Sen. McConnell Rejects 'Bailout' For Teachers And First Responders Because They 'Work For The Government'

October 21, 2011 12:19 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Mitch McConnell

Barely one week after Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on President Obama's jobs bill, all 47 Republican senators voted yesterday to kill a $35 billion state-aid package that could have prevented hundreds of thousands of teachers and first responders from losing their jobs. As the Washington Post explains, Republicans objected to the plan because it "would do little to bolster the private sector" and because Democrats proposed funding it with a 0.5 percent surtax on income above $1 million.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered several explanations for his party's rejection of the bill, which he characterized as a 'bailout' that would only increase government employment.  

From Voice of America:

"Bailouts do not solve the problem. In fact, they perpetuate it," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here's the Associated Press:

"The fact is we're not going to get this economy going again by growing the government. It's the private sector that's ultimately going to drive this recovery," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. "Look, if big government were the key to economic growth, then countries like Greece would be booming right now."

And a press release on McConnell's own website:

For Democrats, the solution, apparently, is to increase the number of people who work for the government.

Lamenting "big government" is almost a reflex for conservatives like McConnell, but in this case it's a pretty terrible justification. McConnell may want to privatize public schools and fire departments, but until there's a law that does so, the country still needs teachers and first responders — even if they do work in the hated public sector. While many Americans like the idea of a smaller government, McConnell's blatant willingness to fire even the most essential public servants for the sake of decreasing "the number of people who work for the government" reflects the true price of Republican ideology.

Indeed, McConnell's complaints are consistent with what other Republicans believe, from the party leadership to the fringe. When the House took up a similar bill to prevent teacher layoffs last summer, then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) complained about "bailouts" for "liberal special interests." Likewise, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) maligned the bill as a "government worker bailout."