Michael Steele: Government Work Not Same as Job
Yesterday morning’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” by new GOP chair Michael Steele is causing some consternation. This passage in particular:
STEELE: 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 — that a business owner creates. It’s going to be long term. What he’s creating…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So a job doesn’t count if it’s a government job?
STEELE: . . . .That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we’re talking about have an end point. As a small-business owner, I’m looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It’s a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work. And I’m — either way, the bottom line is…
STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess I don’t really understand that distinction.
STEELE: Well, the difference — the distinction is this. If a government — if you’ve got a government contract that is a fixed period of time, it goes away. The work may go away. That’s — there’s no guarantee that that — that there’s going to be more work when you’re done in that job.
During this, I was shouting obscenities at Stephanoupolous, questioning his intelligence at being so unable to grasp an obvious point. Matt Yglesias and Steve Benen seem to share his confusion, however, so maybe I’m unusually adept at deciphering Steele’s secret code.
Steele’s formulation — that “work” and “a job” are different things — is rather awkward but the idea that a contract to do a specific project is not the same as a permanent position should be rather obvious. It’s the difference between a freelance assignment to write an article at 10 cents a word versus a staff position at a magazine.
Now, the obvious retort is that the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. That, to an unemployed person, paid work beats the hell out of nothing. The retort to that, presumably, is that the government contracts that are being created for the purpose of “stimulus” are mostly frivolous and are crowding out the creation of “real” jobs, since the would be entrepreneur is having to compete against Uncle Sam’s pocketbook.
At least that would be an interesting discussion. Pretending to be so gobsmackingly stupid as to interpret Steele’s remarks as saying the schoolteachers and soldiers are unemployed, on the other hand, not so much.