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Posted at 4:18 PM ET, 11/29/2010

Three ways to look at Obama's federal pay freeze

By Ezra Klein

obamapayfreeze.JPG

You can look at the president's announcement of a two-year pay freeze for federal workers in a few different ways, and they're not mutually exclusive.

1) This is more unwise, unilateral bipartisanship: It's one thing for the president to concede something to Republicans in negotiations. It's a whole other to simply do it himself in return for nothing -- and that includes Republican support. But that's what the White House did on the tax cuts in the stimulus -- and President Obama has since lamented that decision -- and it's what they did on freezing discretionary spending and it's what they're doing now. They annoy their base, get nothing from Republicans because they don't give Republicans a chance to share credit, and end up with bad policy, to boot.

2) This is a smart way to protect the federal workforce: Republicans don't have the votes or the will to really cut the deficit or undo Obama's policy achievements, but they'll probably get some major symbolic accomplishments in the early months of the next Congress. And the biggest, softest target for the anti-government party is, well, the federal workforce -- and they would've attacked it mercilessly, and conservative Democrats might have helped them. A pay freeze isn't a good thing, but it's better than a hiring freeze, which Republicans might have passed, or a three-year pay freeze, which the Simpson-Bowles commission recommended. By making this decision unilaterally, Obama has protected the federal workforce from potentially worse outcomes.

3) This is bad economics and bad policy: Federal workers buy things and stimulate the economy like anyone else. Giving them less money at a time when we need to be doing more stimulus is counterproductive. But worse than that is the downstream affects on Obama's other policies: Health-care reform and financial regulation -- not to mention the continued operations of the federal government -- will need new, talented regulators. Making federal jobs less attractive in an extremely high-profile way will complicate both efforts, and make success less likely. And it's policy success, and not symbolic gestures, that will ultimately decide the fate of Obama's presidency.

Photo credit: By Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

By Ezra Klein  | November 29, 2010; 4:18 PM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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Comments

Why would you think this will protect the workforce and prevent the republicans from doing worse?

It's bad economics and the economy is key to political success.

Conceding your enemies are right, undermining your friends and not getting any meaningful political gain. Great idea!

Posted by: fuse | November 29, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

As a former govt employee, I'd take a pay freeze before a hiring freeze. With a hiring freeze, you end up working a lot of overtime whether you want to or not. The extra money is ok at first, but the extra hours worked become Hell after a couple months. Not fun trying to make up for lost employees.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 29, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Nice attempt at a non-partisan commentary. Go directly to the op/ed page, that's where you belong.

Posted by: Gooddogs | November 29, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Ezra et al are more concerned with posturing and advantage instead of understanding that the average pay of a federal employee including benefits is $123,000.00 year. Their counterparts in the private sector make about half that.

How is protecting this bloated and growing government a good thing?

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | November 29, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Can WIN buttons be far behind?

Posted by: Hieronymous | November 29, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I think it's an opening gambit for negotiating with the GOP - I ticked off my base, now what will you do to tick off yours? The freeze is a slap to workers but the 1.4% x 2 is negligible in the big scheme and their fate could be a whole lot worse than a freeze.

Posted by: chicago11 | November 29, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"the average pay of a federal employee including benefits is $123,000.00 year"

C'mon, this has been debunked over and over. There's a ton of jobs grade scale 9 and up that require *at least* a masters. With both a JD and MPP, I've applied to 120+ fed gov jobs (attorneys and policy analysts) and not received one interview. The federal workforce ain't the DMV; they're generally more educated than their "counterparts." -->

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/03/peter_orszag_defends_federal_s.html

As a guy *still* looking for employment (either public or private), I'm definitely glad there's not a freeze (although if I wasn't personally invested in the decision, #3 seems most convincing).

Posted by: Chris_ | November 29, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP wants a hiring freeze, they'll get it no matter what concessions Obama makes now.

Posted by: eRobin1 | November 29, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm a professor at a large state university and an economist. My own salary has been frozen for three years, and recently my 401k matching contributions were permanently capped at a low level. I'm a democrat and an Obama supporter, but I just don't see why the Federal Employees' salary freeze has become a big deal in the media. Who hasn't taken a hit?

