Trying to save public-sector jobs

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.