The Republican War Against Government Workers

(My latest for the Huffington Post)

The Republicans have been so desperate to find new and clever ways to attack the president that they’ve managed to paint themselves into rhetorical corners with wafer thin sloganeering and laughable attempts at snark. It’s no wonder, then, why they’re dogged by an ongoing series of contradictions. These incongruities whiz past our faces so quickly these days, they’re almost imperceptible.

For example, during the Florida CPAC event last weekend, Governor Rick Scott cracked a joke about the president’s use of a Teleprompter. Not particularly shocking since it’s a desperately ridiculous attack that’s been popular since 2009 when the Republicans conveniently forgot that all modern presidents, including Saint Reagan, have used Teleprompters. Adding to the meta-irony, however, was the fact that Rick Scott read his Teleprompter joke… off of a Teleprompter.

Elsewhere, New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced that he doesn’t plan to run for president. Within his prepared remarks, Christie noted that President Obama “has not found the courage to lead.”

I’m not exactly sure what this means. Did Christie intend to suggest that the first African American president, who, by the way, has received more death threats than any other president in recent history, somehow lacks courage? Or did he intend to suggest that the president didn’t exercise considerable leadership when he passed, with votes from both sides during the most divisive era in politics since the Civil War, a series of groundbreaking pieces of legislation, one of which (health care reform) evaded the records of all previous Democratic presidents? Sounds like it.

Another hearty sampling of Republican red meat delivered in convenient bumper sticker form.

The finer points of the president’s record aside, I thought Christie’s criticism was more than a little odd considering how Christie impugned the president’s “courage to lead” during a speech in which he himself declared his intentions to, you know, not lead.

Adding to the syllabus of conservative contradictions this week, both Christie and Scott attacked government employees and proudly announced the firings of tens of thousands of workers even though they themselves are government employees. Given the Republican talent for selling nonsense by the gross, the Republicans have managed to successfully define government workers as nothing more than faceless automatons — robotic parasites without families, mortgages and futures.

At the Reagan Library this week, Christie applauded President Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers. Mitt Romney doesn’t believe that government workers are contributors to the “real economy.” And while the Republicans attack the president for increasing the size of government, 500,000 government workers have lost their jobs since the president’s inauguration.

During his remarks at the CPAC event, Rick Scott said, “In Florida, unemployment rate’s gone from 12 percent down to 10.7. We’re still above the national average, but we’ve generated 87,200 private sector jobs — private sector! And we have 15,000 less government jobs in the state of Florida. [Applause] Government doesn’t create jobs.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this.

The centerpiece of the statement is his proud assertion that “government doesn’t create jobs.” Who, then, is the “we’ve” inside the clause “we’ve generated 87,200 private sector jobs?” If he’s referring to his administration (“we” as in “Governor Scott et al”), then he’s referring to the government — the executive branch of the Florida state government, to be exact — and if the government “generated” 87,200 private sector jobs, then government does, in fact, create jobs.

Rick Scott continued by patting himself on the back for firing 15,000 Floridians. Despite his attempts to dehumanize the people who were fired, those government “jobs” were occupied by real-life human beings: Florida residents who, due to their lost jobs, might not be able to pay their rents and mortgages in an already crippled Florida housing market. Scott was talking about Florida residents who, because of Scott’s policies, have become a drain on the state and national economies as they line up for unemployment checks and watch their credit card balances max out. Good job, governor. Tell me again how the Republicans will fix the economy.

If these were government jobs, then government had to have created them at some point, so, yes, government creates jobs. American citizens are paid to work in these jobs. Both of my parents worked for the government, and, as near as I can tell, neither of them are Big Government Decepticons posing as humans.

In this modern era when pensions, job security, benefits and health care are being eliminated in private sector jobs, government jobs continue to allow middle class workers to raise a family, send their kids to college and retire with some financial security. You know: the American Dream. The Republicans have demonized this ideal and used easy-to-repeat propaganda (“government doesn’t create jobs”) as a means of tricking middle class Americans into endorsing their malevolent efforts.

But I’m a man of compromise, so let’s make a deal.

When the private sector stops outsourcing its jobs to India and China and brings back real jobs to America, complete with living wages, guaranteed pensions and affordable health coverage, then maybe we can talk about eliminating some redundant jobs in government. The private sector can certainly afford to do this now more than ever as they sit on nearly $2 trillion in cash assets, according to the Wall Street Journal, which they’re refusing to spend on new jobs. Fact: corporate cash assets are at their highest level since 1959 while unemployment remains high and middle class wages remain stagnant. The Republicans continue to tell us with a straight face that tax cuts will encourage businesses to create jobs, even though historically high cash assets aren’t being spent on anything much less jobs.

