I have a new article at The Nation – For States That Went Red in 2010, Massive Public Sector Job Losses Came Next. There’s also a very short research brief from Roosevelt Institute – The GOP’s State Project of Slashing the Public Workforce (pdf) – that provides some data background and additional charts. Both are co-written with the Roosevelt Institute’s very own Bryce Covert. Turns out 12 states are responsible for over 70% of the state and local public sector job losses in 2011 – can you guess which ones?
Everyone has commented on the large number of state and local public sector job losses in 2011. See Floyd Norris here, Paul Krugman here, Brian Beutler here, Matt Yglesias here, Jack Temple at Demos here, Calculated Risk here, etc. Floyd Norris: “[G]overnment employment is down 2.6 percent over the last three years…State employment fell 1.2 percent in 2011 — the largest percentage for any year since counting began in 1955.” There’s a lot of comparsion between Obama’s term and government employment increasing under President Reagan and George W. Bush. Last year state and local public employment dropped 1.2%, or by about 265,000 jobs. 43% of those jobs were in the education sector.
I had two questions about this that I tried to answer in this article. The first was where these state losses were occurring, and whether there was anything interesting going on with the distribution of lost jobs.
The second question was how the new Tea Party influenced Republican state legislatures, especially Republicans that took over 11 states in the historic 2010 midterm elections, were governing. There’s two theories I saw. The first could be called the “social issue truce” theory, based on a statement Mitch Daniels made. As Dick Morris put it, “No longer do evangelical or social issues dominate the Republican ground troops. Now economic and fiscal issues prevail…It is one of the fundamental planks in the Tea Party platform that the movement does not concern itself with social issues.” They aren’t interested in restricting voter restrictions or reproductive freedoms. (A corollary theory is David Frum’s argument that “these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda.” They won’t even know what to do as there aren’t independent conservative intellectuals to guide them.)
The second theory could be called the Corey Robin theory, which would argue conservatism is everywhere a “reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.” In this theory, beyond just shredding the public sector in favor of the private, the movement would be compelled to combat challenges against the family that come from reproductive freedoms and threats to entrenched power that come from expanded democratic access. They might, for instance, be more likely to pass bills restricting reproductive freedoms as well as voter suppression bills than non-GOP states in this theory, where under the “social issue truce” we wouldn’t see a difference.
I think we were able to get an empirical handle on both questions. Hope you check it out!
From the beginning of the paper:
- There was a 1.2 percent decline in 2011 in the number of public employees, the largest yearly decline of the Obama presidency and one of the largest on record. Public employment declined 2.6percent the last three years, the highest on record. This has had a significant drag on the economy as a whole.
- Most of these losses were at the state level, but they weren’t spread out evenly across all states – the 2011 losses were concentrated in just 12. The 11 states that the Republicans took over during the 2010 midterm elections – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – account for 40.5 percent of the total losses. By itself, Texas accounts for an additional 31 percent of the total losses. The remaining states make up the rest.
- The 11 states that the Republicans took over in 2010 laid off, on average, 2.5 percent of their government workforces in a single year. This is compared to the overall average of 0.5 percent for the rest of the states.
- In addition to the large losses in the public workforce, the 11 states that went Republican passed and enacted more reproductive freedom restrictions and voter suppression laws than states with mixed or Democratic legislatures. The push to target and lay off public employees fits in with more traditional conservative political policy priorities.