The GOP presidential candidates and other prominent conservatives spoke today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida. This afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) took to the stage to talk about “successes” in his state, including decreasing the state’s unemployment rate to 10.7 percent — which he noted is still well above the national average.
In the next sentence, though, Scott touted another “success” — laying off 15,000 public sector workers, which of course increased the unemployment rolls in his state. Scott then declared, “government can’t create jobs”:
SCOTT: We’ve had plenty of success so far. Not enough…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.
Scott’s reminder that he laid of thousands of Floridians drew big applause from the conservative crowd. At least 600,000 government workers have lost their jobs since the recession began, but Republicans nevertheless keep scapegoating public employees who have shouldered more than their fair share of economic pain.
In fact, massive job losses in the public sector are one of the main factors keeping national unemployment so high. In August, a gain of 17,000 private sector jobs was completely negated by 17,000 public sector job losses. According to David Leonhardt, if state and local governments had continued to hire at their previous pace, they would have added half a million jobs to the economy. In other words, government austerity over the past two years “has cost the economy about one million jobs.”