In talking about the economy, the Republican presidential candidates are quick to blame government spending for our current woes. “On my first day in office, I will send five bills to Congress and issue five executive orders that will get government out of the way and restore America to the path of robust economic growth that we need to create jobs,” said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney when he unveiled his jobs plan in September. Likewise, in his plan, Texas Governor Rick Perry touts spending cuts as part of the road toward renewed economic growth: “The cut, balance, and grow plan paves the way for the job creation, balanced budgets, and fiscal responsibility that we need to get America working again.”
The problem, as Neil Irwin reports for The Washington Post, is that sharp cuts to government have been terrible for the recovery. Thanks to lower revenue, limited federal aid, and budget-cutting state legislators, the public sector has cut 455,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010, sending the proportion of government jobs to 16.7 percent, the lowest level in three years. These cuts have been a huge drag on the recovery -– to wit, October saw private-sector job growth of 104,000, which was offset by the loss of 24,000 public-sector jobs, for a net increase of 80,000 jobs. This dynamic has been true of every month since the recovery officially began.
Far from unleashing the power of the private sector, cuts to government have prolonged the economic pain, as demand is removed from the economy without an adequate replacement. Despite this, conservatives continue to press for further and greater cuts to government spending –- the Pentagon notwithstanding. What conservatives refuse to acknowledge is that we are living through the recovery they say they want, and it’s been disastrous.