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June 08, 2013 10:38 AM “The sequester will help the economy”: another right-wing fairy tale debunks itself

By Kathleen Geier

Remember all those fearless predictions by the usual grinning idiots on the right about how the sequester was going to work miracles for the economy? Well guess what? That never happened.

I know, I know. I’m still reeling from the shock.

The sequester took effect on March 1, so we now have three months’ worth of jobs data that have been released in its aftermath. The results have been underwhelming, to say the least. As Brad DeLong observed this week, we are still in a depressed economy. And as Ed noted yesterday, the latest monthly jobs report was thoroughly mediocre.

I particularly wanted to highlight the point the New York Times’ Annie Lowrey made: that the report shows that the sequester is already, specifically beginning to have a negative impact on employment. Yesterday’s report shows that the federal workforce, which has suffered cutbacks due to the sequester, is shrinking at a dramatically accelerated rate:

Federal employment had been on a downward trend since the start of 2011, with the government shedding about 3,000 or 4,000 positions a month through February. Then sequestration hit on March 1. And in the last three months, the federal work force has shrunk by about 45,000 positions, including 14,000 in May alone.

Those newly unemployed federal workers, of course, now have less money to spend, which will also slow down the economy. In addition, the sequester is also causing cuts in programs like unemployment benefits and benefits to low-income people such as aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Benefits to the unemployed and low-income folks act not only as a social safety net, but also as stimulus, since poor people and the jobless are likely to spend every penny they’ve got. Now, less of that money will be going into the pockets of those people and thus into the economy at large. That will also hurt the economic recovery, such as it is.

So, for those of you keeping score at home? The right wing/free market fundamentalists/austerity caucus? They are wrong. Again. And once again, they are continuing to drive the economy, and the country, into the ground.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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