And when the unemployment rate is hovering at 9.2 percent nationwide, 10.7 percent in Florida and 9.4 percent in New Jersey, I’m not sure these guys ought to be ballyhooing how they’ve successfully added to the unemployment rolls. Rick Scott and the Republicans have fired thousands of Americans from secure jobs and forced them into lower-paying menial gigs for lower wages. How is this helping?

Government workers precisely encapsulate what the founders had in mind for this nation. A government of the people. We are the government. We’re inseparable. The Republicans don’t want you to think about government like this, even though it’s the centerpiece of the American-style representative democracy. Our ability to personally conduct the business of government is our last and only check on political and corporate power. I wonder why the Republicans would want to break down that wall. Hmm.

By the way, I’d like to see the Republicans tell the 1.4 million government workers employed by the U.S. Armed Forces how they don’t have real jobs. Let’s see them run for office on a “soldiers should get real jobs” platform. They’d most certainly end up joining all of those former government workers in the ranks of the unemployed.

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  • trgahan

    The dehumanizing of the “government worker” has happened before and it led to the front of building in Oklahoma City being blown off. In the rumble were the remains of a day care center and all the sudden people had neighbors who weren’t coming home that night. It was a sobering moment in American where we realized all this talking point virtual had a consequence.
    After about two decades, most American corporations are at the lowest wages/staffing levels they can achieve in the US. So to increase profit margins further, they need to cut costs elsewhere, and what stands out: Regulatory Compliance. So restart the campaign of “government workers aren’t real,” “government jobs are just government welfare” and “regulation is killing us.” By shrinking government, business can blow off regulations and there won’t be any government employees to check on them.
    Also, you think some “supply side” dingus would be able to show us “the line” where taxes would be cut enough and regulations sufficiently lifted that this magical wave of private sector job creation would kick in. At least we’d have a target goal behind all the cutting.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    It’s cognitive dissonance­; pure Orwellian doublethin­k. To hold two contradict­ory notions in the mind at once, believe both, ignore the contradict­ion, forget the entire process of mental trickery and go merrily about one’s day -knowing- that 2+2=5.

    It starts with politician­s being completely full of shit, and voters believing everything they say, -preferrin­g- to believe the nonsense even though their experience and observatio­n tell them that it’s nonsense. If the nonsense validates one’s voting preference but objective reality doesn’t, the nonsense wins. The nonsense -becomes- the reality.

    All you need to do is look at the GOP’s central premise: We don’t like government­, so make -us- the government­. Government­, categorica­lly, never does anything right and only ever hurts people and wastes your money, so put -us- in the position to do nothing right, hurt people and waste your money. How does this work on people? Simple: cognitive dissonance.

    Republican­s (and their fans) don’t dislike “governmen­t.” They dislike Democrats­. “Governmen­t” is not “governmen­t” if Republican­s are in charge of it. In 2003, complainin­g about “governmen­t” was impermissi­ble; it meant you were unpatrioti­c, antï-Ameri­can, hated the troops and wanted the terrorists to win. Now you’re not allowed to support anything the government does, because that’s “socialism.” And what’s worse, the GOP’s voters, supporters, fans and enablers allow the party, its candidates and officeholders to have it both ways, because they want to have it both ways. And the “media,” assuming there even is such a thing anymore, lets them get away with it.

    Matt Taibbi had the Obama-era GOP and the so-called Tea Party™ nailed in his Rolling Stone piece, and summed it up better than anyone: They’re completely full of shit. Totally, utterly, unabashedly, unashamedly, unreservedly, unmercifully full of pure, Grade-A, USDA Choice, prime-cut all-American bullshit. (h/t Carlin) And they’re full of shit because there is no consequence to being full of shit in America. When you have fans, supporters and enablers in the public who will believe everything you say no matter how outrageous, ridiculous or counter-factual it is, and a 24-hour propaganda machine to repeat, disseminate and reinforce all that Grade-A bullshit, why bother to take even a cursory glance at reality?

    I’ve told Tea Party™ people time and time again, speaking for non-Tea Party™ people: We don’t hate you, we don’t misunderstand you, we don’t even necessarily disagree with you. We just don’t believe you. We think you’re full of shit.

    Nothing the TP™ or other GOP fans are complaining about today was materially different in 2003, but were they out on the Capitol south lawn protesting? No. Instead, they enthusiastically re-elected an administration and a Congressional majority that had together expanded government more than any other in history, taken a balanced budget and purposefully thrown it out of balance, created the largest new federal bureaucracy since the New Deal, and enacted the most sweeping curtailment of individual liberty since the Alien and Sedition Acts. And they are now lecturing us about “big government?” They think that voting Republican is the cure for “big government” and “spending” and “debt”? That’s like thinking you can lower your cholesterol by eating cheese fries.

    I’m sure all this will go away as soon as President Romney takes the Oath of Office on 20 January 2013. Then GOP politicians and fans can go back to loving the federal government like they did in 2003.

