It can be hard to know what counts as a "gaffe" these days, in the eyes of the press. President Obama saying the private sector is doing fine seems to qualify. So does Mitt Romney suggesting we should be laying off more cops, firefighters, and teachers. But Romney showing a basic factual ignorance about the role and responsibilities of the federal government doesn't appear to make the cut.
Let's back up. After Romney's now-infamous remark about wanting to lay off public sector workers, President Obama accused him of being out of touch. In response, Romeny told Fox News:
That's a very strange accusation. Teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers or firefighters or policemen. So obviously that's completely absurd.
Um, not quite. As Rev. Al pointed out Wednesday on PoliticsNation, Washington pays nearly 11% of public school costs, spent over $1 billion to hire police officers, and awarded over $630 million in grants to hire firefighters.
Think Progress provides a good rundown of the various federal programs that help hire all three of these groups. And as they note, noted, Romney's own published education plan (pdf) includes federal money to hire teachers.
As Rev. Al put it: "When you apply for a job, you should maybe get a job description to know what it is, if he's going to head the federal government."
In a sane world, this kind of ignorance would be get the press more excited than a case of clumsy phrasing. But maybe that's hoping for too much.
Late Update: Michael Eric Dyson, guest hosting on The Ed Show, went into a little more detail on the federal programs that fund jobs for teachers, cops, and firefighters. And he added that Romney's plan clearly would end up reducing the number of those vital workers.
"Romney's cuts could be devastating to the people we depend on most," Dyson said.