Free Markets, Free People
In a townhall meeting, President Obama was confronted with a situation by a former federal worker. I won’t say she was confronting him per se, but she was laying out a less than happy result, for her and her family, of the economic downturn and asking, rhetorically what the President would advise her to do:
Karin Gallo, who jokingly described her job at the National Zoo as "non-essential employee number seven," said she had taken a job in government "thinking it was a secure job" – but that now, she feared for her family’s future.
"I am seven months pregnant in a high-risk pregnancy, my first pregnancy," Gallo told Mr. Obama. "My husband and I are in the middle of building a house. We’re not sure if we’re gonna be completely approved. I’m not exactly in a position to waltz right in and do great on interviews, based on my timing with the birth."
"And so, I’m stressed, I’m worried," she continued. "I’m scared about what my future holds. I definitely need a job. And, I just wonder what would you do, if you were me?"
Obama essentially ignored the personal “what should I do” part of the question to spin an answer that Jim Geraghty at NRO calls “epically wrong”.
The reason for the spin is obvious – it’s a way to throw a scare into the voting population by pretending two things that haven’t happened are happening. And here is the “epically wrong” quote:
"The reason the unemployment rate is still as high as it is, in part, is because there have been huge layoffs of government workers at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level," he said. "Teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers– they have really taken it in the chin over the last several months. And so, what we’re trying to do is to see if we can stabilize the budget."
"I do want to make a larger point to people, though, that folks like Karin provide vital services," Mr. Obama continued. "And so, when we have discussions about how to cut our debt and our deficit in an intelligent way, we have to make sure that we understand this is not just a matter of numbers – these are people."
Well of course they’re people. So are the 6+ million or so not working in the private sector right now. But let’s get to the numbers shall we? Geraghty provides them:
First, let’s look at the numbers for private-sector employment. All figures come from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Recent peak of private-sector employment, June 2007: 116,603,000.
Total private-sector employment in the month Obama became president, January 2009: 109,084,000.
Recent low of private-sector employment, January 2010: 104,933,000.
Total private-sector employment, April 2011: 108,494,000 (Seasonally adjusted: 108,862,000).
So note, we are about 8 million away from the most recent peak in private-sector employment.
Now, let’s look at total government employment (at all levels) for those four months:
June 2007: 22,176,000.
January 2009: 22,471,000.
January 2010: 22,376,000.
April 2011: 22,594,000 (preliminary).
As you can see, in terms of total number of Americans employed in government, there has been no real discernible recession. In fact, the number has increased slightly.
Now let’s look at the number of people employed in state government during these months:
June 2007: 4,918,000.
January 2009: 5,116,000.
January 2010: 5,053,000.
April 2011: 5,253,000 (preliminary).
Again, not only pretty stable, but slowly climbing.
Now let’s look at employment in local government:
June 2007: 14,514,000.
January 2009: 14,583,000.
January 2010: 14,478,000.
April 2011: 14,492,000 (preliminary).
Geraghty updates his numbers when a commenter points out he used seasonally adjusted numbers in one place but not another. It still doesn’t really change the picture or the point that Obama’s just wrong about this:
In the comments, Reno Dave notes that in one case I used seasonally-adjusted numbers instead of non-seasonally adjusted numbers. I have added the non-seasonally-adjusted number for consistency. He notes that using the seasonally adjusted numbers, the total government workforce has varied slightly differently in the selected months:
June 2007: 22,218,000.
January 2009: 22,582,000.
January 2010: 22,488,000.
April 2011: 22,166,000 (preliminary).
You end up with 300,000 or so fewer government workers in the past 16 months. (Notice that the Census hiring effects these numbers a bit; the number of Census employees went from 24,000 in January 2010 to 564,000 in May 2010 all the way down to 1,000 in October 2010. More details here.)
The fact is there has been no significant drop in government employment at all in the past 5 years – none. And of course, who did Obama cite as being the first out the door of these mythical “huge” layoffs? Why "teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers", of course.
Where did Karin Gallo work?
"My main message to you is that the work you’ve done at the National Zoo’s important," he said. "Every child that you see who comes by and is amazed by those animals, you know, they’re benefiting from your work."
Really? So does that make her a “teacher”? This is the “vital work” Obama was trying to tout earlier?
No offense to Ms. Gallo, and my sympathies to her and her family about her loss of employment – honestly. (Remember that almost $900 billion “stimulus” the prez said would keep unemployment under 8%, Ms. Gallo?) But you know, I went through the same thing last October. I survived and am beginning to thrive. I didn’t even apply to unemployment, although I was eligible.
