In the era of Hope and Change and big-government solutions, at least one nation has decided to downsize its government workforce and push the private sector to pick up the slack.  Ironically, that nation is not the US, but Cuba.  Raul Castro announced the decision on Monday as part of his “reforms” of the hardline Communist dictatorship:

Cuba announced on Monday it would lay off “at least” half a million state workers over the next six months and simultaneously allow more jobs to be created in the private sector as the socialist economy struggles to get back on its feet.

The plan announced in state media confirms that President Raul Castro is following through on his pledge to shed some one million state jobs, a full fifth of the official workforce — but in a shorter timeframe than initially anticipated.

“Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities and services with inflated payrolls and losses that damage our economy and result counterproductive, create bad habits and distort workers’ conduct,” the CTC, Cuba’s official labor union, said in newspapers. …

At the time, he said the government “agreed to broaden the exercise of self employment and its use as another alternative for the employment of those excess workers.”

Will this mean real reform in Cuba?  Probably not.  It’s a move borne out of desperation, as the Castro brothers don’t get the kind of foreign subsidies that used to keep them afloat in the Cold War era.  They need to scale back the cost of their government, and they have two options when doing so: allow for some private enterprise, or have half a million unemployed people thinking about their misery and how to end it.

The end of the workers-paradise myth should embarrass American backers of Castro, especially those who ran for office while hailing their connections to the regime.  Maurice Hinchey falls into that category, as Capitol Hill Cubans discovered, although they get the date wrong:

This past summer, Hinchey hosted a “Maurice Goes to Cuba Event” to raise money for his Congressional race.

The invitation (seen below) features Hinchey’s friendship and efforts on behalf of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Perhaps for his next event, he’s considering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il.

The invitation to the event, which was actually held in 2007, features a picture of Hinchey and Castro together:

One can make an argument for ending the embargo on Cuba without embracing a “murderous dictator,” a completely accurate description of Fidel Castro.  This picture should embarrass anyone who believes in freedom, let alone someone elected to the US Congress.

I’ll be interviewing George Phillips on today’s TEMS about his campaign to unseat Maurice Hinchey, and you can bet this invitation will be part of our discussion.   Be sure to tune in at 3 pm ET!