ONTD Political

Barack Obama, Austerity President

10:39 am - 02/02/2012
I hope all of those Republicans who claim that this administration spends too much sees this article. Of course, I suppose it can be claimed that the Republican-controlled House was partly responsible, too. There are charts in the linked article.

Barack Obama, Austerity President
Imagine an alternate reality where the first term of President Barack Obama coincided with one of the greatest periods of government austerity in recent memory. Imagine total government spending under his watch had the steepest annual decline in three decades. Imagine total government employees fell by the fastest rate in more than 60 years. Imagine that in his last two years, federal spending and federal employment grew by the slowest annual rate since the 1950s.

Now open your eyes. Welcome to Austerity USA. Total government employment -- that's federal, state, and local -- has indeed fallen by the sharpest annual rate since the 1940s. It's now at 2006 levels and declining.

Total government spending has fallen by the sharpest rate since the 1970s. It is now at 2008 levels and declining.

Meanwhile in Washington, federal spending (which has grown every year since then 1960s) is increasing at its slowest pace in half a century, and federal employment is in true decline. Eighteen months removed from the start of the Census, it's shrinking at its fastest rate since the mid-1950s.

Obama's tenure has coincided with a recession that shrunk total government in two ways. First, the economics of the Great Recession devastated state and local government tax revenue, requiring rounds of cuts that resulted in decreased overall government spending and employment. Second, the politics of the Great Recession destroyed the case for stimulus in the aftermath of the Recovery Act, and Washington's attempts to fill the revenue holes in total government were blocked when we voted scores of fiscal conservatives into Congress in 2010. The upshot is that in the last 12 months, President Obama has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of total government austerity in the last 50 years.

Some of this austerity was given to us. Some of this austerity we chose.

As the Recovery Act, which was passed partly to offset state and local cuts, wound down, state and local government demand fell "through the floor," said Adam Hersh, an economist with the Center for American Progress.

"The real collapse of spending has been at the level of state and local public services and investments," Hersh said. "Even as the economy grew 4.2% since the start of the Obama administration, state and local spending contracted 5.2%." Here's the graph he shared with The Atlantic. The plunging green line tracks change in nondefense state and local spending since Obama took office.

What's the matter with shrinking government? Nothing at all, you might say. State and local governments are expensive and inefficient, and those workers might be put to better use making things rather than regulating things. Fair enough. But with interest rates now at historical lows, it's a little surprising that we're choosing this moment to not borrow more money from eager investors to spare total government from its own sharp knives and make downpayments on things we know we need, like roads and broadband. President Obama isn't fully responsible for this era of premature and self-inflicted austerity. He's the president of the United States, not the states, themselves. But, for better or worse, it's his record now. Who would have guessed?
hammersxstrings 2nd-Feb-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
see, your problem though, is you're throwing all these fact thingys at them, and they just don't know what to do with those. they gotta go with their gut, and their guts tell them he's a kenyan muslim out to kill babies and take all your money for people who don't want to pay for their student loans

i think i may have some repressed issues here.

Edited at 2012-02-02 06:16 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - Anonymous
mountain_hiker 2nd-Feb-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
doverz 2nd-Feb-2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
Wow, that made no sense at all.
13chapters 2nd-Feb-2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
I feel like I'm in a house of mirrors, looking at infinite Americas.
eyetosky 2nd-Feb-2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
I burst out laughing in the middle of the grave-silent office while reading this. XD
hammersxstrings 2nd-Feb-2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
Mr. Carlyle, I just don't understand how these people survive
keeperofthekeys 2nd-Feb-2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
Needs to go deeper.
13chapters 2nd-Feb-2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
I've seen your icon a hundred times, but I just noticed the presence of Captain Picard in the corner. I'm not sure what's happening, but I like it.
keeperofthekeys 2nd-Feb-2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
It's from a thread a while back that got a little out of control.
13chapters 2nd-Feb-2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
omg I'm sad I have most image sources blocked at work. (I did it myself to prevent surprise!porn from appearing.) I'll have to take a look when I get home.
astridmyrna 3rd-Feb-2012 08:11 am (UTC)
So THAT'S where that awesome icon originated from. :D
*reads thread*
prehnite 3rd-Feb-2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Just "Wat"-ed outloud.
astridmyrna 3rd-Feb-2012 08:00 am (UTC)
polietics 2nd-Feb-2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
In the UK we're fighting the opposite battle - austerity that's choking recovery. I guess it's because the USA had a way smaller state employment to begin with that there hasn't been a massive outcry as over here.