The cost of living isn't really going up. Tax revenues aren't anywhere near their pre-recession levels. Are federal raises really justifiable at this time when so many people are hurting? We only have so much money to spend. Why not spend a little of it on extending unemployment benefits!

Posted by: s_e_feinberg | November 29, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

WrongfulDeath is just another Pol hiding in this forum. You do know that even if your numbers were correct that most of the Federal workforce isn't at the high end of your skewed "average". And guess what pal, I work here and I am in the private sector, sorry I don't take "half" when I give whole!

Posted by: adrianarnold | November 29, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

This is bad economics and bad policy: Federal workers buy things and stimulate the economy like anyone else. Giving them less money at a time when we need to be doing more stimulus is counterproductive


Ezra,

gotta say this is the least sense you've made in a long time. Its not giving them less its just NOT giving them MORE. If your reasoning is put into place how much of an increase in pay should federal workers receive to revive the economy? 20% increase? 40% increase?

If you use the assumption (which you do many times) that increasing highly compensated employees in the private workforce does not directly stimulate the economy why wouldn't the same go for Federal employees taking home good salaries? My guess is when either of us compares apples and oranges (federal lawyers vs private sector entry level positions or conversely private sector lawyers vs federal entry level workers) we'll get the same crap data either of us puts in.

Also if a private corporation has entities that perform the same task several times over then that will be eliminated. Shouldn't the same be done of federal employees or are we too worried about the non-stimulative effects on the economy?

Sorry but your partisanship is showing.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 29, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Shooting fish in a barrel. But another article in today's Post indicated not all federal employees will suffer equally...or at all. Sounds like The Hill, among others, gets one of those famous Obama exemptions. Now let's see the non-federal unions pitch in and curtail wages AND benefits. Before this reaches final approval the exemptions will render it ineffective for the intended purpose. S.S. recipients already have felt the bite...so welcome to my world. My spending has been dramatically reduced, as must the spending of any feds left feeling this latest desperate pinch.

Posted by: ddnfla | November 29, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

The average pay of a federal employee was $67,691 in 2008 (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics) - NOT $123,000 as another poster has claimed.

You can torture the merits of the pay freeze all you want, but let's leave the facts alone.

Posted by: dsk36 | November 29, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I expected better from Obama. Watched "Jimmy the Peanut" freeze Fed. pay for several years and then offer 9% to try to recapture the Fed. votes a month before he lost his second term. How about freezing the executive bonuses for all Fed. contractors first?

Posted by: creekview_al | November 29, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse


Klein the leftist journolist hack spews more partisan leftist Dim tomfoolery. So, what else is new?

The real joke is this unqualified nitwit Klein has no background whatosever in economics yet WaPo editors let Klein spew his leftist POV on the "business pages" as if Klein's left wing opinions and wishful thinking represented actual news.

Pathetic WaPo hacks.

Posted by: screwjob22 | November 29, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

When is Congress going to freeze its pay. They aren't doing anything anyway why are we paying them?

Oh they already voted their pay raise this year. Sorry I forgot. That was right before the froze Social Security cost of living raise at zero....

What a joke. Everyone pays, except the politicians.

Posted by: staterighter | November 29, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I vote for #3. I just hope that this is a case where Obama is giving the GOP enough rope to hang itself by pushing for a governmental shutdown, as with Gingrich in 1995.

Posted by: DCSteve1 | November 29, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I like creekview's suggestion. A lot.

Look, I think it's fairly obvious by now that Obama is a moderate Republican -- from healthcare reform to foreign policy to coddling bankers to handwringing over deficits, he's followed many of Bob Dole's positions in the '90s to the letter. On civil liberties he falls to the right of Dole.

Posted by: scarlota | November 29, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

* Now let's see the non-federal unions pitch in and curtail wages AND benefits.*

Because nothing stimulates the economy like people having less money!

It may be useful to freeze wages in order to avert layoffs or redirect money towards more hiring under the circumstances. But s_e_feinberg is actually arguing against a pay freeze: if the economy is tanking causing everyone's wages to stagnate, shouldn't the government, if it can, be the one institution that CAN put more money in people's hands?