    • MrDHalen

      @GrafZeppelin127

      Wow!!! Kicking some major ass with that post. Thanks!!!

    • JackDaniel07

      Hell yes. Graf never fails to hammer it home

    • bphoon


      And they are now lecturing us about “big government?” They think that voting Republican is the cure for “big government” and “spending” and “debt”?

      This pops into my head every time I hear some limp-dick dipshit like Boehner or Ryan talk about rolling spending back to 2008 levels “before the spending spree started”…or when I hear some doofus TP-type complain about how the Democrats spend too much.

  • JackDaniel07

    Bob, awesome friggin piece. Your writing is off the charts lately, the last 2 or 3 HuffPo pieces being phenomenal. Stay inspired brother, I count on you to refill my ammo belt.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      Agreed Jack, Bob you’re on fire lately. Keep it up!

  • agrazingmoose

    I especially enjoyed this one, Bob.

  • Scopedog

    “I’m not exactly sure what this means. Did Christie intend to suggest that the first African American president, who, by the way, has received more death threats than any other president in recent history, somehow lacks courage?”

    Well….I guess so. Or Christie’s been reading Michael Moore, David Sirota, Glenn Greenwald, Taylor Marsh, David Swanson, Dave Lindorff, and a whole bunch of emoprogs who have been spewing the “Obama lacks courage and is a p***y” meme since early 2009.

    At any rate, it’s all a load of bull.

    And Bob, great article, as always.

  • dildenusa

    The republicans have been waging war on workers and the middle class since they gained power following the Civil War. From 1860 to 1912 there was only 1 democrat in the White House. Grover Cleveland who served 2 non consecutive terms. Corporatists gained enormous economic and political power during this time. Even Teddy Roosevelt who was called the trust buster, still listened to the sleazy corporatists whispering in his ear.

    So have things changed much? Well, yes and no. I agree with Matt Taibbi. All the politicians today are completely full of bullshit. There are no more Lincoln’s or Jefferson’s. But we seem to forget who is whispering in the ears of the politicians today. The corporatists. And this whispering has been going on for 150 years. Look at what happened with a company like Enron. A bit player in pipelines and oil and gas markets in 1985. All of a sudden seemingly overnight by 1991 it was a multibillion dollar behemouth. The downfall took another 10 years. The main reason was hubris. The second reason was too rapid deregulation of critical markets and infrastructure. Who brought about this deregulation? Why the very company it was supposed to benefit. Yep, you guessed it, Enron.

    So now we have the tea party republic and the politicians pandering to it as a logical growth of disasters like Enron and the fleecing of America by defense contractors. The political leadership of the republican party knows the tea party republic is a bunch of angry middle class cry babies who need their diapers changed. But yet, they pander and patronize them. Why? I believe that if the president was a white democrat, the republican leadership wouldn’t be so quick to patronize and pander to the tea party republic. There would still be the hypocrisy and cognative dissonance, But it would be easier to call out those who would engage in such nonsense.

  • http://twitter.com/groobiecat Groobiecat

    First off, I read every article that BC writes on Huffington Post; always clever, articulate, and highly charged rant pieces against the outrageous contradictions and hypocrisy of the the neo-right with facts, figures, and engaging prose. This piece was no exception. Cheers, Bob; keep driving the narrative, and I’ll keep borrowing your ideas quite liberally…

    Second, I decided to “get into it” with a right wingnut on HuffPo, and then publish the results on my blog (http://tinyurl.com/6c9oon5). This is largely a throwaway post, but it did help clarify my thinking.

    The crux is this: If any crazies on the right enjoy Highways, the Internet, Mail, Health (flu shots), National Parks, etc. then they’re enjoying our tax dollars at work. This is a rephrasing riff off of what Elizabeth Warren (woo hoo!) has gone viral on YouTube for saying, but I think it needs to be said to undermine the right’s narrative that all government is inherently evil. And I think it needs to be said over and over and over.

    Third, hypocrisy and jobs. All the right’s leaders (except Romney) are professional federal employees who, by their own logic, are sponging off the taxpayer’s “stolen money.” Next post? I’m thinking the CVs of the leaders in the TP movement…

  • Dan_in_DE

    Also very much enjoyed the article, Bob. Great work!

    unfortunately I dont have the time to read all the (article length) comments here, though I’m sure there’s some really good stuff in there too : )

    Wanted to pass this along though: something thing that Bob and the Cescans here have been screaming at the heavens since the very inception of the “Tea Party”. Taxes paid for that sidewalk you’re protesting on, Jerkoff! Y’all should go over to facebook and give this the thumbs up!!

  • missliberties

    Excellent piece Bob.

    Why does everyone seem to gloss over these raving contradictions. I thank you for pointing them out.

