Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is President Obama Taking Credit for Austerity?

Let’s put together two recent tidbits. First Justin Lahart documents the decline in government employment since December 2008 as he writes:
One reason the unemployment rate may have remained persistently high: The sharp cuts in state and local government spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the layoffs those cuts wrought … The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.
Evan McMorris-Santoro catches President Obama saying:
It’s worth noting, by the way – this is just a little aside – after there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up. It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush. So each time there was a recession with a republican president, we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment. The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me. So I make that point just so you don’t buy into this whole bloated government argument that you’re hearing.
I find this statement a little puzzling. OK, it is factually true. And the Republican Party along with its presumption Presidential nominee is currently calling for even more austerity, which would make the Great Recession even worse. But I hope the President is not citing this as one of his successes. No, it is a failure of our policymakers. Now it may be true that Republican opposition to sane fiscal policy has put our government on this destructive course. I guess the President is working on the presumption that his political opponent is not attacking him from the progressive side of the political spectrum as such a statement would be horribly damaging politically. But with Mitt Romney being the serial flip flopper of all time, you never know what he is going to say next. And if he claims that fiscal policy under the Obama Administration has not been stimulative enough – for once, Mr. Romney would be telling the truth.


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