Edited at 2012-02-02 06:41 pm (UTC)
baked_goldfish 2nd-Feb-2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
I guess it's because the USA had a way smaller state employment to begin with that there hasn't been a massive outcry as over here.

The austerity measures are a problem over here as well - government job losses are a huge factor in the meager net gains from month to month over the last three years, and many gains are in spite of and not because of austerity - but the complicating factor is less the overall size of government being small, and more that it's happening on a state and local level. If Minnesota loses 5,000 state/local government jobs in a given month, Massachusetts won't notice or be affected in any direct way. Federal job losses have been relatively minor compared to state and local (and federal employment affects Virginia, DC and Maryland more than any other states, and VA and MD have been doing pretty well comparatively).

So it's like, the job losses in government are big, but they're so decentralized and generally not federal, so the national media doesn't really connect the dots that well.
windy_lea 2nd-Feb-2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for detailing this. The article gave me a general idea, but this sort of... put things in focus?
baked_goldfish 3rd-Feb-2012 02:43 am (UTC)
No problem. It's one of those things that's under-reported in the US, but when you go back and look at the BLS numbers on job losses by sector, the state/local government numbers are wildly scary.
polietics 4th-Feb-2012 12:23 am (UTC)
Ah, thanks for that.

I guess it's also helped by the lack of (or tenancy to ignore) unions? When the NHS is attacked, the medical unions are well funded and placed to kick up shit - and they have a voice in our Opposition Government. It must be absolutely impossible to connect, say, job losses in Minnesota to Massachusetts - but if there was a (scaled up) unionisation of government workers then it's more likely national media would report it.
baked_goldfish 4th-Feb-2012 04:06 am (UTC)
Demonization of unions plays a big role, yep - there are national unions for state and local workers, but unions have been treated like Liberal Commie Recruitment Tools by the right for thirty or forty years here, and government worker unions triply so. And it's maddening, because due to some incredibly nasty work by our conservatives in the last few decades, union membership has dropped precipitously and an entire generation has grown up with very little understanding of what good a union can do, so a lot of people buy into the right wing myth that unions are terrible for everybody all the time.

And our national media is less than shit. They really shy away from covering things that might tick off the right wing, in part because a lot of our media is owned by the right wing.
dawn9476 2nd-Feb-2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
This is why we are not growing as fast as we could be. If we were not shedding government jobs at such a fast rate, the unemployment rate would be a lot lower.
tmlforsyth 2nd-Feb-2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
Obama should seek the Republican nomination, with these stats. He's already more fiscally conservative than George W. Bush, though that is a low bar to set. No one gives him any credit.
jaded110 2nd-Feb-2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
Would be the first time I voted for a republican. :/
etherealtsuki 2nd-Feb-2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
I don't it's completely fair to pin all of this on Obama. It's the result of something that has been gestating for 30 years now. It mind-boggling how many Americans are ignorant on just the basics of how their economy works. The recovery would be much quicker if taxes rose. But to even imply that is political suicide now. Taxes has been demonized to the point that is now hurting the economy. People don't realize cuts like austerity measures are like putting a tiny bandaid on an open wound like slash another wound in a different area of the body. People vote in assholes because they want lower taxes even though we are being currently taxed the lowest since people kept track of this shit. It's like people, pretty much White people, want to go back to those idyllic 50s when (1) it was never like that especially for POC who don't have the privilege of thinking the 50s were awesome and (2) Americans were taxed much higher then than now.

What I can blame Obama on this issue is that he should've negotiate with a party who is determined to get him out of there, even if it mean stepping all over their constituents to grab that power back. Bush had the majority for 6 years and managed to create an atmosphere that was political suicide and question your loyalty to your country if you dare oppose the GOP. Obama is at fault somewhat for not taking the power from the GOP, although one question if he could given he's a Black man in a racist country. Where governors think they could put their hands in your face without consequences.
wemblee 4th-Feb-2012 04:43 am (UTC)
I don't it's completely fair to pin all of this on Obama.

awfulbliss 2nd-Feb-2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
This is a ridiculous article for some of the reasons outlined in the comments section.
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