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Does Mitt Romney want to cut jobs for police, firefighters, and teachers?

A new ad from the Obama reelection campaign charges just that, while Mitt Romney calls the idea 'completely absurd.' They can't both be right.

By Staff writer / June 12, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney addresses supporters during a campaign rally at Con-Air Industries Inc., in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday.

Steve Nesius/Reuters

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Does Mitt Romney want to reduce the number of firefighters, police, and teachers in America? That’s what the Obama reelection campaign is charging. They’ve got a new ad out that asserts local government jobs shrank dramatically in Massachusetts while Mr. Romney was governor, and that he plans similar reductions if he wins in November.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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“Mitt Romney’s economic plan? He wants to cut jobs for firefighters, police, and teachers,” says the campaign spot.

Romney’s not turning the other cheek on this one. On Tuesday, Romney said in a Fox News appearance that this charge is “completely absurd.”

“The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters, or policeman,” Romney told the hosts of Fox & Friends.

Hmmm. The two sides are pretty far apart on this question. Who is right here? What’s the context?

We’d say this: A Romney statement this week did imply that he believes the nation needs fewer of these particular categories of public servants. But the comment might be better understood as a variation on the continuing Republican theme that government as a whole needs to be smaller and less intrusive in US life.

First, the original statement: At a campaign stop last Friday Romney seized on President Obama’s controversial statement that the private sector is “fine” and that employment as a whole is soft because public sector jobs are down.

Romney said of Mr. Obama that “he says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Generally speaking, Republicans are for smaller government at all levels. But they don’t typically move on to imply that the nation needs fewer of its more popular types of public servants – particularly those involved in public safety.

Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who just survived a recall attempt sparked by his bill that stripped many public sector workers of bargaining rights, made just that distinction. Police and firefighters were exempt from his cutbacks.

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