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Sen. Marco Rubio Announces Plan To Eliminate Nearly 500,000 Government Jobs

Conservative darling Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) hasn’t been a terribly active freshman lawmaker, finally giving his maiden speech on the Senate floor in June, but he recently roused himself to co-sponsor legislation that will lay off one in 10 federal employees in the next four years:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., recently announced that he is cosponsoring a bill that would drastically cut public sector jobs. S. 1611, or the “Reducing the Size of the Federal Government Through Attrition Act,” would reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015.

According to a press release from Rubio’s office, the bill “would save approximately $139 billion over ten years.”

The bill is one example in a long line of legislation introduced by conservative policymakers in Congress this year aimed at making a political statement about the role of the federal government. Rubio himself has introduced S.726, the “Decrease Spending Now Act,” which has similar aims. The bill would impose deeper cuts to public sector jobs around the country. Public sector jobs, in particular, are already in sharp decline.

Since the federal workforce is 4.4 million people, Rubio’s bill would leave 440,000 Americans out of work at a time when unemployment is still about 9 percent nationally. Although the title of the bill misleadingly suggests that the elimination of 10 percent of the federal workforce would occur “through attrition,” the language of the bill, and its short timeline, make it clear that Rubio has mass layoffs in mind.

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The bill assigns the dirty work of actually firing people to the president, mandating, “The President, through the Office of Management and Budget… shall take appropriate measures to ensure that, effective beginning in fiscal year 2015, the total number of Federal employees…shall not exceed 90 percent of the total number of Federal employees as of September 30, 2011 (as so determined).” To accomplish such a drastic reduction in just four years would necessarily require massive layoffs.

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.”

Federal payrolls have been mostly flat for years, even as the population has been growing. In November, President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for 1.9 million federal workers.