The Washington Post's Greg Sargent is at it again: trying to provide some evidence that government spending has helped the recovery

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post doesn't like the claim that the slow job market growth rate is due to "an overweening state." He doesn't provide any evidence on the explosion in government regulations.

It isn’t just that state governments are shedding jobs. Spending from that “job-killing” stimulus is winding down across the board. Dems agreed to the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which conservatives claimed would help the economy. Dems agreed to deep cuts in spending, which conservatives claimed would send a signal that would restore business confidence. Dems have prioritized deficit reduction over jobs creation, agreeing to the creation of a deficit supercommittee that will likely cut entitlements, and have specifically done so while embracing the conservative argument that signaling this set of priorities would restore the confidence and certainty necessary to create jobs. And we’re still where we are. . . .

There are numerous errors with these claims. As far as I remember, conservatives were claiming that the tax increase would kill the incentive to work and invest. Keeping the tax rates where the were simply prevented the government from causing more problems. Conservatives have advocated permanent tax cuts. The tax changes in the extension were temporary.

As to employment, Sargent buys into the notion that government creates new spending out of thin air. Total government employment has slowly declined, though there are a couple of points to make. 1) As the above diagram indicates, the net drop didn't match the private sector drop until April 2011 (June 2011 if you don't include the USPS). 2) The change has been very gradual. It is hard to argue that there was any sudden change that occurred under the Republicans. 3) Obama has seen a movement of government jobs from state and local governments to the Federal government. 4) Salaries are higher for Federal employees than for those who work for state governments. The Stimulus also raised state and local government worker salaries, also reducing the number of those jobs.

If Sargent wants to see the arguments against government spending he might, as a start, want to see some of the pieces here and here.

Another point about Mr. Sargent. He would probably have a little more credibility if he wasn't so openly partisan. He previously reported that Ford and the Obama administration denied that there had been any pressure from the White House on Ford to pull the ad. He seems awfully accepting of simple pubic denials by interested parties. Yet, sometimes a few well place pointed questions are enough to get people o get a message. Frank Beckman (“White House wrong to lean on Ford,” Detroit News, September 30, 2011) reported (following up on a story by Dan Howes):

“But the Obama administration didn't care for the free market message and . . . the White House contacted Ford to discuss the ad and the company has now pulled the popular spot. . . . such inquiries from the White House represent coercion. . . . The most obvious reason [for the White House concern] relates to the president's re-election bid.”

Simply relying on the public statements of the interested parties, Mr. Sargent basically accused Mr. Howes of lying (OK, making up "tales"). One would hope that a member of the press would be a little more critical before so unconditionally accepting statements by the Obama administration and the Ford PR department. There is a reason why people legitimately tell things to reporters in private sometimes, and it appears that the Detroit News might have better contacts within the auto industry than Mr. Sargent.

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