Monday, February 18, 2013

I Was Lost, But Now I'm Found

I've been a bit under the weather recently, which is why posting has been slack of late.  It's frustrating, because I have a number of big subjects I want to take on.  But for now, something relatively brief.

Derek Thompson has a good piece at the Atlantic today about a debate (if that's the word) between Paul Krugman and Joe Scarborough on The Deficit.  It's worth reading, but this line jumped out at me:
We know that government spending cuts in the last few years have coincided with hundreds of thousands of lost government jobs, which has kept our unemployment rate from falling further.
To lose one government job, Mr. Thompson, might be considered a misfortune; to lose hundreds of thousands seems like carelessness.

Lady Bracknell's line about "lost" parents from The Importance of Being Earnest adapted perfectly here.  Those jobs weren't lost, they were disposed of deliberately, by human decisions.  Most of them aren't even federal jobs, but state, county, and local jobsMany on the right are surprised to learn this. They're sure the Kenyan Usurper increased government employment to further his socialist agenda, but sorry, that was the Socialist Bush II, under whose regime public-sector jobs increased steadily from 2001 to 2009.

Maybe Thompson meant "lost" to have a pathetic spin: poor little government jobs, cast out into the cold to sell matches and freeze to death in an alleyway!  Or to suggest that an opportunity was lost, alas and alack.  But those jobs could easily be found again, if the need for them was recognized, and the will to meet that need was mustered.  Not that I'm going to hold my breath.

Another, possibly related, good piece went up on the Atlantic today, by James Fallows.  Titled "The Nightmare of Sequestration Hits Home," it begins by noticing that "the always-popular Air Power Over Hampton Roads air show, featuring the USAF Thunderbirds, has just been called off, as the Pentagon hunkers down in preparation for 'the sequester.'"

Fallows admits he's being "flip," even though he himself is a big fan of air shows.  He stresses the serious point, which
is that is what it is like for a country to budget and govern from "one manufactured crisis to the next," as we heard about a few days ago. In the weeks to come we are sure to see a combination of "fireman-first"-type cuts -- lower staffing and much longer lines for the TSA, closing of popular parks or sites -- and real, not-just-for-show reminders to the public of the consequences of the role of public services and institutions in daily life. 
Later he quotes e-mail from a reader whose husband is a civilian employee at Fort Bragg, who complains:
There is no doubt that defense cuts need to be made, but one place to start is the waste and abuse that goes on in the defense contracting racket.
She has a point -- there's a lot of corruption in defense contracting, always has been, and it needs to be dealt with -- but she also (all unawares) shows why budget cuts are so difficult to make: everyone wants someone else, someone not sincere and honest like the complainer, to feel the pain.