One of the least appreciated but easily-confirmed facts about the current state of the American economy is that the number of Americans employed by the government has gone down under President Obama. But apparently this is news to one the Republican Party’s most prominent tea party conservatives. During a roundtable discussion on ABC this morning over the size and adequacy of the 2009 stimulus, a flabbergasted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) asked economist Paul Krugman if he was actually arguing that government employment had gone down under Obama:
PAUL: The thing I don’t understand is that your arguing that the government sector is struggling.Are you arguing that there are fewer government employees under Obama than there were under Bush?
KRUGMAN:Of course. That’s a fact. That’s a tremendous fact.
PAUL: No, the size of growth of government is enormous under president Obama.
KRUGMAN:If government employment had grown as fast under Obama as it did under Bush, we’d have a million and a half more people employed right now — directly.
PAUL: Are there less people employed or more people employed now by government?
As Krugman quickly pointed out on his blog, the answer is “less.” Now, perhaps Sen. Paul was thinking of employment by the federal government alone, which did tick up just slightly: 2.77 million at the end 2008 versus 2.8 million currently. But add in state and local government jobs, and the hard number for government employment dropped by around 600,000 after Bush left office.