As I’ve said before, differences in political opinion are often based on different perceptions of the facts. For one example, former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in December that claimed that government, “thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming ‘industry’ left in our economy. Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”
Leaving aside the odd choice of time frame — Obama did not take office until 2009 — the claimed increase is public sector employment is simply false. As Politifact pointed out, it’s true that federal government employment temporarily rose by 593,000 from January to May 2009, but that included 559,000 temporary census jobs that have long since vanished. In fact, the number of local, state, and federal government employees actually fell by 118,000 over the period Pawlenty claimed it increased.
Pawlenty’s figure for the drop in private sector jobs is closer to accurate, but he’s a bit dishonest in blaming it on Obama when the great majority of that loss — almost 2/3 — took place before he even took office. In fact, once the modest stimulus was in place the employment situation started improving, and as The Washington Monthly‘s Steve Benen notes, since the start of this year the private sector has added 854,000 jobs while the public sector has lost 86,000. Over the last 12 months, private employment is up 1.7 million while public employment is down 404,000.
Those public sector job losses hurt no just overall the employment picture, they reflect state and local layoffs of schoolteachers, public health and safety workers (cops, firefighters, nurses), and others who do work that needs to get done. The federal government could help states and localities reduce layoffs, but Republicans in Congress won’t allow that to happen.
Of course, whether we should be laying off teachers, police, and so on is a matter of opinion. But the fact that those jobs are being lost is a matter of fact, and people like Pawlenty shouldn’t feel free to base their arguments on falsehoods.