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Boehner's All About Jobs, Unless They Help to Run the Government

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With a turn of phrase that ranks right up there with "I'm alright, Jack," "We care about the small people," and "Let them eat cake," House Speaker John Boehner voiced the Republican response to concerns about the consequences the GOP's budget cuts for millions of Americans, their families and their communities: "So be it."

If House Republicans succeed in cutting tens of billions of dollars in discretionary spending over the next six months, some of the most immediate victims will be federal employees, many of whose jobs will be slashed as their agencies pare back.At a press conference in the lobby of RNC headquarters Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) shrugged this off as collateral damage.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Boehner said. "If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We're broke."

Some of those employees will no doubt collect unemployment insurance, so the government's obligation to them won't disappear with their jobs.

Boehner was responding to a specific question about the GOP's job-killing budget cuts, but his answer also applies to the disastrous consequences of every conservative proposal from repealing health care reform, to abolishing the EPA and the Department of Education: "So be it." (Or, more succinctly,:"Drop dead.")

Of course, Boehner got his numbers wrong.

Ed O'Keefe of the
Washington Post
there were only 20,000 more federal employees under Obama in 2010 than under George W. Bush in 2002
-- and that, on a per capita basis (federal employees per 1,000 Americans),
it's at the lowest level at least since 1962

It probably never mattered to Boenher that he was was wrong about the number of jobs, because as far as he was concerned, he wasn't talking about real jobs. Earlier I wrote that progressives and conservatives aren't talking about the same thing when we talk about jobs. It's true, in a couple of different ways. As Steve Benen pointed out, Republicans understand that at the end of the day voters will lean towards whoever they think is doing more for them. So, the GOP has been working hard frame the deficit-driven budget cutting as a jobs agenda.

Their logic is a little fuzzy, because when Republicans talk about jobs, they aren't talking about creating jobs so much as creating the right "atmosphere" for businesses to start hiring again. Or, as John Boehner explained, slashing jobs from the budget creates certainty where there is uncertainty, and certainty creates jobs. Maybe.

Short and sharp is what is needed to rebut Captain Win the Future. So far, the message needs some work: "By running up the spending money we don't have, running up the huge budget deficits, we create more uncertainty in the private sector," says House Speaker John Boehner, who then becomes almost tautological. "This is where cutting spending will create jobs because it is going to bring greater fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C., end some of the uncertainty, and allow jobs to be created in America."

The problem is that it gets even fuzzier. Apparently, after establishing the correct atmosphere and banishing uncertainty, the next step is... Not much, really. After that, job creation and economic growth just happen.

The problem is that we tried that already, and it didn't happen. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the now-extended Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, did little to create jobs or broad prosperity. The Bush era saw the rich get richer while the rest of us worked harder and harder just to break even. It ended up being an era of zero job growth, and Bush left office with the worst record on job growth of any president since such records were kept.

In that light, it's particularly maddening that Republican budget cuts will end up killing more jobs than were created during the Bush era. But it makes perfect sense to Boehner and the House Republicans, because most of the jobs they're so eager to slash out of existence aren't real jobs. At least, not in the conservative mind.

It doesn't matter that you go to a workplace, perform a task or service, and earn a paycheck for that performing task or service. It's possible you still don't have a "real job." Just like not all Americans are "real Americans," not all jobs are "real jobs." That's what Republicans mean when they say "government doesn't create jobs."

Boehner's off-the-cuff remarks. reminded me of a long debate that I once had with a libertarian conservative, who insisted that the government couldn't create jobs. As it went on, our discourse revealed that his arguments were based on the assumption that jobs created by government can't really be jobs, because government jobs — and jobs created or subsidized by government — are not "real jobs," and "real jobs" are only created in the private sector. If it's not done for profit, it's not a "real job," and probably doesn't need doing and shouldn't be done in the first place.

"So be it, " Boehner said, because to him the jobs his agenda would destroy aren't "real jobs" in the first place. So, there's no real economic loss because no "real jobs" are lost. And, by extension, no "real Americans" are hurt because "real Americans" only have "real jobs" in the first place.


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