The Great Recession officially ended two years ago this month. During previous recoveries, state and local governments were engines of growth by this point: In the two years after the 1990-91 recession ended, for example, they had added 430,000 jobs. They had added 249,000 two years after the 2001 recession ended.
This time is different. More than 467,000 state and local government jobs, including 188,000 in schools, have vanished since the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Weird. And here I thought government spending "crowds out" private sector spending. If government -- including state and city governments -- starts making big, draconian cuts, then in pours all that sweet, sweet private sector cash. Right?
"There's a whole slew of private companies that have to cut back when they don't get the [government] contracts they had been getting," Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors told AP. "You can't balance a budget and say everything's going to be beautiful." And you can't lay off state workers in droves and then wonder why unemployment is so high.
Here in Wisconsin, there's a great example of Republican economic flateartherism. Republicans in the legislature are forcing the University of Wisconsin to return $37 million to the federal government. That money would've paid for broadband internet to tie campuses, schools, and libraries together and to help with distance learning.
"The legislation would also prohibit UW System campuses from supporting WiscNet, a cooperative that brings high-speed Internet to most schools and libraries across the state," the Wisconsin State Journal reports. "Campus leaders say they fear the change could cripple the network."
What's the problem here for Republicans? "Republican lawmakers say the university should not be in the business of providing telecommunications services. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he was concerned the new broadband networks would compete with an already existing network called BadgerNet."
Is private industry breaking down the door to do this? Well, no. But that's not the point. Government shouldn't do what businesses can do, say Republicans. Even, apparently, when those businesses have no interest in doing it. By GOP logic, we should all sit around waiting for construction companies to build bridges on their own initiative -- even though there's no reason for them to do so and it's never going to happen. This is what the founders intended, because the founders were morons, I guess.
So $37 million-worth of jobs goes out the window, never to return. Schools and the university suffers. Private industry -- which would've built the damned thing -- now doesn't get the business. Finally, tax money that Wisconsinites paid to the federal government doesn't return to Wisconsin -- so it'll go subsidize a project in some other, saner state. This is beyond idiocy and they call it "fiscal sanity."
But what about the media? As I said, the AP piece was buried on page eleven. We have real world proof that austerity measures don't help the economy, that they in fact do the opposite, and we've got Republicans and conservatives on teevee saying, "You know what we need? More austerity!" Meanwhile, talking heads and pundits nod like idiots and tell us -- oh so seriously -- that this is the wisest thing they've ever heard. The economic plane is crashing again, so the smartest move is to point that nose straight at the ground and gun it.
Austerity isn't headed for failure, it's failing now and that's barely being reported.