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Public Sector Layoffs And Obama’s Fight Against Red States

Memo Pad

Public Sector Layoffs And Obama’s Fight Against Red States

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.


  1. William Deutschlander June 14, 2012

    If you can not win honestly, then rig the terms to your favor, an age old Republican tradition of deceit!

  2. TexasRascal June 14, 2012

    I can not understand why so many Americans have become color blinded to a point that reason loses out. For those who wear Rose color glasses have no reason other than there own self interests. For those who look up and pray, just think about why the sky is Blue. All kidding aside now, Rommy has in the past took the money and ran, leaving people who trusted him without a dime. When a CEO gets a bonus of 86 million dollars, I have to wonder what his pay check most be when he goes to the bank. Oh! I forgot he owns the Bank.

  3. howa4x June 14, 2012

    These states will wake up when major disasters hit and no one is there to do the work. Red sates are already falling behind educationally and that alone does not bode well for the future, as we move further along toward the knowledge based economy where the jobs will require higher skill levels. Already some of the Red states are assulting science and want creationism taught as well. It is no accident that the creationism museum is in Kansas and not NYS, NJ, Conn, Mass.VT, Calif., Ore, or Was st. The top colleges and universites are not located in red states save Duke and Emory. We are 37th in the world in science and math, and that is pitiful since this gap will grow worse if we keep laying off teachers. We have to compete globally and some countries have their students go year round. We don’t need kids for the harvest anymore so there is no reason they should be off all summer. All High schools should be on a trimester schedule, and we will need more qualified teachers for that. Future jobs will be created where the talent pool exists, and the short sighted politicians pandering to the under educated won’t get their states ready to be there.

    1. Marilyn Furrie June 14, 2012

      red states who scoff at “big Government” TAKE more from “big government” then any other states and then WASTE it on inconsequential legislation

      1. howa4x June 14, 2012

        I know like making restrictive laws against women

    2. sn77339 June 14, 2012

      Here in Texas, we ran into this very effect last Summer when the state was burning down from wildfires and there was a shortage of volunteer firemen due to budget cutbacks. Rick Perry sure did scream though when Pres. Obama wouldn’t give him Federal Disaster money.

      1. howa4x June 14, 2012

        Usually to get the aid the governor has to declare a state of emergency and I don’t believe he did that since he was out on the campaign trail, and wanted an issue to bash Obama with. I may be wrong on this but this is my recollection

  4. Debbie Kiesel-Ryan June 14, 2012

    So, unemployment is higher because some republican states have laid-off triple the amount of workers than other states. I can’t wait to see the outcome from the lay-off of teachers in PA come this fall, how big will the class rooms be??? In Pittsburgh this morning, we lost 285 teachers thanks to governor corbetts budget. But at the same time, he came up with tax cuts for big oil, what a guy!!!!

  5. Andrew Rei June 14, 2012

    Here’s something else to remember: those who vote for the GOP in red states rail on about government assistance (SNAP, fka, Food Stamps, welfare, etc.), yet, it is they that depend the most on that government help. Funny how that happens, huh? So, the Obama administration wants to help people in red states but the NeoCons (aka, Tea Party Militia) blocked the effort…and, that’s President Obama’s fault?!? We can say what we will about the Republican Party’s two lunatic factions, the Cons and NeoCons (and, I usually say that they have 8 cornerstones: racism, sexism, elitism, fascism, greed, corruption, incompetence and arrogance), but, it can’t be denied: those morons do a great job in getting poor and middle class white folk to vote against their own interests…if you think education is expensive, try ignorance…it’s not bliss…it’s very costly 🙁 smh

    1. SaneJane June 14, 2012

      You are right. I live in Alabama and the dog-like devotion to the GOP seems inbred into an awful lot of the people here. I do not have political discussion with anyone I know personally because they would go into fits if they know where I stand. The south is a easy target for the Republicans because all you have to do is goose them a little bit about race, religion, states rights, unions, etc. All they need to supply is someone to blame. I guess everyone needs to think there is someone lower on the totem pole than they are. Keeping the people of the south ignorant, uneducated, poor and irate insures them a pretty substantial base with little effort. Saves them money too.

  6. ObozoMustGo June 14, 2012

    ESPN just posted the updated scores….

    Have a nice day!

  7. UTGDI June 14, 2012

    OBOZO — Now that graphic was funny.

    I also am tiring of the blame game, but alas it is campaign season and it is part of the process.

    1. Identify an issue / problem that a majority of folks (voters) agree upon
    2. Blame the other guys / gals — It is their fault.
    3. Promise to fix it when you are elected / your party is in power
    4. Repeat … Repeat … Repeat — If the facts are not quite right, just repeat a few more times.

    Oh yeah, I forgot the part where they ask for money to keep up the fight against those other guys, you know the ones that want to ruin our lives, country, etc.

    Ultimately the States, by law, have to balance their budgets each year. Do some cut their noses to spite their face when it comes to federal money? Sure, but there is going to be some belt tightening, and often there is money to be found. My state, Utah, has determined that message bills and law suits are more important than several other priorities. Not education says our filibuster proof conservative state legislature with the governor seemingly ready to rubber stamp what ever comes out.

    Therefore we have the lowest per capita spending on education (K-12). But we are a pro-family state, and education is our “highest moral responsibility”, in fact we have a Prosperity 2020 agenda that places a target of 67% of the adult population having some sort of post secondary education or training. Meanwhile we have class sizes that in some schools approach 32 pupils per certified educator (Note: this includes principals, librarians, couselors and reading specialist), meaning the actual classrooms have closer to 35 students in them. That’s alright though because we can always have a computer teach the children.

    I believe that these public officials need to be looking for efficiencies that will allow for the budgets to be tightened, also having some money set aside for lean times is always beneficial. What I do not see as correct, is wasting money on frivolous messages, that have the limited revenues from both sides (Tax Dollars), being spent to argue points that should be able to be handled in a less contentious (expensive) manner. Shoot, a local municipality hired a lawyer to sue its own lawyer because an elected leader was being investigated for fraud, or corruption, and would not turn over paperwork to the council on the investigation. I am sure that there are many that can provide other examples of waste in the governemnt sector, so ultimately we — the voters — need to identify our priorities, and the n vote for those that actually have a specific plan to meet those goals.

    Good luck finding that person — Specifics can be attacked, and are not often shared.


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