In the Arena


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While the President has been playing the mug’s game proposed by the Republicans–cutting government spending in a time of economic uncertainty–the actual economy has been burping and stuttering, as David Leonhardt points out today. Here’s an inconvenient thought: Job growth in the private sector has been steady, if not spectacular…Is it possible that the recovery is being hampered by the enormous numbers of public employees being laid off across the country? Yes, yes, I’ve been outspoken about the need to restructure the deals we have with the public employees unions–but thousands and thousands of teachers, cops, firefighters and just plain bureaucrats are being laid off at a time when their employment, and spending, could help nudge the economy out of the rut.

The Republicans are winning a double political game here: reducing the size of government and increasing the probability that Obama will have to run for reelection with a bum economy next year. There is a need to make government more efficient; there is a need to reform industrial age bureaucracies for service in the Information Age. But there is a greater need, at the moment, to get the economy moving again–and, by the way, I don’t see how firing the youngest and, in many cases, most energetic young teachers, cops and firefighters gets us anything close to the efficiency and creativity we need.