    I love how we were ‘fighting for freedom’ in Iraq to liberate muslims to participate in Democracy….. yet the second they have the chance, these same folks bash Keith Ellison as the second coming of bin Laden because he practices Islam.

    Excellent catch on the ‘we’ve create’ private sector jobs…… the we being the government of which tax payers are paying their salaries, health care and retirement plans.

  • Madam1

    And now for a bandcamp story- I am currently working for a hedge fund manager who is super wealthy. His most recent project is building an extravagant country home retreat, 2 miles from his other home, on his 13 acres that overlooks the ocean. This “job creator” has a lot of construction going on which he continually tries to negotiate at lower fees/wages. While the job of laying the mile of high end pavers for his driveway lasted for several months, when it was finished, so was that contractor. When I finish the landscaping, I too will done with this temporary gig. One of the contractors on the site has not been payed for 7 weeks and is owed $15,000 in labor and materials. This same contractor is underwater on his mortgage and is currently in the process of losing his home – something the job creator is well aware of – yet didn’t get a chance to pay him because he was going on vacation to for several weeks and couldn’t sign his checks until he got back. Not a single person working for this job creator gets health/dental benefits, paid vacations, sick leave, 401K, or even a guarenteed date to receive our paychecks. He feels very proud of the jobs he is creating for us and boasts about it to me often. On the other hand, I pass the government employed guys who manage the grounds of our parks and open spaces on a daily basis. Its the same guys who were employed by the government last year and the year before. These are permanant jobs, doing the same kind of work my “job creator” provides, yet they get benefits, job security, paychecks they can count on, and even a truck to drive around in. Not a bad gig for those guys considering they aren’t doing real jobs. Why the fuck is this meme repeated so often? Since when was educating people in public school become a non-job? Does Rick Scott consider the assholes mandating drug tests to be holding real jobs? Hopefully his job will be a temporary as mine and the state of Florida will vote his ass out so we don’t have to look at his fighteningly similar to Voldemort face any longer.

    • agrazingmoose

      I have friends that take care of yachts for the rich folk that visit Nantucket. They have the same stories. Bills paid nearly a year late, sudden cancellations of work, ridiculous price negotiations because they have all the power.

      It is demoralizing. Plus, it is crazy that a small business person’s business plan includes not taking on any rich people as clients.

      These folks do nothing good for the community. They require that their gardeners throw tons of chemicals on their lawns that they never see and the runoff pollutes the harbor.

      We joke that the only reason that rich people are rich is because they never pay for anything.

  • incredulous72

    Excellent. Excellent article.

    Democrats SUCK on the framing of issues; republicans have been deviously effective at this for decades now. It is time for a lot of Americans to let go of this nonsense about “smaller government” and “government is bad” foolishness. WE ARE THE DAMN GOVERNMENT. That’s the entire basis of the Constitution. We are not run by some nondescript, “other” entity that exists outside of “US”. “WE” elect who is going to sit in every last one of those seats in the House and Senate as well as who sits in the White House. And by the way, we tried the “smaller government” before, it was called the Articles of Confederation. AND IT SUCKED!!!

    The GOP/TP is continuing to add to the unemployment rolls with this “smaller government” crap, and it’s ruining this country. How many ways do their ideas have to fail before the American people realize the GOP/TP haven’t a clue about how to govern?

    Enough is enough.

    • bphoon

      The Articles of Confederation come to mind whenever I hear someone from the idiot right talk about shifting responsibility for most federal programs–like Social Security, Medicare, etc.–to the states. WE TRIED THAT ALREADY–IT DIDN’T WORK! That’s why we have a Constitution today.

  • bphoon

    I posted this in the HP comments under BC’s post in response to someone claiming that government workers make more in salary and benefits than private segment workers:

    I’d like to see some hard-numbe­r evidence of your claim that government employees currently average a much higher salary/ben­efits package than private sector jobs. For several decades, many if not most government workers will tell you, they sacrificed higher salaries for bigger benefits packages, primarily retirement funding and health care coverage. As we know from recent events, most states chronicall­y underfund their public employees’ retirement systems, those retirement systems took major hits to their investment portfolios during the recent economic meltdown and many state governors are busy hastening the erosion of both government workers’ benefits packages as well as their rights to negotiate future packages. In recent months, over 500,000 government workers have lost their jobs all together. On top of it all, they’re demonized by GOP sloganeeri­ng that says they don’t have real jobs and don’t contribute to the “real economy”. I’d say government workers in general have suffered the lion’s share of ill fortune lately.

    In my view, government jobs do, in fact, affect an economy in much the same way that private sector jobs do: they enable government workers to pay mortgages, pay taxes and “purchase the product or service the business provides”. Given that, I’d go so far as to say reducing the rolls of government workers has a net negative impact on our economy and makes it harder for private enterprise to sell its products and services. From that perspectiv­e, I’d say supporting government workers would be the patriotic thing to do.