What Mr. Obama should have said was, “this is a great land and I’m sure you have many talents. Why not look around, assess your strengths and weaknesses and then consider starting a business of your own?”
Instead he tries to sell big government as a huge necessity in which government employed zoo workers do “vital work”.
And apologizes to Publius for doing something he shouldn’t have done and can’t undo:
On reflection, I now realize that, completely apart from any debate over our respective rights and completely apart from our competing views on the merits of pseudonymous blogging, I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius. Earlier this evening, I sent him an e-mail setting forth my apology for my uncharitable conduct. As I stated in that e-mail, I realize that, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to undo my ill-considered disclosure of his identity. For that reason, I recognize that Publius may understandably regard my apology as inadequate.
Ed Whelan has written both publicly and privately and apologized. I know it was not an easy thing to do, and it is of course accepted. I therefore consider the matter done, and don’t intend on writing about it anymore.
Hat tip to Whelan for apologizing and making it public. That took some courage. And to Publius for the gracious acceptance. Lesson?
You don’t get to decide whether or not the privacy concerns of another are legitimate (unless very specific types of exceptions are extant – “shouting fire in the theater” type) – that’s why we talk about privacy rights. It appears Whelan has finally figured that out.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle rippling through the sphere today (which means, of course, that most of us are going to comment). Ed Whelan, who blogs over at NRO has outed Publius who blogs at Obsidian Wings.
There seem to be mixed feelings as to whether what Whelan did is “ethical” or not. In terms of ethics, we’re essentially talking about right and wrong. Is it right or wrong to reveal the name of an anonymous blogger?
And the answer?
Well, it depends. It depends on what action by the anonymous blogger might drive such a decision by another blogger. I’m sure if I thought long and hard enough I could come up with a few that I think would justify doing so. But one of them wouldn’t be because some blogger had been “biting at my ankles in recent months.”
I’m sorry but that comes with the territory of blogging.
Heat. Kitchen. Either grow a thick skin or quit blogging.
If you are going to write and post publicly, and if you have any prominence whatsoever, someone is going to bite at your ankles. But that certainly isn’t a good reason to out someone who, for whatever reason they may have, has chosen to remain anonymous by using a pseudonym.
Oh sure, you can flog him or her for not having the gonads to use their real name and come out from behind the screen and stand by what they say (and that has some validity as an argument), but you don’t just decide you have the right to violate that person’s privacy because you’re annoyed.
For years I was simply “McQ” on the net and the blog for various and sundry privacy reasons. Certainly there were those who knew who I was, but they too respected my decision to maintain my anonymity. And that included people I annoyed on a regular basis. The decision to use my real name was mine and mine alone. As it so happens, I decided that if I wanted to be taken more seriously I should be willing to sign my work with my real name.
I find Whelan’s outing of Publius to be very bad form -unethical- especially for the reason given. If I had a nickel for every anonymous ankle biter I’ve endured for years, I’d be retired. The trick in dealing with them is not to do something as juvenile and “ethics challenged” as violating their privacy, but instead by making tight and considered arguments which leave them little room for rational criticism. At that point they usually do one of two things – go irrational and begin the inevitable descent into ad hominum attacks or go away.
What Whelan just did instead was create a martyr and become the bad guy. And his poor judgment in this case ends up hurting his own credibility while adding at least sympathetic weight to his antagonists arguments.
Many people on the internet want anonymity for a variety of reasons. Certainly some abuse it. But the unspoken rule of netiquete is you don’t reveal another’s private information publicly over some silly disagreement – ever. Whelan did exactly that and for that act, deserves all the condemnation he’s now receiving.
A blogger may choose to blog under a pseudonym for any of various self-serving reasons, from the compelling (e.g., genuine concerns about personal safety) to the respectable to the base. But setting aside the extraordinary circumstances in which the reason to use a pseudonym would be compelling, I don’t see why anyone else has any obligation to respect the blogger’s self-serving decision. And I certainly don’t see why someone who has been smeared by the blogger and frequently had his positions and arguments misrepresented should be expected to do so.
Of course the desire for privacy is always “self-serving”. Why that is a justification for outing someone remains a mystery. Whelan, however, thinks he has the right to be the sole arbiter of what is or isn’t a “compelling” reason.
Few reasonable people are going to buy into that bit of illogic. If, as Whelan admits, a person can have a compelling reason for privacy, where does someone like Whelan derive the right to determine it isn’t compelling enough?