Although a few pundits are disregarding President Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” gaffe as a big non-story, a growing number of people believe it's indicative of a much bigger issue, namely, the president’s struggle with consistency.
During the president’s news conference last Friday, he said we should be most concerned with the public sector.
“The private sector is doing fine,” President Obama said.
“Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government oftentimes cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in,” he added.
“And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is ‘how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry,’” the president said.
Of course, one can easily argue that real economic growth doesn’t come from the public sector. It comes from the private sector (where do you think the public sector, an area that doesn’t produce a tangible product that can be brought to market, gets its funding?). But this article isn’t about which area of the economy generates wealth. It’s about the president’s consistency.
For instance, just last month during a speech at the State University of New York at Albany, President Obama bragged about reducing the size of the federal workforce.
“Just about every time we put these policies up for a vote, the Republicans in Congress got together and they said no,” the president said in reference to his economic proposals, “And this is at a time when we know one of the biggest drags on our economy has been layoffs by state and local governments -- that’s true all across the country.”
Okay, so far this isn’t any different than what the president said last Friday.
“And it’s worth noting, by the way -- this is just a little aside -- after there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up,” the president said.
“It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush. So each time there was a recession with a Republican President, compensated -- we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment,” he added.
Alright, a little off script, but no big difference.
“The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me,” the president said, practically beaming. “So I make that point just so you don’t buy into this whole bloated government argument that you hear.”
Watch President Obama boast about reducing government employment (via C-SPAN):
So, wait, is the president bragging about reducing federal employment? Didn’t he say last Friday that that was the key to economic salvation?
"[I]f Congress had said 'yes' to helping states put teachers back to work and put the economy before our politics, then tens of thousands more teachers in New York would have a job right now," the president said.
"That is a fact. And that would mean not only a lower unemployment rate, but also more customers for business," he added.
Wait -- then what was that bit about reducing government employment? Was that a good thing? This is confusing. What's more, this isn't even the first time the Obama campaign has tried to win over voters with contradictory messages.
“In April, he [sic] Obama reelection campaign simultaneously embraced a seemingly contradictory strategy of painting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as both a conservative extremist who leans furthest to the right as any GOP presidential nominee has since Barry Goldwater and also a coreless flip-flopper whose singular ambition is to be president,” writes Mediaite’s Noah Rothman.
“An ever increasing number of observers are uncomfortable with the amount of glaring reversals that the Obama administration has embraced. Sooner or later, media organizations begin to risk their credibility by not calling the President’s team out on these inconsistencies,” he adds.