Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 6, 2011

FOR THE RIGHT, IT'S A FEATURE, NOT A BUG.... In April, the private sector added 268,000 jobs, while the public sector lost 24,000.

So far in 2011, the private sector has added 854,000 jobs, while the public sector has lost 86,000 jobs.

Over the past year, the private sector has added 1.7 million jobs, while the public sector has lost 404,000 jobs.

Looking at the larger trend, the overall situation is clearly improving. An economy that was shrinking is now growing. An economy that was losing jobs is now creating jobs. Based on the latest data, the job market is now at its strongest point in five years, and while that's not good enough, it is heartening.

But the larger trend also reminds us that the job picture would be even better were it not for conservative economic policies that are causing so many job losses in the public sector.

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty recently claimed that "the only booming 'industry'" in the Obama era is the public sector, while the private sector has lost jobs. That's not only backwards, that's hopelessly insane.

As Matt Yglesias reminds us this morning, Republicans have little to complain about.

[A]nother issue is simply that this is the recovery conservatives say they want. The balance of economic activity is shifting away from the public sector and toward the private sector. So why is it that we have people running around the country -- not just ignorant grassroots folks or talk show entrepreneurs, but billionaire political organizers like David Koch -- screaming about incipient socialism?

It's within the government's power to intervene and prevent these public-sector layoffs at the state and local level. Indeed, in 2009, Democrats did just that, and it immediately helped improve the nation's economy.

It's no longer an option because Republicans reject such a move on ideological grounds. Worse, according to GOP leaders, the goal is to expand this approach, and make public-sector layoffs even worse, on purpose. Remember Speaker Boehner's "So be it" line? It was in response to a question about deliberately making unemployment worse by laying off hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

For the GOP, the loss of public-sector jobs is a feature, not a bug. It's not a development to lament, it's a development to duplicate and expand.

If Americans disapprove, and want to see fewer layoffs, they shouldn't have elected a Republican House.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Win-Win for the GOP (but isn't it always?). The private sector is improving which means more money for the money folks (what's not discussed is the types of jobs being created - are they the sorts of jobs that can become careers? Or hourly clockwatching soul sucking jobs?), but by bleeding the public sector of much needed jobs, they're keeping the economy looking and feeling bleak, which they can blame on Obama.

Posted by: slappy magoo on May 6, 2011 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I would have thought Mr. Benen would have commented on the GOP Debate last night. Reports are that it was a rousing affair, with the two Libertarians espousing some, well, very un-GOP/TP ideas. And the FOX focus group picked some guy who runs a pizza chain as the best of the bunch. PawPaw won't be ordering a pepperoni to-go anytime soon.
As far as the employment report today - the GOP is counting on unemployment handing them the Senate in 2012. Even if they have to pass laws to make people lose their jobs. That's leadership, huh?

Posted by: T2 on May 6, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

the 2010 house elections were a textbook example of a disengaged electorate not voting, and a bunch of deluded zealots voting for people they didn't understand, who would support policies that screwed the very people who voted for them.

"americans" didn't put the current House in place. A subset of voters who barely understand enough about reality to tie their shoes, put that House in place.

I blame our mass-media, which did the bidding of its corporate masters, and made this insane House possible. I can't blame American voters as much as I'd like to, since most voters are so busy trying to survive, or keep their heads above whatever water they're in, it's no wonder they don't understand national politics. Let along national economics.

Posted by: LL on May 6, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"Over the past year, the private sector has added 1.7 million jobs, while the public sector has lost 404,000 jobs."

Another inconvenient truth. Some of that $3.5 trillion corporate windfall is finally starting to trickle out into the economy. The system works!

Posted by: max on May 6, 2011 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK


If things aren't bad enough, that's not good enough for the GOP.

Elections have consequences - and consequences have elections.

Let's hope people remember all that the GOPer's in Congress have, and haven't, done for the people.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 6, 2011 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

The story of 2010 is still, in my view, largely the result of extremely depressed turnout on the side of liberals.

