Giving the GOP’s ‘So Be It’ response a closer look

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.