When Republicans want to shrink the size of federal government, argues the New York Times, it’s not about reducing the explosive growth in federal budgets seen even in just the last three years. It’s not about scaling back the regulatory adventurism that will eventually require 230,000 more inspectors at the EPA alone [see Update II]. No, say the editors in today’s missive — it’s really all about latent racism:
Buried in the relatively positive numbers contained in the November jobs report was some very bad news for those who work in the public sector. There were 20,000 government workers laid off last month, by far the largest drop for any sector of the economy, mostly from states, counties and cities.
That continues a troubling trend that’s been building for years, one that has had a particularly harsh effect on black workers. While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession. …
Many Republicans, however, don’t regard government jobs as actual jobs, and are eager to see them disappear. Republican governors around the Midwest have aggressively tried to break the power of public unions while slashing their work forces, and Congressional Republicans have proposed paying for a payroll tax cut by reducing federal employment rolls by 10 percent through attrition. That’s 200,000 jobs, many of which would be filled by blacks and Hispanics and others who tend to vote Democratic, and thus are considered politically superfluous.
Really? Let’s take a look at the numbers from the BLS since January 2007, before the recession hit, and find out which side of the employment equation has been hardest hit. Here’s the BLS chart for private-sector employment:
Notice that we’re close to six million jobs under the peak in mid-2007, let alone the fact that our job-growth rate since the nadir of private-sector employment has barely kept pace with population growth. Now let’s take a look at the public sector’s employment profile during this same period:
Public-sector jobs are exactly 112,000 fewer than in the beginning of 2007. That’s hardly a dent in overall government employment, a mere 0.51% decline from the January 2007 start of this comparison. Don’t forget that the spike in 2010 in public-sector employment represented the temporary staffing for the decennial Census.
The crisis in unemployment is not in the public sector, no matter how much the Times wants to cry raaaaaaacism over small-government philosophy and policy. Even the reduction of another 200,000 jobs would represent only another 0.9% reduction in the public sector, which not only seems hardly radical but, considering the dire fiscal states of bloated federal and state budgets, barely a start on fiscal reform.
It seems that the New York Times has no real good answer for small-government arguments, and so it has to distort employment statistics and make wildly unsupported logical leaps to paint proponents as racists. For instance, what evidence does the Times offer that the layoffs will actually impact minority workers in the public sector harder than white workers? What evidence do they provide that this is the actual intent of such policies? None and none. The editors of this “Paper of Record” simply offer these hypotheses without any support and then treat them as rock-ribbed fact for the basis of their illogic. It’s as shameful as their manipulation of employment statistics to infer that the private sector is booming while the public sector has been devastated by workforce reductions.
Update: Greg Sargent says that I’m being unfair by accusing the NYT of “crying” racism, rather than just accusing them of implying it. I’ll let you be the judge; the Times references black workers seven times and Hispanic workers once in an eight-paragraph editorial. I’d say the accusation is pretty clear, but YMMV.
Update II: The reference to 230,000 more people at EPA was a worst-case scenario laid out by EPA if the Clean Air Act was to be enforced without exception and fully, which is not what they proposed to do. Jonathan Adler explained why this was used to argue that they should be allowed to enforce it gradually and by degrees back in September, when the Daily Caller first wrote about the issue. That has other implications — a rule-of-whim approach rather than the rule of law — but the EPA wanted to avoid having to enact such an immediate and vast expansion, not conduct it.