I believe headlines like “Republicans Block Popular Piece of Obama Jobs Bill” are the kind of thing the White House communications shop is hoping for. That said, nothing would boost the president’s re-election hopes more than the actual enactment of bills that actually help the employment situation. Does this fit the bill? My guess is that it does. The measure at issue was a relatively modest bill that would appropriate some funds to preserve jobs for teachers and first responders. The total amount of money isn’t very big, but it is well-targeted. Here’s a look at overall private sector employment during the Obama years:
The conservative argument about this is that the rebound hasn’t been sharper because of the over-reaching state. But as you can see we’ve actually had a sharp contraction in the number of people working for the government. This has been especially notable at the local level, where we’ve had large losses of teachers:
And also of non-teachers:
In other words, spending money on hiring in these specific sectors is the kind of well-focused effort to target idle resources that conservatives claim to think we should do when it’s useful for the purposes of criticizing the original stimulus bill.
My view is that if we put some of these teachers and firefighters back to work, that households featuring teachers or firefighters will increase their consumption of goods and services. That will mean more jobs for waitresses and cooks and retail clerks and guys who install refrigerators. That secondary revival in private service sector employment will mean more young people moving out of their parents’ houses, and more single moms who’d moved in with their sister going out to rent their own place. In turn, that sparks a revival in the long-dormant home construction industry. Next thing you know, we’re in a real recovery where orders for new cars and durable goods are back to normal levels and factories are running full shifts. It’s a happy story, and I don’t think it’s a crazy one.