This is (a) a gimmick, and (b) an example of Obama just "giving in" to talking points complaining about wages of government workers. Obama has basically surrendered by agreeing to discuss things on Republicans' terms: they wanted to be the ones to talk about wages of government workers, so Obama said, "ok, I'll talk about that and cut them." It's following, not leading.

Posted by: constans | November 29, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Now that this group, which in most likelihood did not support the failed Bush economic policy that got us here, has paid their due, here are two more suggestions sure to be controversial, but we all have to take a hit, right?

1) Tax religious institutions. Their charity - 501c(3)'s - can remain exempt but they are a business just like anything else.
2) Federal tax on legal marijuana. Fairly low impact social drug in widespread use already but we don't get a penny from taxes. In fact, costs us because of enforcement and incarceration.

Posted by: DJMonet | November 29, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

How about a 4th way: It's good, wise economic policy. And it helps even out or redistribute the effects of the recession.

Posted by: ShovelPlease | November 29, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

As a Federal Government employee, I have mixed feelings about a pay freeze.

However, what concerns me more is the misleading information on average pay between the Federal Government and private sector workers. Comparing average pay of the total workforce is a meaningless exercise that has no merit. The reason is that the private sector workforce has a large number of low paying minimum wage jobs that the Federal Government doesn't have. The Federal Government also has a workforce that has more experience and is generally higher educated than the average private sector workforce. Again, there are very few, if any, minimum wage jobs in the Federal government so there really is no accurate overall comparison between the two.

The only true comparison is between private and federal workers in similar job positions. For those who have looked at these job comparisons, the wages for mid-level personnel (federal and private) are pretty comparable. However, the pay for Government supervisory and senior personnel often falls far behind the private sector wages.

Also, for those who don't know it there are very few if any real "perks" in Federal jobs beyond having an opportunity to serve your country. There are generally no large Christmas or other bonuses, no commissions, no free cars, no free electronic gifts, etc.

The thing that has puzzled me most in these discussions - if everyone thinks we are so over paid and underworked why are not more people rushing to get Government jobs? Until recently, it has been very difficult to fill government positions with qualified individuals.

Posted by: dbmn1 | November 29, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are an idiot. There is already a hiring freeze in the federal work force. Take your head out of the president's lap and wake up. This is just more vintage, gutless Obama. Instead of shafting the people who really caused the problem -- the rich and the Wall Street snakes -- he rat-buggers people who have no choice but eat his manure sandwiches. Chicken little preppie son of fortune.

Posted by: editorneal | November 29, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Bull. There are thousands of people who would rather have their wages frozen than simply laid off. This is garbage. To Obama's credit, he has shown some leadership on the issue. One of the first things he did was freeze the pay of his staff and other political appointees - 2 YEARS AGO folks - well before the mid-term election. Washington Post is just garbage - do your homework!

Posted by: george_w_bush0 | November 29, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Omits the fact some agencies already have hiring freezes in place. Of course they don't call them that, but freezes have been in place for months

Posted by: shadow27 | November 29, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Geez. How about this is a way to stop the hemoreaging (sp) of federal funds in a time of austerity when private sector salaries have been stagnant?

OK...now the Executive Branch has stepped up to the plate. Will Congress have the cojones to do the same?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. As if Congress could ever do anything that required self-sacrifice.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | November 29, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Hope he rolls salaries back to "pre-bailout" levels.

Posted by: AG1231 | November 29, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

time to elect a new president. there is no future in trying to appease people who want large tax cuts, huge profits and have no loyalty or concern about the welfare of the american worker.

Posted by: agra09 | November 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

In this economy, the average GSer should be happy to have a job in the first place. A pay cut probably makes more sense.

Posted by: randysbailin | November 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I agree with number 2. Couldn't getting the pay freeze for free embolden the Republicans to ask for things like furloughs and cuts to retirement benefits? Also, cowardly timing on Obama's part. Had he announced this a month ago Keith Fimian would be getting ready for his first term in congress.

Posted by: spidey103 | November 29, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Here's another clue for you Klein. Barry the incompetent boob Obama, one week before the election, taunted Republicans with this arrogant little zinger:

"We don't mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."

Well that was just before Barry the inept bungler lost 62 seats in the House. All revenue bills originate in the House. Barry and the Dims shall be sitting in the back of the bus starting on January the 3rd.


