One of the Republicans’ most often-repeated “big lies” — the Goebbels-Rove tactic of repeating a falsehood over and over until it is perceived to be true or, as Rove put it, until a “new reality” has been created — is that the government cannot create jobs.
This is, of course, demonstrably untrue. Just for starters, there are hundreds of thousands of contractors in aerospace, defense, transportation and elsewhere who owe their jobs to the federal government and no one else.
Notably, the federal government paid, and is still paying, the salaries of tens of thousands of employees of Halliburton and Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the other end of the spectrum, the federal government contracts out nearly all the construction work on new roads, bridges, tunnels, harbors and the like. State and local governments do the same.
Beyond the contractors, the federal government also has direct employees — about 2.8 million of them. Federal employees use their salaries the same way everyone else does. They pay mortgages or rent and other bills. They buy groceries, clothing, appliances and electronics. They go out to restaurants and on vacation. They even pay taxes.
Yesterday, John Boehner inadvertently exposed this GOP big lies for what it is. In attacking the president’s budget proposal, he dragged the 2.85 million federal direct hires into the spotlight and suggested that if 200,000 or of them had to be laid off, well, “so be it.”
In other words, if it makes his tea partyist base happy, Boehner, who won the House last year in part by haranguing the president over “jobs, jobs, jobs,” now says he supports adding as many as 200,000 federal workers to the unemployment rolls. The fact that doing so would put 200,000 families — arguably as many as 800,000 American men, women and children — on the path to financial ruin, drain millions more from the unemployment insurance fund and threaten the livelihoods of the grocers, dry cleaners, restaurant owners and other small business owners where those former federal employees once shopped — well, so be it.
Even worse, but par for the course, in making his case for massive layoffs of federal employees, Boehner told another lie, one that is being repeated at the top of every hour on cable news today.
Check out the video to the right, starting at minute 01:23. Here’s the rough transcript from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show last night:
MADDOW: Let’s just start with today. Today, John Boehner went to RNC headquarters. He apparently had some sort of meeting there, and afterwards, he called a press conference. Apparently he thought he had something to say that was going to nail the president on the president’s newly released budget. He was going to go after Obama. He was going to make headlines. He was going to score big political points today.
So John Boehner purposely sought out the press. He gathered everybody around him and then this is what he said to the cameras:
BOEHNER (in video): Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.
MADDOW: “So be it.” This is evidence for the “John Boehner Is Bad at His Job” hypothesis, for a few reasons.
First, what he said today is not true. And while everybody should avoid making statements that aren’t true whenever possible, if your job title is speaker of the House, you should probably extra doubly triply avoid making statements that aren’t true.
BOEHNER (in video): …since President Obama has taken office the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs.
MADDOW: Not true. Total, 100 percent bull pucky, actually. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps track of these things — darn bureaucrats — when Barack Obama came into office, there were roughly 2.79 million federal employees.
According to the latest figures available, there are now roughly 2.85 million. That would be an increase of about 58,000 new federal jobs — which is not even close to what Mr. Boehner said,which was 200,000.
Also, for the record, proportional to the size of the federal government is at something like a 50 year low right now. Just in case you care.
But even without that context, John Boehner, with his made-up 200,000 number, is just not telling the truth.
Fact checkers at Politifact say the number of new permanent federal employees is even smaller:
[We] contacted the BLS for more detail on the employment numbers.
What we learned: Nearly all of the uptick in federal workers from early 2009 to June 2010 reflects temporary hires by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is conducting the constitutionally required census of U.S. residents.
Nathan Clausen, a bureau economist, provided a BLS report indicating that 6,000 census workers were employed in February 2009, a number that shot up to 564,000 in May 2010 before decreasing to 339,000 in June 2010, according to the BLS. The increase of 333,000 census workers from February 2009 to June 2010 amounts to 88 percent of the 379,000 overall increase in federal workers.
Not counting the temporary census workers leaves 46,000 other federal workers added on Obama’s watch. Clausen said it’s not possible to divine from the bureau’s database precisely where those workers were added.