The rules of the political discourse apparently dictate that the story that matters today is President Obama saying the private sector is "fine" relative to the public sector is The Scandal That Matters. It's a dumb story, and reporters obsessing over seem to realize it's a dumb story, but the train has apparently left the station.
If anyone's looking for more meaningful quotes from presidential candidates, Mitt Romney's line today on public-sector jobs is arguably one of the more important things the Republican has said in a very long time.
For those who can't watch clips online, Romney said of Obama:
"[Obama] wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."
Let's be clear about this: Romney is rejecting the idea of saving the jobs of cops, firefighters, and teachers. He sees this as an applause line. The Republican nominee for president believes we can "help the American people" by laying off, not just public-sector workers in general, but specifically cops, firefighters, and teachers.
As Greg Sargent explained, Romney "has singlehandedly reframed the debate from one over despised government bureaucrats to one over whether we should hire more cops, firefighters and teachers to get the economy going."
Here's a radical idea I'll just throw out there: maybe during the race for the White House, candidates and media professionals can spend a little time on this. I mean, honestly, isn't this one of the more important positions Romney has taken all year?
I'll make this really easy: Dear Mr. Romney, please explain why America will be better off when more teachers, cops, and firefighters are unemployed.
It reminded me of a story from a month ago. Romney stopped by a Manhattan fire station with Rudy Giuliani -- by pure coincidence, it coincided with the anniversary of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden -- and reflected on one of the conversations he had with a firefighter.
Speaking at a Ritz Carlton fundraiser in a wealthy D.C. suburb the next day, the Republican said, "I spoke with a fireman yesterday, and he has a one-bedroom apartment, and his wife is pregnant, and he can't afford a second bedroom. I asked the firefighters I was meeting with, about 15 of them, how many had had to take another job to make ends meet, and almost every one of them had."
As of this afternoon, Romney believe he can "help the American people" by making sure that some of those firefighters are laid off.
I can't stress the importance of this enough, because it underscores so much of what the 2012 presidential campaign is all about. President Obama's American Jobs Act intended to protect or create 400,000 jobs for school teachers, police officers, and firefighters. A CNN poll taken at the time found that 75% of the public -- and 63% of self-identified Republicans -- endorsed this jobs proposal.
Romney isn't just against these jobs; he's bragging about his opposition, assuming this line is popular.
Elections have been fought over less.