I know SB, and many people on this blog hate to hear this, but as long as the Democratic message is "we suck less than Republicans", you simply can't be surprised when Democratic voters stay home in large numbers (and before any one complains, I did vote and voted Democratic). Stop blaming the voters and start blaming the Democratic party. There needs to be an affirmative reason to vote for someone, as I thought there was in 2008.

Obama's reelection strategy seems to hinge on a combination of doing whatever corporate American wants (especially Wall St), in the hopes of getting all of those campaign contributions, a just good enough economy (which, by traditional standards could still be sucking wind), and the Republicans nominating a nut job to run against him. Well, it's a strategy that may well work, but don't expect the kind of excitement or enthusiasm that existed in 2008.

Posted by: Vince on May 6, 2011 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

If you're a Republican, you see yourself as a "have" and the unemployed as "losers". You can even work for the government (enjoying good wages and benefits) and feel this way. So, when the GOP tells voters that cutting government jobs and spending is the answer, they're really talking to the "winners", people who have a middle-class life because of liberals, unions, and progressive taxation. Why doesn't the cognitive dissonance make their heads explode? Because the Republican culture war has essentially used an optical illusion to persuade voters that it's minorities who are to blame.

In a nutshell, this is our civil war. Yes, many Republicans and independents believe stupid things. But the civil war is deadly serious. And ultimately, it's not a battle between free markets and socialism but a war between whites and everyone else.

Posted by: walt on May 6, 2011 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

sorry, Vince, but that essentially argues that the left lacks the commitment and tenacity of the right. the voters are exactly who to blame. Obama was never anything but center-left if anyone was paying attention.

but the real issue is that change is slow and politicians pay attention to polls and elections. if the right gave up when Reagan didn't immediately outlaw all abortions and burn gays at the stake, they would not be running roughshod over the American social compact today.

the only answer to Democrats who are insufficiently progressive is to continue to elect more Democrats, more often. for more Democrats to show up at the polls, not fewer. you have the cause-and-effect backwards (at least if the left ever wants to be successful.)

while progressives don't like to hear it, if we claim to be the folks for whom "reality matters" we have to start with the objective measurables: those self-identifiying as "progressive" or "liberal" are only about 20% of the voting population in poll after poll. We are outnumbered by those self-identifying as conservative, and obviously are vastly outnumbered by those NOT identifying as liberal. So explain how a politican mathemtatically benefits from moving towards us?

Moreover, the behavior you are giving cover to is not the behavior on the right. For decades, there has been a strong and consistent trend of elements of the Republican electoral coalition voting much more reliably, particularly in off-year elections, than the left. They see it as duty, they have the long view of the culture war. As a result, the composite of the electorate will more often look less liberal than less conservative, and to politicians the liberal component looks less reliable. If I make my living by being elected, what is the rational response to those numbers?

You want better Democratic elected officials? Be better Democratic voters. Period. Trying to reverse that order of operations is a fools game and ensures the right continued success. No one on the left should excuse or try to provide cover for weak-voting among progressives. It is cutting off your progressive nose to spite your center-left face.

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 6, 2011 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

So, zeitgest, does being a "better Democratic voter" entail voting for people who keep taxes low for the rich, while cutting services for the poor? Does it mean voting for politicians who enact feckless financial regulation that, in no meaningful way, will change the corrupt culture that infests that industry? Does it entail voting for politicians that have allowed rampant criminality on Wall Street go unpunished? Does it entail doing nothing to positively impact the housing market (which, by the way, the Administration has quite a bit of unilateral authority to impact though HAMP, if it so chose)? Does it involve voting for politicians who continue many of the abhorrent civil liberty violating policies of the Bush administration? Does it involve voting for politicians who continue wars that have no justification? Does it involve voting for politicians who do nothing to support unions? Does it involve voting for politicians that do nothing to fight global warming? Does it involve voting for politicians who want to expand horrible "free" trade pacts like NAFTA to Korea and Colombia? I could keep going on this thread for quite a while, but I think I've beaten that horse to death.

If that is what you mean by being a better Democratic voter you can certainly count me out.

