So Be It

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 15 2011 3:52 PM

So Be It

Republican leaders frequently get some variation of this question: If you're cutting federal spending, you're cutting jobs. How do you square that with a job creation agenda? When he got this question last month, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, gave the standard answer : "We think if you reduce federal government spending, you actually create jobs."

John Boehner, asked about this , did not give the standard answer.

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In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We're broke.

This is supposed to be a huge mistake, I guess, but it's a Kinsley gaffe.* The calculus is fewer government jobs = more private sector jobs. It's a cousin of the Laffer Curve; if we wanted, I guess we could call it the Boehner Curve.

Its success depends on framing. For example, after Boehner spoke today, at another press scrum, Sen. John Barasso, R-WY warned that the Affordable Care Act would "kill jobs." He also warned that it "created 5,000 IRS agents." He didn't say it would create "IRS jobs in the tax industry." The challenge is to say "government jobs," not just "jobs." That's the mistake Boehner made here.

*although not on substance; Boehner has overstated the number of new federal jobs by a factor of 10

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.