Posted by: screwjob22 | November 29, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

A pay freeze is a great way to get rid of the best employees and disgruntle the rest. The real money is spent on contracts and having unmotivated employees managing contracts is not going to help. Tying employee compensation to contract cost reductions would produce the most savings.

Posted by: vmax02rider | November 29, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The average pay of a federal employee was $67,691 in 2008 (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics) - NOT $123,000 as another poster has claimed.

You can torture the merits of the pay freeze all you want, but let's leave the facts alone.

Posted by: dsk36

----------------------------

If you re-read the comment you're refuting, you'll understand that the figure they used included benefits, whereas yours doesn't. They even said in their comment that their figure included benefits.

Their comment is accurate.

While this is a nice symbolic move, it doesn't address the overspending on government contractors.

Posted by: Benson | November 29, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dbmn1 | November 29, 2010 5:09 PM "Also, for those who don't know it there are very few if any real "perks" in Federal jobs beyond having an opportunity to serve your country."
------------------------
The "benefit" is that incompetence is rewarded. As someone who tried to fire an incompetent civil servant, it took me three years and numerous paperwork reviews, boards, etc all the time the imcompetent employee was still drawing the GS-10 wage.

Posted by: kabreu54 | November 29, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Now that we have taken a symbolic swipe at the federal work force, lets cap congressional pay at the nationwide median household income level (just under $50k per year) and mandate an across the board 33% cut of all congressional staff budgets.

Posted by: whyyesbrain | November 29, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

If Federal Workers don't like the fact they are not getting a pay raise for two years...work someplace else. I won't stop you. When you hate your job...vote with your feet. Is anyone taking this offer....anyone.....anyone.... Guess not, people in the private sector are sacrificing all the time, what makes a Federal Employee better. If you don't like the job, leave...but guess what it is brutal in the private sector. You can get fired. You have to work "normal hours", not 5am to 3pm. You don't get contractors to do your job. I respect Federal workers, but the pampering has to stop.

Posted by: trashbox | November 29, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Benson, let's be honest here. If the average federal worker earns ~$68,000, I don't think their salary plus benefits is $123,000. One of those nmubers is wrong. Not unless you're suggesting that the fed paying 75% or so of my health insurance(about $3000-$6000 maybe) plus my pension equals almost the same as my salary- $55,000. I doubt my pension and TSP matching money(5%) equals 75% of my salary.

Posted by: barbaramusser | November 29, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to get a wage freeze. Not only have I not gotten a raise since early in the Bush administration, my pay has actually been going down for the last several years. On what planet do people live who assume that everyone gets a yearly COLA?

Posted by: lizgwiz | November 29, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

speaking as a fed employee, its not the fact that workers won't get cost of living increases for the next 2 years, it's the fact that Congress has these ideas to reduce the deficit, but they don't reduce anything. Did you notice what groups were exempted from the President's order?

CONGRESS and CONTRACTORS - If we stop wasting money on FINDING LIFE ON MARS, then thats at least 20 billion saved right there. If the government held contractor workers and companies accountable for the services they provide, they'd probably save BILLIONS more... this is all a joke. remember, this country gave billions in cash to Iraqi's but admits to "losing" almost half of it MYSTERIOUSLY... hmmmmm.

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | November 29, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

yo, speaking as a fed, its not the fact that workers won't get cost of living increases for the next 2 years, it's the fact that Congress has these ideas to reduce the deficit, but they don't reduce anything. Did you notice what groups wer...e exempted from the President's order?
CONGRESS - they already have millions in the bank> and CONTRACTORS - companies that rob the federal treasury of BILLIONS If we stop wasting money on FINDING LIFE ON MARS, then thats at least 20 billion saved right there. If the government held contractor workers and companies accountable for the services they provide, they'd probably save BILLIONS more... this is all a joke. remember, this country gave billions in cash to Iraqi's but admits to "losing" almost half of it MYSTERIOUSLY... hmmmmm.

