Jonathan Chait

Zombie Lies Try To Eat Krugman's Brain

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A couple weeks ago, Tim Pawlenty accused President Obama of creating a massive upsurge in government jobs while private sector job growth has dwindled:

{G]overnment, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming "industry" left in our economy. Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000. 

Paul Krugman pointed out that this was totally false. Government employment has fallen. Pawlenty was citing a figure from June, but even that reflected a temporary spike due to Census hiring, not anything Obama did:

That spike from last year parallels the 2000 Census-related employment spike. So Pawlenty was using a number that was no longer true, and was deeply misleading even during the brief window when it was, in order to support a false claim about Obama's record of government jobs.

Now Veronique de Rugy -- whose post for Andrew Breitbart turns out to be the source of Pawlenty's false data -- goes after Krugman with a new post at National Review. I realize that interceding on Krugman's behalf in an intellectual spat with Veronique de Rugy is a bit like Nato sending troops to aid the American invasion of Grenada. But the sheer comedy of de Rugy's argument makes me unable to resist. She writes:

Of course, we can argue over how much the government grew during the recession or whether Obama is technically responsible for the shrinkage or growth of some or all parts of government. However, it is reasonable to say that, in contrast to the private sector, government employees have been relatively sheltered since January 2008: Only a small portion of local governments’ workforce lost their jobs and federal and state employment grew. It is also reasonable to say that for almost a year-and-a-half, while the private sector was shrinking, the government was growing. These are the points I think governor Pawlenty was trying to make.

Nothing in this passage, or in any part of her post (read it!) contradicts anything Krugman wrote. She leaves untouched the fact that he cited a statistic that was not true, and that even during the brief period when it was true, his interpretation of it (Obama created lots of government jobs) was completely false. Instead she argues that Pawlenty "was trying to make" the case that government jobs shrunk less rapidly than private sector jobs. If Pawlenty actually wrote this, which he didn't, it would be a meaningful point if there were some fixed pool of unemployment, and any new government job subtracts a private sector job, which of course is not true, either. She also writes that Pawlenty was "trying" (without evident success) to make the point that at one time government employment had risen while private employment had fallen. Apparently somebody hacked into his computer to add the implication that this resulted from Obama's insatiable thirst for big government rather than the decennial Census that he had no role in authorizing.

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