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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 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.


  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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