Political Animal


August 29, 2011 3:25 PM Trying to save public-sector jobs

By Steve Benen

Want to hear about a great jobs bill that Republicans won’t even consider? Here’s a good one.

A top House Democrat introduced legislation Friday designed to help state and local governments retain and rehire workers amid the country’s lingering jobs crisis.

Sponsored by Rep. George Miller (Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, the proposal would pump billions of dollars into local communities in order to stanch the hemorrhaging of government jobs that’s been the trend throughout the year. […]

Miller’s proposal provides roughly $37.5 billion for local governments, and an additional $24 billion for states to pay teachers, policemen and firefighters. The funds, to be allocated over a two-year span, are designed to preclude future layoffs — or even allow the rehiring of fired workers — as governments grapple with budget troubles in the down economy.

This is the kind of legislation that’s far too sensible to succeed.

While some congressional Republicans are convinced that public-sector employment is booming, reality points in the opposite direction. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Nicholas Johnson recently explained, “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.”

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. This serves as a significant — and easily preventable — drag on the economy. It’s why 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.

Miller intends to address the problem by simply saving the jobs. Instead of allowing states to lay off thousands of teachers, police officers, and firefighters, Congress would provide the resources to prevent them.

And this effort won’t even get out of committee because Republican ideology dictates that public-sector job losses are actually good for us. Indeed, under the GOP 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.

Still, kudos to George Miller for at least identifying the root of the problem and offering the right solution.

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.


Post a comment
  • Ron Byers on August 29, 2011 3:35 PM:

    The proposal might work. Poor guy, he won't even get a hearing.

  • Anonymous on August 29, 2011 3:40 PM:

    "Indeed, under the GOP 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."

    My crooked governor Rick Scott, appearing at a Water Management District office to sign the bill passed by the Legislature whose tax cuts would force the layoff of hundreds of WMD employees, was asked about the imminent layoffs.

    His answer - that these layoffs "would spur private hiring"

    What more need one say about these heartless bastards?

  • bardgal on August 29, 2011 3:43 PM:

    SteveAR -

    You are a hired GOP blogger shill. Please go away.


  • Mudge on August 29, 2011 3:48 PM:

    It would be nice to think that the quality of the public relations effort would match the quality of the bill.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 29, 2011 3:54 PM:

    I want for SteveAr to show us how we "know for a fact" the stimulus "was the wrong solution." Here's what will happen: he can't.

  • Mitch on August 29, 2011 3:57 PM:


    "Isn't that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?"

    You mean like cutting taxes on the richest of the rich, giving fat subsidies to Big Oil/Pharma/Ag, killing Unions and shrinking the Private Sector?

    Because we've been doing that over and over for a looooong time now, and it hasn't helped anyone. Except for the richest of the rich, who now have half of the wealth in the nation.

  • DAY on August 29, 2011 3:58 PM:

    The problem (from a GOP POV) with tax funded public sector jobs is that many of them are unionized.

    The answer, of course (see Rick Scott, above) is to privatize Police, Fire, 911, EMS, and then let the marketplace set the rate.

    The tax savings will allow prudent folk to carry insurance for any and all of these "services"- yet another windfall for the insurance industry!

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 29, 2011 3:59 PM:

    I'm sure most everyone has seen or heard about the upcoming Repugnantcan "jobs bills." Check out this asinine garbage if you haven't:


  • Ron Byers on August 29, 2011 4:00 PM:

    The problem for SteveAr when he comes to this site armed only with unsupported talking points is that we ask him for facts to backup the conclusions he has pulled out of his backside.

    The facts are SteveAr, the stimulus did exactly what it was designed to do. It stopped America from sliding into a full blown depression. If I had been king I would have made it much larger and maybe jump started the economy.

    Right now the entire world is teetering on the brink of another recession. If the Republican have their way, it will be a full blown Depression, then a lot of people will be hurt, including you Steve.

  • wordtypist on August 29, 2011 4:24 PM:

    Just like to point out one distinction between public and private sector workers in a recession. In a recession workers get laid off because their is reduced demand for the products they are making. In the public sector demand for their labor does not go down and might even go up a little.
    There is no reduction in demand for public safety, teachers, sanitation workers and so on. So laying them off and adding to the unemployment rolls makes no sense at all.

  • BoulderBo on August 29, 2011 4:26 PM:

    One of the many reasons I like this site is its relative lack of simple minded right wing troll hits. Mark and SteveAR, please go back to whatever righty site you came from and leave your garbage talking points out of this site. Yup, we're just like Russia. Dolts. It's all so simple, isn't it? If only we could reduce our taxes everything will fix itself.

    Simple solutions lead to complex problems, surprising simple minds. Go away simpletons.

  • Ron Byers on August 29, 2011 4:35 PM:


    If we hadn't done the stimulus ($800 million by the way with $400 million of it in tax cuts) our unemployment rate would be 15-25% right now. The stimulus stopped the falling, it didn't start us on the road to recovery.

  • DAY on August 29, 2011 6:39 PM:

    I don't mind the right wing visitors voicing their opinions, but it would be nice if they left the talking points at home, and brought a functioning brain instead.

  • Ken on August 29, 2011 6:51 PM:

    I think a good name for the bill would be the "Rick Perry Job Creation Act". After all, that's what Perry did - used a lot of Federal money to create as many public-sector jobs as the rest of the country combined.

  • exlibra on August 29, 2011 6:52 PM:

    I don't mind the right wing visitors voicing their opinions, but it would be nice if they left the talking points at home, and brought a functioning brain instead. -- DAY, @6:39 PM

    Functioning brains? They'd have to borrow those, probably at a very high interest rate. The Koch brothers probably don't pay them enough for that.

    Oh, and Craptcha reminds me -- via "itlans locations:" -- that they'd also have to find someplace which loans functioning brains; not an easy thing to do.

  • mfw13 on August 29, 2011 9:08 PM:

    In the name of downisizing the government, can be lay off members of Congress?

    How about putting all Congressional salaries in escrow until the unemployment rate declines to 6%?

  • max on August 30, 2011 7:16 AM:

    Tea Party morons will say, government jobs aren't "real jobs". Translation: don't be a fireman or a teacher; be a real patriotic American and sell cigarettes or useless derivatives.