Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spinning Machine

I heard Rachel Maddow spin a statistic the other day (sorry, can’t find the clip) about unemployment. She hinted that President Obama had reduced the size of government. Well, the size of government has shrunk, but it’s not the portion that President Obama oversees and it really isn’t good news. Well, unless you’re a Republican.

Unemployment is down. That’s good news. Sort of. The economy isn’t adding jobs nearly fast enough. But it is adding jobs. Which is better than losing jobs of course.

Well, unless you’re a Republican that is. Then it’s good that the economy is losing jobs -- at least government jobs. How’s that for spin? Okay, I’ll let the Republican spin themselves into a corner.

Chart of the Day: Historic Drop in Government Jobs

”The chart above displays the annual change in total government employment (data here) and shows that the 589,000 reduction in government jobs between 2009 and 2011 was the largest reduction in government payrolls since the post-WWII period of 1945-1947.  Total government employment (federal, state and local) in December 2011 was the lowest government payroll level since June 2006.”

If you remember Grover Norquist’s desire to shrink government down until he can “drown it in the bathtub”, you might think that Grover and his gang are now happy. You’d be wrong.

Are you confused yet? You should be. Okay, go back to that link above and look at the chart. Once you’ve done that, you can forget the eye candy and notice that the author (Mark J. Perry) graduated from George Mason University and was a visiting scholar at The American Enterprise Institute. My readers know the code and know those are markers for right-wing neocons.
All this political spin has turned reality upside down. Mr. Perry says:

”If some of those 589,000 government jobs losses are permanent, wouldn't it be ironic if one of the legacies of the Obama administration was a long-term reduction in the size of government through reduced government employment?”

Mr. Perry finally clarifies (at the end of the post) that the vast majority of the government job losses are at the local level (511,000). The state level governments lost another 114,000. Federal jobs are actually up by 25,000. Can we please focus on this for a moment?

Americans lost 625,000 jobs. These jobs aren’t held by “government”. They are held by people. Over a half million people lost their jobs. And “local level” translates into firemen, policemen and teachers. Is that the people the smaller government types want laid off? Regardless, Mr. Perry (and his kind) are hailing this as a good thing.

The media is telling you that adding 176,000 jobs in December and dropping the unemployment rate from 8.7% to 8.5% is good news but Mr. Perry and his Republican friends want you to believe that 625,000 firemen, policemen and teachers losing their jobs is a good thing.

In all the information -- this blizzard of bull chips -- I can’t find out what the unemployment rate would be if these 625,000 Americans had kept their jobs. And make no mistake about it, we could have kept them employed. As a matter of fact, it would probably have been cheaper to keep them employed. It certainly would have been more humane.

Class project -- Find out what our national unemployment rate would be if 625,000 people were still employed. The first one with the answer gets an honorable mention.

In the meantime, keep in mind that the Republicans (Grover Noquist, et al) are accomplishing their goals. They have indeed shrunk government. I hope you’ll ask yourself what the price has been. I’ll say it again, the money most of you have lost on the value of your home alone is greater than any tax increase you’ve ever paid. I won’t mention blowing up the world’s economy -- this time.

And I still like Rachel. I still listen to her podcast every morning. I just wanted to point out the truth is a lot more damning than the spin.

Don Brown
January 17, 2012


Vannevar said...

I recently read (and wish I could find) an article that explained another aspect of job-shedding, it was a sort of job-shifting in which they do away with a decent paying job, and later pick up a minimum wage employee.

The author's point was: every minimum wage employee is eligible for government assistance, and the author suggested that every time you hear "minimum wage job" or "entry level position" you replace those terms with "government subsidized job".

In a cynical way, the downgrading of jobs shifts costs that Business once bore to Society. All the while these guys are slamming government programs, they're shifting the cost of their workers to the government.

Back on topic, you've probably seen this: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/under-obama-a-record-decline-in-government-jobs/.

Happy New Year, V.

Buffett Fan said...

Assuming my math is correct. 625,000 jobs would account for .71% of the unemployment rate. Keeping those jobs would have reduced the unemployment rate to 7.79%. Additional jobs would have been saved or added based on the money spent by those laid off local government workers. So you could argue that to a small degree the benefit would be exponential.


Jim Tlapak said...

So did you notice, what is currently the second comment, from a Dr William J McKibben?

I'm sure that the good Dr McKibben fancies himself as a genuine, true-blue, red blooded American conservative but this stuff -

"...given that the public sector is about "public service," I think we need to see more sacrafice from that sector -- human suffering must be shared society at large..."

- sure sounds like socialist talk to me.

The Angry Bureaucrat said...


To answer your question (using the numbers from this website - http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm), if we shifted 625,000 from the rolls of the unemployed to the employed, the official unemployment rate would drop to 8.1 percent.

Happy to help!

-The Angry Bureaucrat