Wash. Post uncritically quoted Steele's false claim that government "has never created one job"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

The Washington Post uncritically reported RNC chairman Michael Steele's statement that "government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job." In fact, about 15 percent of the labor force is employed by federal, state, or local government, and Steele himself has acknowledged that funds included in the recovery bill for school construction will create jobs "[f]or a short term, yes. It's a construction job."

In a February 9 article, The Washington Post uncritically reported Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele's statement that "in the history of mankind and womankind, government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job. It's destroyed a lot of them." In fact, as Newsweek senior editor Dan Gross noted when Steele previously made a similar claim, about 15 percent of the labor force is employed by federal, state, or local government. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary data for January 2009 shows that out of the approximately 153.7 million people in the civilian labor force, about 22.5 million people had government jobs in January 2009.

Moreover, the Post did not mention that Steele acknowledged, on the February 8 edition of ABC's This Week, that funds included in the recovery bill for school construction will create jobs "[f]or a short term, yes. It's a construction job." He did so after host and ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos confronted Steele on his claim that a government job is "not a job. A job is something that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term."

From the February 8 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

STEELE: You've got to look at the entire package. You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a job.

STEELE: No, it's not a job. A job is something that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term. What he's creating is a --

STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn't --

STEELE: Well, hold up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- count if it's a government job?

STEELE: No, let me -- let me -- let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. Those -- these road projects that we're talking about have an end point.

[...]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats would say that the broader school construction funding will create jobs. Do you accept that?

STEELE: For a short term, yes. It's a construction job. I agree with that. But, you know, do we need to put -- is that what you -- we need to put in place right now when you can look at other ways in the economy to stimulate that type of growth?

During the February 4 edition of MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Gross addressed Steele's prior claim that "the government doesn't create jobs":

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (guest host): Welcome back to 1600. It's now to separate some economic fact from fiction on what we like to call "Myth Buster" Wednesday. Newly elected Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has taken up his role as party spokesman with enthusiasm. And what he's using his new bully pulpit for? Well, he's taking a stand against President Obama's stimulus package.

STEELE [video clip]: The government doesn't create jobs. Let's get this notion out of our heads that the government creates jobs. Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job. ... Those 2 to 4 million jobs that are projected won't happen. Trust me.

BRZEZINSKI: OK. Joining us now to bust a myth, Dan Gross, senior editor at Newsweek -- welcome. What's the myth here? That government creates jobs?

GROSS: In the history of mankind, government has created many jobs. In fact, if you look at the latest data, 15 percent of payroll jobs in this country -- more than 25 million -- are from government: schools, defense --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GROSS: -- government itself, huge industries. And with -- we've cut interest rates all we can. Tax cuts don't necessarily work, because people use that money to save.

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

GROSS: Government spending is basically the only thing we have left; government buying goods and services to keep the economy going.

BRZEZINSKI: Well -- and how about investing in businesses so that they hire people? Is that -- can the government --

GROSS: That's part of it.

BRZEZINSKI: That's part of it.

GROSS: That's part of it. But the area with the lowest unemployment rate -- the metropolitan area with the lowest unemployment rate, Washington, D.C.

The Post article included Steele's quote without rebuttal despite referring to two government jobs -- senator and federal prosecutor -- in the very next paragraph:

In his initial statements as party leader, however, Steele has stuck to tried-and-true themes, including invoking the GOP's 1994 victory as a model and praising House leaders for their stimulus vote. "The goose egg that you laid on the president's desk was just beautiful," he told them. "You and I know that in the history of mankind and womankind, government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job. It's destroyed a lot of them."

Steele is also facing a distraction -- a federal inquiry into allegations that his 2006 Senate campaign paid a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed. The campaign's finance chairman made the allegations to federal prosecutors last year as he sought leniency during plea negotiations on unrelated fraud charges.

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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