Huffington Post

The Republican War Against Government Workers

(My latest for the Huffington Post)

The Republicans have been so desperate to find new and clever ways to attack the president that they've managed to paint themselves into rhetorical corners with wafer thin sloganeering and laughable attempts at snark. It's no wonder, then, why they're dogged by an ongoing series of contradictions. These incongruities whiz past our faces so quickly these days, they're almost imperceptible.

For example, during the Florida CPAC event last weekend, Governor Rick Scott cracked a joke about the president's use of a Teleprompter. Not particularly shocking since it's a desperately ridiculous attack that's been popular since 2009 when the Republicans conveniently forgot that all modern presidents, including Saint Reagan, have used Teleprompters. Adding to the meta-irony, however, was the fact that Rick Scott read his Teleprompter joke... off of a Teleprompter.

Elsewhere, New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced that he doesn't plan to run for president. Within his prepared remarks, Christie noted that President Obama "has not found the courage to lead."

I'm not exactly sure what this means. Did Christie intend to suggest that the first African American president, who, by the way, has received more death threats than any other president in recent history, somehow lacks courage? Or did he intend to suggest that the president didn't exercise considerable leadership when he passed, with votes from both sides during the most divisive era in politics since the Civil War, a series of groundbreaking pieces of legislation, one of which (health care reform) evaded the records of all previous Democratic presidents? Sounds like it.

Another hearty sampling of Republican red meat delivered in convenient bumper sticker form.

The finer points of the president's record aside, I thought Christie's criticism was more than a little odd considering how Christie impugned the president's "courage to lead" during a speech in which he himself declared his intentions to, you know, not lead.

Adding to the syllabus of conservative contradictions this week, both Christie and Scott attacked government employees and proudly announced the firings of tens of thousands of workers even though they themselves are government employees. Given the Republican talent for selling nonsense by the gross, the Republicans have managed to successfully define government workers as nothing more than faceless automatons -- robotic parasites without families, mortgages and futures.

At the Reagan Library this week, Christie applauded President Reagan's firing of air traffic controllers. Mitt Romney doesn't believe that government workers are contributors to the "real economy." And while the Republicans attack the president for increasing the size of government, 500,000 government workers have lost their jobs since the president's inauguration.

During his remarks at the CPAC event, Rick Scott said, "In Florida, unemployment rate's gone from 12 percent down to 10.7. We're still above the national average, but we've generated 87,200 private sector jobs -- private sector! And we have 15,000 less government jobs in the state of Florida. [Applause] Government doesn't create jobs."

I don't even know where to begin with this.

The centerpiece of the statement is his proud assertion that "government doesn't create jobs." Who, then, is the "we've" inside the clause "we've generated 87,200 private sector jobs?" If he's referring to his administration ("we" as in "Governor Scott et al"), then he's referring to the government -- the executive branch of the Florida state government, to be exact -- and if the government "generated" 87,200 private sector jobs, then government does, in fact, create jobs.

Rick Scott continued by patting himself on the back for firing 15,000 Floridians. Despite his attempts to dehumanize the people who were fired, those government "jobs" were occupied by real-life human beings: Florida residents who, due to their lost jobs, might not be able to pay their rents and mortgages in an already crippled Florida housing market. Scott was talking about Florida residents who, because of Scott's policies, have become a drain on the state and national economies as they line up for unemployment checks and watch their credit card balances max out. Good job, governor. Tell me again how the Republicans will fix the economy.

If these were government jobs, then government had to have created them at some point, so, yes, government creates jobs. American citizens are paid to work in these jobs. Both of my parents worked for the government, and, as near as I can tell, neither of them are Big Government Decepticons posing as humans.

In this modern era when pensions, job security, benefits and health care are being eliminated in private sector jobs, government jobs continue to allow middle class workers to raise a family, send their kids to college and retire with some financial security. You know: the American Dream. The Republicans have demonized this ideal and used easy-to-repeat propaganda ("government doesn't create jobs") as a means of tricking middle class Americans into endorsing their malevolent efforts.

But I'm a man of compromise, so let's make a deal.

When the private sector stops outsourcing its jobs to India and China and brings back real jobs to America, complete with living wages, guaranteed pensions and affordable health coverage, then maybe we can talk about eliminating some redundant jobs in government. The private sector can certainly afford to do this now more than ever as they sit on nearly $2 trillion in cash assets, according to the Wall Street Journal, which they're refusing to spend on new jobs. Fact: corporate cash assets are at their highest level since 1959 while unemployment remains high and middle class wages remain stagnant. The Republicans continue to tell us with a straight face that tax cuts will encourage businesses to create jobs, even though historically high cash assets aren't being spent on anything much less jobs.

And when the unemployment rate is hovering at 9.2 percent nationwide, 10.7 percent in Florida and 9.4 percent in New Jersey, I'm not sure these guys ought to be ballyhooing how they've successfully added to the unemployment rolls. Rick Scott and the Republicans have fired thousands of Americans from secure jobs and forced them into lower-paying menial gigs for lower wages. How is this helping?

Government workers precisely encapsulate what the founders had in mind for this nation. A government of the people. We are the government. We're inseparable. The Republicans don't want you to think about government like this, even though it's the centerpiece of the American-style representative democracy. Our ability to personally conduct the business of government is our last and only check on political and corporate power. I wonder why the Republicans would want to break down that wall. Hmm.

By the way, I'd like to see the Republicans tell the 1.4 million government workers employed by the U.S. Armed Forces how they don't have real jobs. Let's see them run for office on a "soldiers should get real jobs" platform. They'd most certainly end up joining all of those former government workers in the ranks of the unemployed.

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