As long as people keep voting for the likes of Kent Conrad just because there is a D after his name, nothing will change.

Posted by: Vince on May 6, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

the simple answer to all of those questions is "yes." indeed, it is the only path to anything better.

do you think you could really elect someone to Conrad's left, or does not voting for him mean there is another Republican incumbent? (and if you really think you could elect someone to Conrad's seat that is to his left, there is no point in this conversation because you are not bothering with reality.)

but until those left of center show up every time, without fail, and start teh grass roots process of convincing friends so the polling for "liberals" improves, we will never be taken seriously by elected politicians. this is a highly ingrained two-party system. that is the hand we are dealt. as a result, electoral politics is completely zero-sum. as long as Democrats collectively are incrememntally to the left of Republicans collectively, failure to support Democrats moves the government to the right.

it really is that simple, and until the left stops trying to distort and deny that reality to pacify their own puritanical consciences, we will never be able to develop a long-term winning strategy to compete with the right.

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 6, 2011 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

In my state the lege and the governor (Perry! Goodhair!) are going to lay off thousands of state workers and teachers, likely decimating the economy of Austin in order to avoid what they call "job killing tax hikes on business."

It's enough to make ya weep. The stupidity, it BURNS.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on May 6, 2011 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to add to Zeitgeist: yes, we should vote enthusiastically for Conrad if he is the best we can do for that seat, because every additional D means a better chance that the D's will have control of the House and the Senate, which means that our guys set the agenda and shut down things they don't like. Having a few Blue Dogs on board to get a majority is how a Sherrod Brown or a Ted Kennedy gets a chance to set policy. Then build from success and primary weaker members of the coalition when you can get away with it.

Posted by: N.Wells on May 6, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

NYT announcing that mayor bloomberg is proposing laying off over 4200 teachers.

Posted by: mellowjohn on May 6, 2011 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Zeit, this is exactly why I miss you so desperately when you're not around.

Yes. And YES! Bravo. That is why I was so frustrated by Jane Hamsher's undertaking of killing healthcare at all costs and demotivating the dem base. There is reality and there is pie in the sky, nothing is better than any incremental step and it's all (fill in the blank but mostly Obama's) fault. No, it is the reality that if there is no way to elect anything but a blue dog, a blue dog is better than a teabagger. Full. Stop.

I wish more of us understood that.

Posted by: MsJoanne on May 6, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"In April, the private sector added 268,000 jobs"

Almost one quarter of them were at McDonalds.

Posted by: Old Uncle Dave on May 6, 2011 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

For the GOP, the loss of public-sector jobs is a feature, not a bug. It's not a development to lament, it's a development to duplicate and expand.

Knowing how insane the modern conservative movement's thinking has gotten, I would argue that it won't be long before we hear them claiming that the reason we are adding private-sector jobs is their focus on cutting jobs in the public sector...seriously.

Posted by: dcshungu on May 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, am "with" zeitgeist. Elect Conrad, if that's the best you can get with a D after its name. And then *hound him* into becoming a better Dem. How else will he know that we are even "out there"?

I hardly ever bother to pester "my Representative" (Goodlatte); he's a dyed-in-the-wool Repub, whose only redeeming feature is that he's a tool, without leadership ambitions. I'll go if he has a townhall near me and maybe ask a pointed question, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. My two "semi-Dem" Senators (Webb and Warner), OTOH, get an earful, via s-mail (the more trouble I go to, the more seriously I'm likely to be taken), with monotonous regularity. May not help much, but it lets them know I'm here...

Posted by: exlibra on May 6, 2011 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

it won't be long before we hear them claiming that the reason we are adding private-sector jobs is their focus on cutting jobs in the public sector

a fair prediction. it is disheartening that the voting public is both so poorly educated (or deliberately ignorant) and so lacking in common sense that they can be led to believe that there is no connection between public jobs and private jobs.

do people think that government employees are paid in scrip money that cannot be spent at the local grocery, laundromat, Lowe's or other business which then need to, yes, hire more private employees?

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK
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