You may have seen that Mitt Romney said yesterday that the idea that he wants to cut back on cops, fire fighters, and teachers is "completely absurd" because "the federal government doesn't pay for" these things.
Now. Mitt Romney is a former governor, and he's not a stupid man. He certainly understands that the federal government pays for many, many cops, firefighters, and teachers. Roughly $40 billion a year goes into the range of federal grant and aid programs that fund these positions. He has to know this.And he has to know that reasonably informed Americans, to say nothing of cops and fire fighters and teachers themselves, know this, too. So why would he just let this verbal diarrhea come out of his mouth?
I'll let you answer that one. Meanwhile, Greg Sargent asked an expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities named Richard Kogan to have a look at Romney's actual plan and try to reckon how many such jobs it would cut. It's hard to be really precise because Romney's plan is (natch) too vague, but the basic idea is this. He vows to keep spending to 20 percent of GDP. He also vows to increase defense spending a lot. So that means cutting everything else a lot.
The best Kogan could do was use those numeric goals to show that out of a $40 billion pot, about $12 billion would have to go. That's roughly 30 percent, so that's bound to be a sizeable number of jobs. So yes, based on available information, there's no question that he'd cut jobs.
The larger point is that the federal government pays for many, many things that seem to most people like local services. Federal aid to states and localities, I will acknowledge, has increased dramatically since about 1990. The Cato Institute rails against this with some frequency, so you can look there if you're interested. Of course, federal spending hasn't increased in a vacuum. It's increased as states have spent less and less on services they once provided, as they cut taxes and programs, and as so much of their budgets get eaten up by Medicaid.
But it's just an intelligence-insulting thing for Romney to say. The Democrats, once again a little slow on the uptake, ought to be making ads featuring cops and fire fighters and teachers saying, "The federal government pays for my job." Big, gruff Irish guys, and nice little South Asian women, and everbody in between. Several of them ought, indeed, to be from Massachusetts. The guy is just such a phony.