It is inconsistent for Republican congressional candidate Matt Doheny to criticize high unemployment rates at the same time as he is advocating for reducing the size of the federal government, claimed U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be saying, ‘I am for shrinking government,’ and then criticize the fact that you may have a higher unemployment rate because those people have been laid off.” Owens, the incumbent in the new 21st Congressional District, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
Doheny, the Republican challenger, in a press release issued Friday, criticized President Obama and Owens because the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent.
“Locally, the economy is just as dire. Nine of the 11 counties our current congressman represents have a higher unemployment rate in May 2012 than they did in May 2010,” Doheny said in the press release.
Owens said Doheny should acknowledge that public sector layoffs have contributed to high unemployment rates in the region.
“Mr. Doheny is interested in smaller government, and I think he’s been very consistent about that,” Owens said. “And I think it’s simply logical that if you shrink the size of government that is going to mean that you are going to have a decrease in employment levels in the public sector.”
Owens said that public sector layoffs accounted for 0.6 percentage point of the unemployment rate in the new 21st Congressional District, and another 0.5 percentage point was due to jobs that were available but not filled in general.
Between 2009 and 2011, the average number of private sector employees increased in 10 of the 12 counties in the new 21st Congressional District, according to the Owens campaign.
Owens said he is not implying that the federal workforce should not be reduced, but simply saying there should be recognition that public sector layoffs are contributing to high unemployment.
“I think we need to do meaningful cuts. ... But we should be doing it in a way that is balanced,” he said. “In the course of that process, unfortunately, it will result in the loss of jobs. And when you have the loss of jobs in any community, it has a negative impact. Whether that’s public or private sector, it has a negative impact.”
“My view, at least on the federal level, is that what we need to be doing is focussing on more efficient operations. And the General Accountability Office has told us there is $100 billion in efficiencies that we could achieve without actually affecting any employment,” he continued. “The Farm Bill, which we’re working on now, is going to cut somewhere north of $23 billion. That’s a responsible series of cuts in my view.”
I’m scheduled to speak with Doheny about the economy tomorrow, including a response to Owens’ criticism.