Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman understands what President Barack Obama was trying to say when he messed up with the line, "The private-sector is doing fine."
Krugman said, "The president bungled the line. The truth is, the private sector is doing better than the public sector, which is not well enough."
In other words, Obama was comparing the private sector to the public sector.
Krugman said the massive state and local layoffs of public sector workers is the main thing hurting a recovery.
"And actually, the real about this economy is the cutbacks of the public sector are what's hurting recovery. By this point in Obama's presidency, if we had normal public sector job growth we'd have about 800,000 more people - firefighters, schoolteachers, police officers. Instead, we have 600,000 fewer. So right there is like 1.4 million jobs that we should have had in the public sector. And, of course, those would translate into more private sector jobs, too. So that's what he was trying to get at. And, of course, he screwed up the line," he said.
Of course, Republicans, starting with their presidential candidate Mitt Romney, pounced on the president's gaffe. But Romney has his own gaffes to contend with: "Corporations are people" and "I like to fire people," to name a few. The GOP contender also said the government doesn't need to hire more public sector workers.
Romney refuted that claim by saying it's up to local and state governments, not the federal government.
But that too isn't the case because the federal government has been giving grants to states and local governments for public services and needs since the founding of the country.
With Romney's economic plan to permanently cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, there will be less federal aid to states and local governments and therefore less money for firefighters, teachers, police and other vital public workers, critics say.
In a new Democratic National Committee ad, a firefighter, a teacher and a policeman criticize Romney for saying that we don't need to hire more public sector workers.
"Mitt Romney says there should be fewer of me," the firefighter says. "He wants to cut taxes for people like himself by cutting jobs like mine." At the end, the teacher says: "You know what we really need less of? Romney economics."
Jared Bernstein, who was Vice President Biden's economist, seemed to agree with Krugman on the president's flub.
"I know he doesn't believe this,' Bernstein said. "Private sector job growth is fine in relative terms when compared to the public sector. But lots of people are struggling in the private sector. The president's view of the economy is that we are headed out of the woods but not nearly fast enough. He doesn't think anyone is fine."
Still, Bernstein said it was an error. "He slipped up here," Bernstein said. "We'll have to see how the hurly burly plays out."
In the meantime, Obama has been urging Congress to take action on his nine-month-old jobs bill, the American Jobs Act.
Photo: President Barack Obama is greeted by students while touring the Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab at Lorain County Community College, Elyria, Ohio, Jan. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)