The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The government job losses that are holding the recovery back are directly related to the Republican state legislators who were swept to power in 2010.

Last Friday, both presidential candidates had a back-and-forth over the issue of public sector jobs. President Obama said that the private sector is doing fine but the public sector needs help and is threatening the recovery, and Mitt Romney attacked the idea that “we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.”

This has lead to new interest in the decline of public sector workers over the past three years. Two major economists from Yale, Ben Polak and Peter K. Schott, just wrote a post at at Economix titled “America’s Hidden Austerity Program.”

Polak and Schott argue that “there is something historically different about this recession and its aftermath: in the past, local government employment has been almost recession-proof. This time it’s not… Without this hidden austerity program, the economy would look very different. If state and local governments had followed the pattern of the previous two recessions, they would have added 1.4 million to 1.9 million jobs and overall unemployment would be 7.0 to 7.3 percent instead of 8.2 percent.”

But why is this happening? Polak and Schott:

One possibility is that we are witnessing a secular change in state and local politics, with voters no longer willing to pay for an ever-larger work force. An alternative explanation is that even though many state and local governments are constrained not to run deficits, they can muddle through a standard recession without cutting jobs. But when hit by a huge recession like that of 1981 or the latest one, the usual mix of creative accounting and shifting in capital expenditures cannot absorb the shock, and jobs have to go.

This drop in public-sector workers is well documented, and it is great to get more economists ringing the bell on it. But I think there needs to be more research into how this has happened. As my colleague Bryce Covert notes over at The Nation, “the massive job loss we’ve been experiencing in the public sector is no random coincidence or unfortunate side effect. It is part of an ideological battle waged by ultra conservatives who were swept into power in the 2010 elections.”

As we’ve written before (article, white paper), the 11 states that the Republicans took over during the 2010 midterm elections – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – account for 40.5 percent of the total losses. By itself, Texas accounts for an additional 31 percent of the total losses. So these 12 states account for over 70 percent of total public sector job losses in 2011. This is even more important because there was a continued decline in public sector workers in 2011 even though the economy was no longer in free fall.

The 11 states that the Republicans took over in 2010 laid off, on average, 2.5 percent of their government workforces in a single year. This is compared to the overall average of 0.5 percent for the rest of the states. So while it is a nation-wide event, it is concentrated in states that went red in 2011:

Wisconsin, for instance, lost nearly 3 percent of its workforce in 2011 alone, which shows how high the stakes are. Conservatives are tearing down and rebuilding state governance during this Great Recession. There is an element of state and local layoffs that is strictly budgetary, as the average for all the groups is negative. But there is also an element that is about a face-off between President Obama and new conservative state legislatures.

There’s two things worth considering about this dynamic. The first is that any stimulus offered from the federal government could be refused or re-directed to other purposes by state governments. The fighting over getting conservative states to accept stimulus money, which was a battle in 2009-2010, would have been much more heated after the 2010 election. And if money did come in under the rubric of helping retain teachers it may, without a political battle, just go to reducing corporate taxes. We are already seeing this with the AG foreclosure fraud settlement money, which is being redirected to other purposes in many states.

The other is that this should be viewed through the lens of the series of standoffs the administration has with conservatives at the state level. The administration has been fighting with Arizona over its “papers please” immigration law, Florida over voter record purges, and several states in battles over GLBTQ rights and reproductive freedom. Trying to keep red states from slashing their workforces in a time of economic weakness is another front in this battle for those trying to steer the economy toward full employment.

Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Cross-Posted From The Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal Blog

The Roosevelt Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the MAGA movement and far-right Christian fundamentalists have downplayed its severity — inspiring critics to slam MAGA as a suicidal "death cult." Christian fundamentalist Joy Pullmann, in a shocking op-ed published by the far-right website The Federalist on the day of Gen. Colin Powell's death, argues that Christians should welcome death from COVID-19, like any other cause of death, as "a good thing." And she attacks the "pagan assumptions" of those who argue in favor of widespread vaccination.

"For Christians, death is good," Pullmann writes. "Yes, death is also an evil — its existence is a result of sin. But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ has redeemed even death. In his resurrection, Christ has transformed death into a portal to eternal life for Christians…. The Christian faith makes it very clear that death, while sad to those left behind and a tragic consequence of human sin, is now good for all who believe in Christ."

Keep reading... Show less

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Don Winslow, the author of several New York Times bestsellers, blasted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in a newly-released video shared on social media.

For months now, Manchin has positioned himself as one of the main roadblocks of President Joe Biden's proposed Build Back Better agenda, pushing back on key provisions including child tax credits and climate initiatives.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}