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | November 29, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

When are you going to acknowledge that Obama is another failed president like Jimmy Carter, who also tried to save himself in the history books by adopting Republican-light policies? Obama surrendered the public option in the health reform debate when he could have pushed it through with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. He bent over backwards to funnel the bailout to the banks, when it was job training that was needed (and still is) to get out of this economic morass. Obama is not a liberal. He's another one of these Jimmy Carter lusrs, as my kids spell the word loser.
Now he's giving in on the federal payroll. You say it is to create a firewall against more draconian cuts Republicans are backing. Guess what? Republicans will just take this football and run with it, cutting federal employee levels, eliminating agencies and imposing a hiring freeze. He's given up the high ground, which any general in a war will tell you is potentially fatal for your campaign. He's just another Jimmy Carter, who is headed to become the first failed black president alongside the first failed Christian fundamentalist president.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 29, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

ah yes, a useless, gratuitous slam on the middle class, and Obama's base, that affects 0.05 of the federal deficit, and which is less than a drop in the bucket ($28 billion over five years). Brilliant.

Eric Cantor and the Orange Crying Drunk Man Boehner are already crowing about how the president is getting on board their agenda.

Paul Krugman nails it:

Yep, that’s exactly what we needed: a transparently cynical policy gesture, trivial in scale but misguided in direction, and in effect conceding that your bitter political opponents have the right idea.

Posted by: losthorizon10 | November 29, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Freezing pay of government workers is a start. They presently enjoy higher wages and more generous pensions than are available for similar private sector jobs.
Obama should next propose curbing abuses and excesses in the government pension system. The same should go for local governments which are far worse when it comes to pension abuse and life time give aways.
In addition to the pay freeze and pension abuse corrections there should be a hiring freeze and some layoffs to complete a "comprehensive" package of correction. Why does everything else have to be comprehensive and not this?

Posted by: nychap44 | November 29, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

The freeze is a good start, but even more important is having federal employees pay full sticker price for their health insurance. Private sector employees are subsidizing the federal workers insurance benefits. Pay your own blasted way for a change.

Posted by: Tess6 | November 29, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse


It's all symbolic as $2B is nothing. I went through this for 34 years. I suspect my retirement is $5K less because of pay freezes.


Posted by: mortified469 | November 29, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Federal workers should also share the burden. The unemployment rate is 10%, under-employment is another 12%, so I recommend firing 10% of the federal work force (accross the board) so they feel what the unemployed private sector feels, and then 12% should be under employed, so they can feel what all the under-employed feel. Now, lets cut the remaining salaries by 5%, lets cut half of theirs medical benefits, and lets reduce their vacation earnings because that is what all the private sector businesses are doing. Lets go further, lets ship half of federal jobs to China. Couldn't the Chinese manage social security, veterans affairs, hell, lets the Chinese manage our State Department and Military. We can really get into savings with outsourcing Federal jobs. Now, we can all be happy. Everyone, private and federal is in a really stink ship called the "What was of" the USA.
I am hurting and life sucks, so let ruin the lives of the Federal worker. Was it the Federal worker who created this financial mess, who outsourced your jobs, who decided to reduce your benefits at work. If you want to stick it to someone, stick it to those who got us in this mess!

Posted by: vidusa | November 29, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

How is it bad economics Ezra? Freezing the pay of overpaid wastes?

Posted by: Jsuf | November 29, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

No President controls Congressional salaries, their an independent branch of the Government. BTW I pretty sure Congress has to freeze salaries of most government workers, since Congress controls the purse strings.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | November 29, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

a federal pay freeze is NOT enough

america demands

bloated

overbearing

overpaid employees

feeding at the federal trough be

FIRED

and it WILL happen

once obama realizes that federal employees are even more unpopular

than he is

and FIRING Federal employees will gain at least 10 approval points

federal employees–thin the herd

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The public get mad at Federal workers. Why don't they get mad at the systemic corruption.

For example, Goldman Sacks buy Treasury bonds before the Federal Reserve is ready to buy them, then they sell them to the Federal Reserve for a Premium. Why doesn't the Fed buy directly from the Treasury? So the cronies at Goldman Sacks reap rich profits and pay only a 15% capital gains tax. Yet, the taxpayer overpaid for US Treasuries from their 25-34% tax rate collected taxes so as to prop up Goldman Sacks, their investors, and all the richies who will claim the 15% capital gains rate.

Now, let stick it to middle class Federal workers. Goldman Sacks needs more money.

