Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign isn’t backing off the candidate’s claim that America needs fewer teachers, firefighters, and police officers. Instead, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R), a top Romney campaign surrogate, backed Romney’s call this morning, telling MSNBC that changes in technology and population shifts have made layoffs of teachers and public safety officials necessary.
Romney’s original comments left little room for interpretation. President Obama “says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers,” Romney said Friday. “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.” But to Sununu, the comments highlighted a “real issue” that showed Romney’s “wisdom,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing today:
SUNUNU: Let me respond as a taxpayer, not as a representative of the Romney campaign. There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population. And as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers. As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to deal with, you would hope that you can, as a taxpayer, see the benefits of the efficiency and personnel that you get out of that.
JANSING: But even if there’s movement to the suburbs, teachers and policemen are needed somewhere.
SUNUNU: But I’m going to tell you there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want.
JANSING: Do you think that taxpayers of this country want to hear fewer firefighters, fewer teachers, fewer police officers, from a strategic standpoint?
SUNUNU: If there’s fewer kids in the classrooms, the taxpayers really do want to hear there will be fewer teachers. […] You have a lot of places where that is happening. You have a very mobile country now where things are changing. You have cities in this country in which the school population peaked ten, 15 years ago. And, yet the number of teachers that may have maintained has not changed. I think this is a real issue. And people ought to stop jumping on it as a gaffe and understand there’s wisdom in the comment.
The facts of many of the layoffs don’t back up Sununu’s claims. Classrooms are busting at the seams because there are fewer teachers, and cities and towns across the country are closing entire public safety departments due to budget cuts. And, as Jansing noted, even if the population shifts were a legitimate argument, teachers and public safety officials are still needed where the population moves.
Federal, state, and local governments have laid off more than 700,000 workers since Obama took office. Had that not happened, the unemployment rate would be a full point lower and the economic recovery would be stronger. To Romney and his campaign surrogates, however, those job losses are a step in “the right direction.”