Ben Polak and Peter Schott of Yale University have an analysis today in the New York Times that explains in great part the reasons for the slow recovery from the Great Recession, and it is not the fault of the Obama administration. While it’s true that the financial crisis and the huge cloud of debt have played a large part, there is something else equally to blame – state and local job losses.
The recovery in private-sector employment hasn’t been that slow, compared to the 1980-82, 1991-92 and 2001-2002 recessions. In a little over two years since this recession ended, the private sector has added about 4.5 million jobs, about the same number that were added in the post-recession period when George W. Bush was president.
The difference this time has been the huge loss of state and local jobs. As the authors note, “In the past, local government employment has been almost recession-proof. This time it’s not…Who is losing these local government jobs? In 1981 it was mostly teachers. Now, the losses are shared by teachers and other local government workers alike.”
This job loss has been a “hidden austerity program,” that is unprecedented. If state and local governments had followed the same pattern that happened in the last two recessions, they would have added one to two million jobs by now and the unemployment rate would be around 7%.
In September 2011 President Obama asked Congress to pass his American Jobs Act, which contained $35 billion to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters. It was blocked by a Republican filibuster. So, if you want to lay blame for the sluggish recovery, don’t look to the White House. Put the blame where it belongs – on the GOP members of Congress.
For the deficit hawks, President Obama had mechanisms to pay for the American Jobs Act, but the money was supposed to come from limiting tax deductions available to families making $250,000 or more a year. That made it a non-starter for the Grover-Norquist disciples in the GOP.
President Obama and the Democrats aren’t to blame for these government job losses. Blame lies across the aisle in Congress. As long as the Republicans continue to make the obstruction of everything the President tries to do their main occupation, this nation will be at risk because of their political malpractice.
Democracy only works when opposing sides are willing to compromise, to respect the other side. Right now, there is a poisonous hatred infecting those controlling the Republican Party. We now know that their leaders met before President Obama took office and pledged to obstruct, to do all they could to make him fail. In the process, they were pledging to make the nation fail.