On Labor Day, we celebrate the work of Americans who fought so hard for basic human rights in the workplace. We would also do well to remember the Americans out of work right now – and identify ways they could be helped. On Saturday, the Austin American-Statesman published an important story on unemployment here in Texas. The numbers are shocking, and help us identify a large chunk of what is wrong in modern day Texas.
The unemployment rate in Texas is a “stubborn” 7.2 percent, a number that hasn't moved much for over a year. The main factor behind this number is something Republicans demonize on a daily basis: public employment. The article explains:
State and local governments have cut more than 30,000 positions since the official end of the recession in June 2009, about 0.3 percent of today's workforce, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission. In addition to those cuts, there has been a dramatic decline in the rate of hiring for public-sector jobs in Texas.
The cutbacks have led to a sharp decline in government employment when compared to the state population, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution. Had that ratio held at pre-recession levels, Texas would have an additional 170,000 public-sector jobs today, the Brookings analysis shows.
If all those jobs were filled by unemployed Texans, July's jobless rate would have been 5.8 percent instead 7.2 percent. The state hasn't enjoyed a rate that low since November 2008.
Did you see that? If Texas had worked to shore up its revenue instead of cut jobs and funding to the Texans most deserving of it, our unemployment rate would be 5.8 percent instead of 7.2 percent.
That's amazing. Why wouldn't Texas Republicans, who sing the “jobs jobs jobs” song in tune with their party, want to take steps to reduce unemployment by making government jobs more available?
Well, the government doesn't have lobbyists. The Republicans (and many Democrats) stay in office because they represent private industry very well – and receive the campaign funds in return that help them stay in office. Those donations come from businesses who want to benefit off of school voucher programs, tax cuts for massive corporations, less environmental regulators, etc.
Texas's government is opposed to Texans right now. It's disgusting; something we should never accept as the status quo. Politicians who tell you that the government is the enemy, something to always be distrusted and reduced, are lying to you. Government is a creation of the people to help them live their lives as fully as they deserve to. That's why we, the people created it. We saw it as a necessary component of our republic. There are times when we need more government (e.g., more available public sector jobs) and times when we need less (e.g., warrantless wiretapping). There is no golden rule; to enforce one would be, by definition, un-American.
So, on this Labor Day, remember: there is nothing enslaving about having a government job, and feeding your family as a result. There is nothing enslaving about the dignity that comes with public service. There is nothing enslaving about improving your lot in life.
Texans deserve to have an unemployment rate un-inflated by private interests opposed to American ideals.