I had intended to follow up on my previous post, but Ezra Klein – welcome to my crosshairs. I have never heard of you until today… and I don’t like you[r opinions]. Here is the statement that robbed me of my precious free time:
“The federal government can choose to hire, fire or hold employment steady. It can give states money to keep employees on the job, or it can withhold that money. So the fact that the public sector is losing jobs isn’t just a problem, but a problem that the federal government could, with 100 percent certainty, fix.”
Let me point out that the Federal Government is not a uniform entity; and it most definitely lacks the ability, unilaterally,to choose to hire, fire or hold employment steady. Simply stating that public-sector job loss (aka Austerity) is a problem, does not transform your opinion into a fact, or grant your opinion the ability to stand without explanation. And while we’re on it, when talking about public policy, there is no such thing as a 100% guarantee or certainty (see also, my previous post).
Here’s another golden nugget from one of Erza’s articles. In the piece, Ezra “runs some numbers,” pulls out a public sector employment trend from the previous recessions – 1981, 1990, 2001 – and compares them to the recent recession figures, observing that in previous recessions the Federal Government increased the number of public sector jobs, while the current trend has been a reduction – a 600k job reduction.
According to Ezra, if the Federal government would simply increase federal assistance to states and add back the 600k jobs that have been cut… well, our unemployment rate would drop. <insert sarcastic eye roll>. If you stretch his article you can infer that he doesn’t believe in the Federal Government’s ability to improve the private sector job market (perhaps he is thinking of the Bank Bailouts?), so instead they should focus on the one aspect of the job market they have near direct control over – public sector jobs.
Okay, Ezra, kudos on putting it so clearly… If A (the Federal Government) gave funding to B (Local and State governments) to create/reinstate public-sector jobs (???), then the unemployment numbers would go down (Profit). Just a few questions: Where does A get the funding? What does/should B do with the funding? Where is the positive correlation between directly funding the reduction a single data point and economic recovery?
Ezra’s answers these questions in a follow-up article that includes a nifty graph, reference to a Yale professor, and not much else. Here, Ezra combines his “numbers” into graph form and backs them up by referring to Yale Professor Peter K. Schott’s NY Times blog post “America’s Hidden Austerity Program.”
The graphs and articles, by both Ezra and Schott, attempt to convey the notion that the Federal Government should be following the trends of previous recessions – creating more public-sector jobs that have traditionally been recession proof. It’s their opinion, so fine, but it still leaves me wondering why that is so important.
Basically their argument goes like this: more employed people = more household income = more consumption of goods and services = more tax revenue = improved economy. But in order to get to “more employed people” we need to find “more tax revenue” and to get “more tax revenue” we need “more employed people”… you see where this is going.
As much as I disagree with his premise, my primary frustration with Ezra is his lack of follow through. I love to disagree with people, I love to expand my world view through debate… but Ezra, you have robbed me of the ability to engage you intellectually by saying “Deus Ex Machina,” to the substance of your article’s point.
Any tips on where the funding should come from, where it should go, what its focus or purpose should be? Why the number of public-sector jobs must continually grow? Maybe an extrapolation of what types of public sector jobs were created in previous recession and how those jobs affected the recovery? Can you prove that the continual expansion of public-sector jobs from 1981-2008 was not, at least partially, responsible for the current budgetary problems facing local and state governments?
In response to these questions, Ezra says:
“As you can see, government employment tends to rise during recessions, helping to cushion their impact.”
Cushions. If the government would just cushion our economic fall from grace, by artificially reducing the unemployment figures, we’d have lower unemployment AND we’d be on track for recoveries like 1981, 1990, and 2001… which were going along great, until mean old 2008 came along and ruined everything.
Finally, the coup de grace, and the most loathsome facet of Ezra, and bloggers who follow this model… this brilliantly crafted zinger that most definitely correlates to the article and data:
“Note that a Republican was president after the 1981, 1990 and 2000 recessions. Public-sector austerity looks a lot better to conservatives when they’re out of power than when they’re in it.”
Look, at this point in political discourse, there is no need to pretend that Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats, Liberals are actually united groups with focused messages and you can give your audience some credit at being intelligent enough to spot the blatant red herring, unless you work for Fox, CNN, or MSNBC (oh wait, Ezra contributes to MSNBC… never mind).
Par for the course – RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE DEY TUK R JOBS!!
In short, you suck Ezra. You’re just another example of someone using “Unlimited Growth,” as a sustainable economic theory to fiat their way to a solution.
Next up, (see also, below post) and reasons why our focus should be on increasing our small to medium sized manufacturing base, reducing inefficiencies in our government, and accepting that “you are not beautiful and unique snowflakes. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.”