They All Count the Same in the Win/Loss Column

Numbers don’t lie, but you do have to ask them the right questions.

The most recent jobs report-as we all know by now–was awful. Totally flat. There were no net jobs added in August. If we ask “how many more people are working” the answer we get from these numbers is grim. The natural conclusion is that the administration is failing to enact policies that spur job creation.

If we ask a different question, however, we get a different picture–one with dramatically different policy implications.

In August, according to the report, hiring by the private sector was offset by job losses in the public sector. In other words, the savage attacks on public sector employees being waged by governors in a number of states (not just Wisconsin and Ohio), and their insistence on reducing the size of government, are preventing the sort of robust recovery we need.

This wholesale reduction of public sector employment has consequences that its proponents either don’t understand or prefer to ignore. A person without a job no longer pays taxes. He no longer consumes, or at least drastically reduces consumption, and that reduction means lower profits for businesses, which then pay lower taxes and forgo adding workers. Those consequences occur whether the lost job was in the public sector or the private sector.

Back when we had reporters with some experience and media outlets that employed such reporters, there would have been at least some attention paid to the issue of where the job losses occurred. But that was then, this is now.

As my husband reminds me when a bad call causes a team to lose a game they’d otherwise have won, fair or unfair, they all count the same in the won/lost column. So I guess this will count as Obama’s fault. Damn socialist!


  1. You are one of the very few to note that terminating government employees contributes to the recessionary dilemma.

    Beyond that, since when is laying police, firefighters, and teachers good for anyone’s economic security or safety?

  2. How do we pay for the current vision of government without cuts or taxes?

    If it’s to be taxes, it’s estimated that seizing all the income of those making over 250K might cover around 15% of what’s needed for debt, deficit, and financial obligations. The point is taxation alone isn’t believed to be able to fix an economic problem of our current magnitude. It would literally make my day to hear a real or drugstore economist explain otherwise.

    If we’re talking cuts, where are the savings if we’re not reducing government, including at least some employees? If entitlements are now 60%+ and defense 20%+ of spending/obligations, how are we paying for retaining all government employees?

    I’m not trying to trouble the waters. I genuinely don’t know how to avoid “recessionary dilemma”.

  3. I have not independently verified that assertion, but friends on the business faculty tell me it’s bogus. That said, even if it is true, we have the lowest taxes in 50 hers–by FAR, and raising rates would certainly make a good dent in our debt. I agree that we also need cuts, but I would start with the massive subsidies we give big oil, etc, not with programs like Medicaid that (inadequately) serve the poorest Americans.

  4. Just heard yesterday that the Post Office is asking for permission to lay off 120,000 employees. Which should satisfy the right-wing folks who have an irrational hatred for the Post Office (and have been gloating about forcing it to fund its pension plan for 75 years which is what is creating its current fiscal crisis, a mandate that no other public or private business entity has to fulfill), and fit nicely into their efforts to drive the country off a cliff in order to prevent Obama from being re-elected.

    The hatred toward the President just shocks me on a daily basis.

  5. I can’t cite the article for 15%, but there’s a very good Wall Street Journal article from April 17th that makes the case for roughly 25% of a 4T budget being paid for if we took ALL earned income for all millionaires (based on 2008 figures- they looked at 2005).

    If we agree our budget is too big if we can’t pay for it, then cuts have to be part of it. I’m not adverse to big oil, big Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, big foreign policy, etc., getting cuts. I suggest cuts or additional taxation be across-the-board for all Americans, perhaps by a fixed percentage reduction that we “contribute” through reduced benefits and/or paying taxes.

    I don’t know how else to get past endless finger-pointing and pay for expensive egalitarian notions like full-tilt health care, unless we go all in- cuts, taxation, whatever.

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