On ABC’s “This Week,” George Will said there were “two bits of good news” in the monthly jobs report released Friday. “The 80,000 [jobs gained] is a net number,” the conservative columnist noted. “The private sector created 104,000 jobs. The public sector happily shrank by 24,000 jobs. Both of that’s good.”
No, actually it’s not.
For the left, the economic goals are inherently pragmatic — creating jobs is the top priority. When more Americans are working, they’re not only helping themselves and their family, but they’re boosting the economy and helping lower the deficit. For the right, as Will reminds us, the economic goals are philosophical — creating jobs is nice, but the real priority is shrinking government. Maybe, they argue, the economy will improve when more teachers, police officers, and firefighters are unemployed and unable to spend and invest.
Reality suggests Will and conservatives have it backwards, and the severe public-sector job losses are a major drag on the economy, effectively serving as a counter-stimulus. David Leonhardt recently described this as “an unforced economic error” — the federal government can prevent these layoffs, keep these workers on the job, and help the larger economy, but Republicans refuse. With all of the problems we can’t control, this is one problem we know exactly how to prevent, but choose not to, because, as Will put it, it’s “good” when thousands of public-sector employees are forced into unemployment during a jobs crisis.
Media Matters Action Network posted this chart the other day, which helped drive the point home. (In case it’s hard to read, the blue line shows private-sector growth, while the red line shows public-sector deterioration.)
The challenge for the right is explaining why the economy is better off with that red line continuing its downward trajectory. So far, conservatives can’t explain it in anything but ideological terms, and unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans, Republican philosophy won’t pay any bills.