Today Twitter (specifically, GOP Representative Judy Biggert), in all its social media goodness, alerted me to “You Cut”. You Cut, put in place by Eric Cantor, is admittedly a brilliant idea. By allowing average Americans to come up with and vote on ideas to cut the federal government, it’s the GOP’s ingenious plan to expand democracy by decreasing its largest propagator. As an added bonus, it combines two of American’s favorite pastimes: irreverent online polls and complaining about Washington. Who couldn’t love that?
You Cut is, evidently, over a year old, so I guess I’m a little late to the game. Though I’m not exactly its target demographic. Still, I signed up for Judy Biggert’s twitter feed for a reason, so I guess I should pay more attention.
Anyway, this, er, “round” there are three options on the table. They all mostly sound like partisan political fodder at first glance, but one of them – eliminating the Economic Development Administration – was recommended by Obama’s Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission, making it a bit hard to argue against; while the other – terminating the Weatherization Assistance Program – is presented as a way to eliminate fraud and misuse in the federal government, which I think everybody can agree is a goodly goal. Of course, one could argue it’s possible to eliminate the fraud and misuse without terminating an otherwise useful program, but I digress.
The third option was to “reduce the number of federal employees by 10 percent through attrition”. Not saying that this, um, “round” is fixed, but this option was not only listed first, it claims a savings of over 30 times the other two options combined. So the more cynical amongst us might ever so subtly suggest that this was the preferred, uh, “winner”. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, “the failed 2009 stimulus bill showed that government-funded employment is no substitute for real market-driven private sector job creation”. I guess that’s debatable, but what’s not debatable is that the private market has not been able to create jobs, whereas the federal government has provided much needed relief to the nation’s unemployed. How do I know this? Because Eric Cantor said so:
“Since the economic downturn began in December of 2007, the private sector workforce has shrunk by more than 6 percent. Over the same period, the federal government’s workforce (excluding Census and Postal workers) grew by nearly 12 percent, adding 230,000 new federal employees, to a total of more than 2 million workers.”
So how does that stump speech go?
“Remember how the economy sucks and people can’t get jobs? Private sector jobs decreased by six percent. Six percent!! About the only place where it’s been easier to get a job is the government, which has actually increased its work force, providing much needed employment to 230,000 workers. That just doesn’t seem right. After all, with the budget crisis being what it is, it’s simply more responsible to pay unemployment premiums than full salaries for the nation’s out-of-work.”
Of course, Eric Cantor would never actually say that. I mean, can you see the second in command of the House Republican majority using the word “sucks” in a speech? Oh, my whimsy has once again gotten the better of my sensibilities.
These are not lower-income, underpaid, scratching-to-survive jobs perpetuated by the “food stamp President,” either. These are solid, middle class jobs with good benefits. The kind that support the backbone of America. The kind that provide real spending power to boost the American private industry while also contributing meaningfully to US tax revenues. These are jobs people want and can’t find. I know there’s an argument that maybe these jobs are too middle class, though that evidently doesn’t apply to people who work for Eric Cantor. And certainly I don’t mean to imply that the federal government should overtake the private sector as the main engine for job growth; it shouldn’t even come close. But one has to wonder how, with all the employment problems we already have, the US economy could handle arbitrarily jettisoning one of the best job markets.
Now, in fairness to Eric Cantor, he says he wants to lower the employment by attrition, so it’s not like he’s proposing to lay a lot of people off. At least not directly; “reductions can be made . . . by hiring only one new federal employee for every three federal workers who retire or leave federal government”. The “leave federal government” part is open to interpretation.
And he does stake a pragmatic claim alongside the overtly partisan rhetoric: “Government spending to support federal jobs has a crowd-out effect on private employment.” Which is true. As any captain of industry will tell you, it’s just so hard finding good help these days, what with the federal government eating up so much of that 9% unemployment rate.