Government jobs are jobs, too


The New York Times weighed in Dec. 4 on an economic fact of life that I've been harping about for years now: Jobs in the public sector are ... jobs. In many cases, they're good jobs. And when conservatives and business leaders talk about reducing the size of government -- and then complain about the unemployment rate -- they're stuck in doublespeak.

I know the Times has a paywall now, so if you can't get in from that link I'll give you the main points of the editorial:

While the private sector has been adding jobs since the end of 2009, more than half a million government positions have been lost since the recession. ... The cutbacks hurt more than just services. As Timothy Williams of The Times reported last week, they hit black workers particularly hard. Millions of African-Americans — one in five who are employed — have entered the middle class through government employment, and they tend to make 25 percent more than other black workers. Now tens of thousands are leaving both their jobs and the middle class. Chicago, for example, is laying off 212 employees in the upcoming fiscal year, two-thirds of whom are black.

That’s one reason the black unemployment rate went up last month, to 15.5 percent from 15.1. The effect is severe, destabilizing black neighborhoods and making it harder for young people to replicate their parents’ climb up the economic ladder. ...

Many Republicans, however, don’t regard government jobs as actual jobs, and are eager to see them disappear. Republican governors around the Midwest have aggressively tried to break the power of public unions while slashing their work forces, and Congressional Republicans have proposed paying for a payroll tax cut by reducing federal employment rolls by 10 percent through attrition. That’s 200,000 jobs, many of which would be filled by blacks and Hispanics and others who tend to vote Democratic, and thus are considered politically superfluous.

But every layoff, whether public or private, is a life, and a livelihood, and a family. And too many of them are getting battered by the economic storm.

Something to think about as city officials try to eliminate the latest defict and negotiate new union contracts. Because Repbulicans aren't the only ones who don't regard government jobs as actual jobs; a lot of Democratic officials and business leaders in liberal San Francisco seem to feel the same way.J


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