Political Animal


August 09, 2011 12:30 PM The easy-to-save jobs we’re losing anyway

By Steve Benen

Every month, when the new job numbers come out, we tend to see the same thing: the private sector is faring relatively well, adding jobs, while the public sector is shedding jobs quickly. The former number is generally much larger than the latter, which means the economy is still adding jobs, but the public-sector losses are a significant drag on a weak employment market.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Nicholas Johnson explained the other day, “Since August 2008, state and local governments have slashed 611,000 positions, and the cuts have been getting worse — 340,000 of those jobs were lost in the last 12 months. July was the ninth consecutive month, and the 29th out of the last 35, in which total state and local employment shrank.”

This chart, via Ezra, helps drive the point home:

I know I talk about this a lot, but given the jobs crisis and the public demand that policymakers address unemployment, it’s important to realize one of the key factors dragging down the economy.

Layoffs at the state and local level were mitigated in 2009 by the Recovery Act, which saved thousands of jobs that would have otherwise been eliminated. Those funds have since been exhausted, and the public sector is back to making severe layoffs. It’s why that column on the right is the most severe.

This is what David Leonhardt recently described as “an unforced economic error” — with all of the problems we can’t control, this is one problem we know exactly how to prevent. We just choose not to, because the Republicans’ ideology dictates that these job losses are actually good for us.

No, really, the GOP looks at the above chart and sees this as a positive development. Under the Republican economic model, the public sector is supposed to lose jobs, and as part of the party’s austerity agenda, this is a problem that must get worse on purpose.

Earlier this year, for example, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about his spending-cut plans and the fact that the cuts would force thousands of public-sector workers from their jobs. “So be it,” the Republican said.

In other words, deliberately making unemployment worse wasn’t seen as a problem. This is a feature of the GOP model, not a bug.

All of this is easily preventable, but our jobs crisis is partly the result of our political crisis. Congress can choose to spend the money to keep these workers on the job, but Republicans find the very idea offensive, so it doesn’t happen.

The irony, of course, is that when unemployment doesn’t improve, it’s Republicans who complain bitterly and blame Democrats, which in turn leads to more calls from the right to curtail “out of control spending,” which makes the jobs picture even worse still, which leads to more bitter complains from the GOP.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • efgoldman on August 09, 2011 12:39 PM:

    One wonders if all the public-sector (mostly police and firefighters) union locals that have supported GOBP presidential candidates because they were "tougher on crime," going back to Saint Ronnie, are having second, third or fourth thoughts...
    Be careful what you wish for.

    Captcha sPosenin Macovsk what the hell is that?
    New Capthca etylev rumors one real word...

  • c u n d gulag on August 09, 2011 12:41 PM:

    "The irony, of course, is that when unemployment doesn’t improve, it’s Republicans who complain bitterly and blame Democrats, which in turn leads to more calls from the right to curtail “out of control spending,” which makes the jobs picture even worse still, which leads to more bitter complains from the GOP."


    And the MSM still doesn't get it.

    The right won't be happy until every single government function is privatized.
    The military.
    And the fire and police contractors will only respond to the highest bidder, which, of course, will be the rich.

    For the rest of us, they'll come out and play Bloodhound Gangs 'Burn MFer Burn' song:


  • SteveT on August 09, 2011 12:59 PM:

    But cutting government workers is necessary for everyone to have "freedom". Once the engines of private enterprise are released from the shackles of big government, the economy will start growing once again.

    When there is nobody to stop multinational corporations from cheating, maiming or killing their customers, their employees and the bystanders who happen to live nearby, then profits will go up and the billionaires will finally be rich enough to summon the Supply-side Fairy who will flitter across the countryside sprinkling the magical pixie dust that will make America a paradise.

  • dalloway on August 09, 2011 12:59 PM:

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the U.K. -- a prime example of "slash and burn." Cameron has slashed government spending and now London is burning. Don't think it can't happen here. The thing about lack of empathy is that you can't tell when folks have had as much pain they can take.

  • stormskies on August 09, 2011 1:00 PM:

    And despite the purposeful destruction of our country by these Repiglcians = Corporations, almost half of the population will continue to vote for them anyway ... we are, indeed, United Stupid America

  • stormskies on August 09, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Meanwhile ............

    August 09, 2011 09:30 AM
    Union Workers Stand Up to Extreme Demands from Verizon
    By Kenneth Quinnell

    Sam Seder takes a look at an amazing clip from a large rally against Verizon.

    More than 40,000 workers -- members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- went on strike this week after Verizon refused to even begin to bargain fairly with the workers. The workers on strike include "telephone field technicians, call center workers and cable installers from Massachusetts to Virginia."

    Verizon has canceled multiple bargaining sessions and refuses to back down from any of their original concession requests, something that flies in the face of the basic idea of negotiating. Workers say they are prepared to return to work as soon as management shows a willingness to sit down and work out a fair agreement.

    There is no need for Verizon to pursue the level of cuts to compensation for their workers that they are after. Verizon had a $6 billion profit last year (on revenues of $108 billion) and just paid a $10 billion dividend. Over the last four years, the company has a total of more than $19 billion in profits. Verizon's profits not only make them one of the richest and most successful companies in the country, they are outperforming the overall communications industry. The company's chair, Ivan Seidenberg makes more than 300 times what the average Verizon worker makes. The top five executives have been paid more than $250 million in the past four years. On top of all this, it turns out Verizon not only paid $0 in federal taxes last year, they also received $1 billion in subsidies.

    Verizon is looking for $1 billion in concessions, an average of $20,000 per family that is supported by a Verizon worker, and will not back down from any of their demands. The workers, on the other hand, have shown a willingness to make concessions, particularly when it comes to health care benefits.

