Government Jobs Are People Too

I know I posted a segment from The Rachel Maddow Show earlier today, but I just have to post the segment below because it is the best 8 1/2 minutes you will spend, in terms of hearing a rebuttal to what right-wingers claim both about the nature of government employment and the alleged radical nature of President Obama and his administration.

Before you watch the segment, here is a graphic St. Rachel uses to make the point that what was standard practice in fighting recessions in the past has been turned on its head during the Obama presidency. The graph plots the change in government employment during the 1981 recession when Reagan was president, the 1990 recession when George H.W. Bush was president, the 2001 recession when George W. Bush was president, and the Great Recession when the Scary Negro socialist/communist was president:

government employment and recession

As you can clearly see, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II did not seek to shrink government, and government employment, when the economy slowed down. That would have been stupid. And neither did President Obama initially seek to eliminate government jobs. Part of his stimulus plan put in place early in 2009 was designed to help states keep teachers, cops, firemen, and other government workers on the job. But that stimulus, much maligned by Republicans as a “failure,” is long gone. And nothing like it is coming back.

Here is the St. Rachel segment, which you should commit to memory, especially those of you who have hard-headed conservatives in your midst:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  February 22, 2013

    Here we go again with “graphs”,

    Pick a graph, any graph, say peaches sold in Georgia. Now if THAT graph plunges during a recession, well obviously if we had sold more peaches, well, no more recession, right?

    Duane is making the point that because government employment went DOWN during Obama’s watch, well obviously that caused the perpetuation of the GR, right? And because it went UP during other “watches” that caused a quick recovery from much milder recessions, right?

    According to Keynes, government purchases are a great tool to recovery from a major economic slump, recession, depression, whatever. Keep driving up government PURCHASES (the only figure used in GDP calculations) and GDP skyrockets, right.

    Wrong, in my view. Money spent by consumers (70% of GDP), government purchases, you name it, improves GDP over the long haul ONLY when there is growth, call it ROI, from such spending. Throw money at issues without removing obstacles that impede growth, ROI goes DOWN, and thus the economy follows.

    ONE thing CAN be determined using the above graphs however.Reagan, Bush I and Bush II , ALL confronted recessions, of a sort. AND they grew the country back out of such recessions, in rather short order. We are STILL waiting for Obama to do the SAME THING, GROW our GDP to get back to a booming economy.

    We can “throw all the money in the world” with multi-trillion govenment BORROWING, and look what we have, so far??? But listen to Krugman and Duane. If we just “spend a little bit more” (and tax the rich a LOT more) then all will be fine in America, economically, right???

    I for one, am still waiting for “it” (big growth in real GDP) to happen, today.



  2. Duane,

    Well, it looks like Saint Rachel is going to have to turn in her “canon” or whatever it was that got her designated as holy. Here’s why.

    The nifty little charts she uses, and that you show above, includes ALL government employees, from the federal all the way down to the state and city and county and water districts, et al. She then links the changes in all of this employment to whoever the president was at the time. But in the doing, she committed the fallacy in logic known as “false cause.”

    The economic policies of Ronald Reagan had very little to do with changes to the employment numbers in Missouri and the political subdivisions thereof. And neither did the economic policies of Bill Clinton affect the government employees here in the state of Oklahoma. Ditto for all the other states.

    It is badly misleading for Ms. Maddow to say otherwise. Like many talking heads, she doesn’t understand statistics well enough to ask the right questions or be able to qualify the numbers as to what they actually represent. So, no only does she mischaracterize the numbers, she fails to note that they are for all govenment civilian employees at all levels and that they do not include the MILITARY!

    That said, let’s see what the changes were in FEDERAL civilian employment over those same periods. After all, the president CAN influence those numbers. For this exercise, we need to turn to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at

    But rather than do the math from the OPM tables, we can just read this article, which has done the math for us.
    It starts with Carter, under whose watch federal civilian employment went down by 8,000. During Reagan’s eight years, the number increased a whopping 238,000. So he was obviously a closet liberal. And so it goes. Bush 41 saw a decrease of 30,000, Clinton reduced the numbers by most — 380,000 fewer on the OPM payroll. “W” scores a modest increase of only 53,000. Now, since the data is only through 2010, that is really to short a time to provide meaningful numbers for Obama, although the trend is downward.

    Now if you plot those numbers on Rachel’s graph, you will have a considerably different picture, and certainly a more accurate one, of government employment at the federal level. Likewise, if the employment numbers just for state and local governments were put on a graph, that would produce yet another, and very different, perspective.

    So, the chart you want us to memorize – “Government Employment – President Barack Obama” – is actually fallacious and deceiving. Your readers should be aware.

    Therefore, the now un-saintly Rachel Maddow owes her viewers an apology for misleading them and for committing the unpardonable sin of using false logic to make her point. I trust you will advise her accordingly.



    • Duane,

      Just for fun, I went back to see what the changes were in State and Local Government employment from 1981 through 2011. Below is the table. (The numbers are in thousands.)

      Reagan 1,294
      Bush 41 1,317
      Clinton 1,864
      Bush 43 1,355
      Obama (428)

      As you can plainly see, these numbers significantly skewed the results in Rachel’s graph for government employment under the various presidents.

      Again, here are the numbers pertaining to Federal (civilian) employment only:

      Reagan 238
      Bush 41 -30
      Clinton -380
      Bush 43 53
      Obama -45

      Note that I added Obama here, which included the years 2009 thru 2011. In any case, the numbers speak for themselves.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  February 23, 2013

    Good work, Herb,

    I am far too lazy to go into such detail most of the time. But here is another point. Based on what I remember from first year algebra in high school there are two “things” that make a graph (a two dimensional graph). One is the vertical column, the ordinate, and the other the horizonal one, the abcissa (spl?).

    Now if I want to make a political point in my favor I can change the units on one or both “sides” of any graph. In one case a curve would show “plunging” lines (or soaring) and the other would show almost infintessimally small changes, unnoticable changes to the “naked eye” or casual reader.

    Now go back to Duane’s graph and explain to me the meaning of 0.99 and 1.05 and “numbers in between”? From the looks of the graph used, it seems to me like Obama “laid off” about a gazillion poor souls all united in improving America!!!

    Except for the ones, of course that took time off to protest in Wisconsin and still get paid out of my (or someone in Wisconsin’s) pocket!! I also could construct a graph that SOARED, “proving” exactly that point.



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