking here or to a story that "here" had made me aware of. However, I am frustrated that these links don't seem to garner much attention. Too many of my Facebook friends are just doing the family thing and not sompolitically engaged.

Half of them are aimed, however, squarely at my conservative sister, who believes that Obama is a socialist lunatic who's driving our country into a ditch. And who still doesn't believe that mankind has had any influence on global warming. :-\

Posted by: jTh on February 17, 2011 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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