    The extreme concessions Verizon is seeking include:

    -Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.

    -Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.

    -Elimination of all job security provisions.

    -Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.

    -Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.

    -Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.

    Verizon's attack on its workers is not new. In recent years, it has cut is percentage of unionized jobs nearly in half. The company has also outsourced more than 25,000 jobs. Verizon's cell phone division is mostly non-union.

    The assault on Verizon's workers is part of a larger battle taking place across the country, where conservatives in government and business are blaming unions and working families for larger problems that unions either have nothing to do with or the alleged problems don't even exist. Corporate profits are at the highest proportion of the national income that has ever been recorded, and they continue to increase. At the same time, the percentage of national income that makes up wages has slipped below 50 percent of the overall total for the first time in recorded history, and the decline goes on. Not surprisingly, Verizon is an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the same organization behind the assaults on unions in numerous states.

    There are a number of ways you can get involved of follow the developments in the strike:

    Find picket lines to participate in if you are in the area.

    Take action via the CWA website or AFL-CIO's web site

    Read more about the strike directly from the CWA. You can keep up with the events on Twitter at @VZLaborfacts or by following the hashtag #verizonstrike. Learn more on Facebook as well.

  • mk3872 on August 09, 2011 1:13 PM:

    Month after month for more than 12 months now, private sector jobs grow.

    And month after month Republicans cutting government budgets and gov't spending has led to massive public sector layoffs.

    The layoffs can now be directly related to Republican slashing gov't spending.

  • T2 on August 09, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Let's take Texas, where Rick Perry is governor. When he gets into the race for president, expect to hear a lot of bragging about job creation in Texas. But don't expect to hear a lot about the thousands of teachers that have been laid off in the Texas public school system. And don't expect Perry to explain why they were laid off....under Perry, Texas passed a Balanced Budget Amendment. Yep, the same kind of thing the GOP/TeaParty wants the whole nation to have. You can only spend what you earn. Sounds pretty good, until the Bush Recession knocks the bottom right out of the Sales Tax revenue....then all of a sudden it's No Money/Bye Teachers. And don't expect to hear Rick tell us why Texas ranks so low in education (hard to teach without teachers). Rick will want the whole country to be like TX.

  • Anonymous on August 09, 2011 1:18 PM:

    "Every month, when the new job numbers come out, we tend to see the same thing: the private sector is faring relatively well, adding [SHITTY] jobs, while the public sector is shedding jobs quickly."

    There, fixed it for ya.

  • bleh on August 09, 2011 1:24 PM:

    The Democrats have nearly lost this issue for good, and in many ways it's their own damn fault.

    By agreeing that spending is the problem, and thus conceding to the absurd notion that cutting spending will create jobs instead of destroying them, the Democrats -- and in particular the Obama White House -- set themselves up to lose.

    I'm not one to pile on the WH; I think they've done pretty well in a very difficult situation. But this was SO obviously the wrong thing to do, politically and as policy, that I really wonder where Obama's loyalties lie.

    This is the straight low-employment, low-growth Big Business line. The banks, I'm sure, love it. Working families, not so much.

  • Steve on August 09, 2011 1:35 PM:

    Has anyone ever looked back to the period of time when St. Ronald Reagan was President and tried to determine what public sector employment was doing during that period of time where jobs were being created. I have always wondered how his record would have looked if public employment was being reduced with the same vengeance it is now being reduced

  • stormskies on August 09, 2011 1:47 PM:

    To back up what T2 is saying about Perry and Texas reflect on what is below. And, gee, what event did the Corporate Media cover ?

    August 09, 2011 10:00 AM
    Rick Perry's Prayer Rally a Fraction of the Size of Back-to-School Event for Houston's Poor
    By Heather

    Here's Rick Perry's Texas for you: While it seems his controversial prayer rally didn't go over so well, you can't say the same for a back-to-school event held just seven miles away the same day.

    From Democracy Now:

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry Leads Controversial Prayer Rally

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry led 30,000 people in prayer at a controversial rally in Houston this weekend titled "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis." The seven-hour gathering was designed by Perry and sponsored in part by the American Family Association, which opposes same-sex marriage and has condemned Muslims. The event, which drew 30,000 participants, was also backed by the International House of Prayer, whose evangelical founder argues Oprah Winfrey is a Satanic religious leader. Though billed as an apolitical day of prayer for a nation in crisis, the response was filled with calls for an end to abortion and gave Perry the opportunity to appeal to Christian conservatives. Perry is widely expected to soon announce his candidacy for U.S. president. Critics denounced the gathering for blurring the lines between church and state.

    Texas Rally Dwarfed by Back-to-School Event

    The Response was dwarfed in comparison to Houston’s first-ever, citywide back-to-school event held just seven miles away on Sunday. An estimated 100,000 people showed up to receive free backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, haircut vouchers, immunizations and fresh produce. The demand for the much-needed supplies was so great officials were forced to shut the event down at 10:00 a.m. and turn people away.

  • T2 on August 09, 2011 2:00 PM:

    stormskies, the two news reports don't show, as the local news videos did, was Perry's rally/hatefest was very white, while the back-to-school event was largely minorites. Of course, I'd think it would be normal for a lot of people to show up to an event where a bunch of stuff was given away for free. The only thing free at Perry's event was hot air - both inside and out.

  • CalGal on August 09, 2011 2:02 PM:

    I remember one republiCon saying public sector jobs were not "real jobs."

    Who was that?

    Doesn't matter, I suppose. They all seem to think that.

  • rbe1 on August 09, 2011 2:40 PM:

    It's amazing to see in such a direct way, how stupid the people in charge of the House republicans really are.

  • square1 on August 10, 2011 8:30 AM:

    Austerity is a bitch.

    Clap louder.