Official statistics on job creation in September that were supposed to be released on Friday won’t be available until the government shutdown is resolved. But what if the government had not only remained open but spent the past three years pursuing pro-growth economic policies rather than austerity?
In that bizarro world, the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be announcing more than a quarter-million new jobs in September and the U.S. economy would have added 2.4 million more jobs since December 2010 than it has under austerity:
The calculations come from Center for American Progress economist Adam Hersh. Economic growth would have averaged 3.3 percent per year rather than 1.9 percent. The economy would have added 8.2 million new jobs since the beginning of 2011, rather than the 5.7 million jobs it actually added. Hersh emphasizes that his alternate reality jobs report doesn’t rely on massive stimulus spending. “Outcomes of this magnitude would not have required extraordinary rates of government expenditure,” Hersh writes, but merely maintaining the level of government spending prior to the Recovery Act.
Instead of keeping the spending tiller steady, however, Congress has enacted $2.4 trillion worth of deficit reduction — about three-quarters of it in the form of spending cuts — since 2011. Hersh’s work comports with previous research which found that without the austerity push unemployment would be a full percentage point lower and economic growth would be two percentage points higher.
The pain of austerity isn’t just measured in jobs and growth statistics, of course. Sequestration cuts have pushed many key social programs to the edge of dysfunction, booting thousands of low-income people out of public housing, kicking tens of thousands of children from Head Start education programs, and cutting off Meals on Wheels programs that provide many elderly Americans with their only contact with the world outside their homes. Public defenders programs have been cut. Food assistance programs and unemployment insurance spending has shrunk. Schools that are especially reliant on federal funding have had to cut staff and class offerings. The shutdown is exacerbating many of these service cuts by cutting off funding to programs that care for domestic violence victims and new mothers.