This may not exactly be breaking news, but numbers suggest that the ultraconservative state legislators pushing backwards legislation such as voter suppression are the same folks cutting public sector jobs at an alarming rate. The states that succumbed to the Tea Party takeover of 2010 have seen drastic job losses in the public sector and it does not appear to be coincidental.
Pennsylvania is a prime example of this new, unimproved Tea Party economy. Under Governor Tom Corbett, Republicans successfully shrunk the state’s workforce by three percent despite his promise to be a “jobs Governor” on the campaign trail:
Before the cuts, “Pennsylvania [had] the second lowest number of state workers per capita, already,” said Rebecca McNichol, Pennsylvania state director of the CLEAR Coalition. Yet, she says, “this past year the budget was devastating” in deeper cuts.
Many of these cuts were in the name of keeping a no-tax pledge. Corbett lowered corporate tax rates and made a sweetheart deal with the companies performing fracking work in the Marcellus Shale. Had this work been taxed correctly it could have bolstered the state economy for years to come. Without those logical revenue streams, cutting jobs and higher education funding became a way to appease the extremists watching the balance sheet.
What we know now is that the public sector job loss trend is not entirely a national one. It is more of a red state-heavy kind of affair, according to Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert of the Roosevelt Institute:
Nearly all of the job losses took place at the state and local level, and they were most severe in a handful of GOP-controlled states. In other words, erosion of public sector employment isn’t a problem affecting the entire country equally—it’s a problem in particular states, thanks to very particular legislators…
Of the eleven states in which Republicans came into power in 2010 – Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – five were among the seven states that lost more than 2.5 percent of their workforce from December 2010 to December 2011. The remaining 42 states lost an average 0.5 percent (there is no data for Mississippi).
Overall, these 11 states were responsible for 40 percent of the total state and local public sector job losses in 2011.
Add to these Texas, which because of its large size is responsible for 31 percent of the total at the state and local level. Taken together, these 12 red states drove over 70 percent of the total losses. The rest of the states suffered much smaller losses or even slight gains.
Upon further review, many of the decisions that triggered these job losses seem like thank you’s to the corporations that funded the sundry 2010 Tea Party campaigns. Tea Party tactics have not helped speed up the recovery, they have worsened the situation.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found, many of these newly GOP-dominated states, including North Carolina, cut corporate taxes, or cut taxes on high-income earners, including Maine and Ohio. Wisconsin did both.
Maine has also suffered from austerity-minded decisions made by its Republican governor. In the past year, Maine lost five percent of its public sector workforce, the second largest percentage any state experienced, mostly through forced attrition. Ginette Rivard, president of the Maine State Employees Association, says that Governor Paul LePage enacted changes that forced many into early retirement. “One department lost eleven percent of its workforce in 2011 through retirement,” she says. Everyone else is left to pick up the extra work with no extra pay.
Economists argue over how significantly public sector layoffs in a weak economy hurt the recovery, but many agree that it has a substantial impact. Paul Krugman has estimated that if the government workforce had grown at a Reagan-era rate instead of decreasing rapidly, unemployment would now be closer to 7 percent, instead of the 8.5 percent it’s been hovering around for the past five months.
Read more about this red-handed mess from The Nation.