The job numbers: why stimulus foes are disastrously wrong
President Obama will take the rap for September's job numbers showing a net loss of 95,000 jobs. But guess what? Our supposedly "socialist" president is presiding over private-sector job growth. The losses are in government jobs.
That, in turn, shows just how wrongheaded and shortsighted are those who say all our problems come from a bloated public sector. On the contrary, the new jobs report shows a gain of 63,000 jobs in the private sector, but a loss of 159,000 government jobs. And, as Ezra Klein has already helpfully pointed out on his blog, the losses don't just come from the disappearance of temporary census jobs. Local governments showed a net loss of 76,000 jobs.
Government, which is supposed to act as a counter-cyclical force boosting the economy in a downturn, is now a drag on the recovery because Congress -- and, let's be honest, we are really talking about Republicans in Congress -- has blocked efforts to give more federal help to state and local governments that find themselves in a fiscal crisis.
Here's how the estimable David Leonhardt summarized the situation on his New York Times blog:
Great; so while everyone is saying how important education reform is, we are firing teachers -- not on the basis of their performance, but because local governments just don't have the money. While so many on the right and some in the establishment are saying our problem is excessive government, we're letting government layoffs block a robust recovery. Ezra has the irrationality of our approach exactly right: "We create the stimulus that helped the economy survive 2008 and 2009, and we've created the anti-stimulus that's keeping it from recovering in 2010."
Local governments are cutting jobs at the fastest rate in almost 30 years.
They cut 76,000 jobs last month and over the last three months have cut 143,000 jobs, many in education, according to today's jobs report. That's 1 percent of total local-government employment across the country. Since the Labor Department began keeping records in the 1950s, the only other time that the cuts were so steep was in the harsh 1981-2 recession.
The federal government has been cutting jobs too in recent months -- partly because of the end of Census taking -- and state government governments have made small cuts in employment.
But just watch as all our problems are blamed on a stimulus that may not have been big enough but worked, not on anti-stimulative policies that are clearly keeping us down.
| October 8, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Categories: Dionne | Tags: E.J. Dionne
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