One of my pet issues, as you may recall, is the things the Republicans are doing to wreck the economy intentionally, and one of the main things they're doing, in my view, is enforcing these massive budget cuts to states and localities that in turn force large layoffs. I wrote a column about this last week, but the computer ate it.
But now comes fresh information that I didn't have last week that is more dramatic than even I expected. The Wall Street Journal has done some cyphering and arrived at what the unemployment rate would be if there weren't such huge public-sector layoffs. Writes Justin Lahart:
In April the household survey showed that that there were 442,000 fewer people working in government than in March. The household survey has a much smaller sample size than the establishment survey, and so is prone to volatility, but the magnitude of the drop is striking: It marks the largest decline on both an absolute and a percentage basis on record going back to 1948. Moreover, the household survey has consistently showed bigger drops in government employment than the establishment survey has.
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%.
Wowzers. Now, as Lahart notes, absent those layoffs, more people would likely be looking for work, so the labor-force participation rate would be higher, and thus the jobless rate probably not quite as low as 7.1 percent. But say it would be even 7.4 percent. Psychologically and politically, that is a world of difference from the current 8.1 percent (remember the rate on 1/20/09: 7.9 percent).
So in other words, if there had been no massive public-sector layoffs, the jobless rate would be at a level that would all but ensure a pretty easy coast to reelection for Obama. Republicans have used here the handiest hammer. The easiest thing for them to do is to force states and localities to cut their budgets, which they know means layoffs, so that's what they do.
Bah, you say. The Republicans support smaller government on principle. Well, they say they do, but do they? Look how much the government grew under Bush. And read this post from earlier in the day. And read more about the impact of state and local layoffs from Benjamin Landy at the Century Foundation. This really ought to be a bigger story.