The rarely seen, hard-to-execute flip-flop-flip

The Maddow Blog

Back in June, Mitt Romney offered an important insight into how he views economic policy.

“[President Obama] wants to hire more government workers,” Romney said. “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.”

Right. It’ll “help the American people” just as soon as we allow more layoffs of school teachers and first responders. Why will the economy benefit when these workers are unemployed? Romney never got around to explaining that, but the larger point was hard to miss: the president believes the country would benefit from fewer teacher layoffs; Romney believes the opposite.

At least, that’s the way it seemed. Four months later, in last week’s debate, President Obama brought this up, noting, “Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do.”

The Republican responded, “I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers.” In other words, Romney no longer seems to agree with what he said in June.

That is, until yesterday, when Romney sat down with the editors of the Des Moines Register. AsSam Stein noted, the former governor seemed to revert back to his original stance, arguing, “He wants to hire more school teachers. We all like school teachers. It’s a wonderful thing. Typically, school teachers are hired by states and localities, not by the federal government. But hiring school teachers is not going to raise the growth of the U.S. economy over the next three-to-four years.”

First, as a matter of economic policy, hundreds of thousands of public education jobs have been lost in recent years, and saving those jobs would, in reality, not only help schools, students, families, but also have a meaningful economic impact. Romney resists this, but teaching is a real job involving a real paycheck. Teachers who are employed can then use that paycheck to purchase goods and services, pay bills, make investments, etc. When those teachers are laid off and federal officials let it happen, the workers withdraw from the marketplace and hurt the economy. Why Romney struggles to understand this is unclear.

Second, we rarely see flip-flop-flips, but Romney, if nothing else, is unique.

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