Posted by: vidusa | November 29, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Obama = Fail

Here's to staying home in 2012. I am going to freeze my vote for 2 years.

Posted by: keirreva | November 29, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

He blamed Bush again, but some writer wrote this good piece: Look, Bush was fiscally irresponsible, prolifigate president. No question about it. But Obama spent $2.4 trillion in his first 500 days a president, burning through money three times faster than Bush. If belt tightening is needed, it's not just the fault of everyone that came before Obama. Further, the idea that ramping up the federal deficit to record levels in record time was necessary to get the economy moving again (if 9.6 percent unemployment consitutes "moving") is an obviously debatable assumption.

Posted by: tonyjm | November 29, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

This is hardly the first time Obama has pulled this, "I'll compromise early and get nothing in return tactic."

Its becoming clear that the real answer is:

4. He's a moderate Republican.

Posted by: Nylund154 | November 29, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Strategically speaking, this administration is barely out of middle school. You can argue the merits of a pay raise/freeze either way, but to give away the farm and get nothing for it is foolishness. As s_e_feinberg and other have pointed out, there may well be better uses for this money, but to cop to a freeze (or any other policy -- literally, ANY other policy) in this political climate without making sure you'll get something for it is stupidity.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | November 29, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

The unemployment rate for people with college degrees like most federal government workers is around 5%, and less than 4% for those with advanced degrees.

http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2010/09/unemployment-rate-and-level-of.html

So for the higher pay scales of government workers with advanced degrees, there is a shortage of workers, not an excess.

What really should happen is freeze or perhaps an end to across the board pay setting, and each government group salary should be set by demand. If you need to hire more bank regulators for example you pay what it takes to get people up to the job. Note that would require a big increase. This would of course anger Congress, because they could not play games based on public perception of government workers.

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | November 29, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who thinks its funny that this was announced on the same day that the WSJ ran a story on freshman Republican congressman sleeping on their office couches because rent in DC is too high?

Posted by: mjp8 | November 29, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Where did this guy take Economics 101?

Not giving more money when there is no productivity makes perfect economic sense.

I'm a federal employee and I am fully content in doing my part to ensure the whole system doesn't go belly up.

Always doing my part stems from a six-year Marine Corps enlistment. Liberals like Klein, and other draft-dodgers, who know nothing about teamwork, need to realize that it is not all about them----it's about doing the best for the whole: All for one, one for all.

I can't stand these irrational liberals. They just want to give away everything, to everybody, and nobody has to pay for it.

Yeah, great plan, Ezra, just look at Europe.

Posted by: stockaeyahoocom | November 29, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

pssssstt.......”workers” feeding at the federal trough

a confidential PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

(might as well tell you before it wikileaks)

you are familiar with the Cost of Living increases

well soon republicans will introduce a

Cost of Depression decrease

essentially when GDP declines government workers are fired
by the same percentage

and since this is a VERY popular idea

Obama will STEAL it just like he did your pay freeze

and more to come............

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm mystified as to why the pay for military personnel hasn't been frozen.

Last time I checked, it was an all-volunteer military. Since 1973, when the draft ended, no one has been conscripted for US military service.

Just as with any federal government job, recruits enter the military knowing what the pay levels are.

If military folks aren't happy with the pay, they a. shouldn't have signed up in the first place; or b. don't re-enlist.

No one points out that a good number of military personnel get GREAT perks:
--housing allowance
-- many subsidized and/or tax-free benefits,
-- significantly subsidized health care for life,
-- generous financial aid packages for education during active-duty, and up to 10 years after;
-- a GI Bill program that allows soldiers up to 36 months of education aid while in active-duty.
-- VA Loans, with significantly lower interest rates
-- VA preference for federal jobs.

I'm sure there's plenty more that I missed.

And frankly, the notion that every single person in the military has put their life on the line is just ridiculous.

I know far too many members of the military who spend their careers driving a desk in the safety of the United States.

I'm getting pretty tired of the 'deification' of US soldiers, as if they walk on water. I'm also tired of the idea that we need to continue to waste tax dollars on a ridiculously bloated military, and that anyone who questions the billions spent on defense is somehow unpatriotic.

Soldiers are government employees. Period. If the pay for federal workers is being frozen, the pay for military personnel needs to be frozen, too.

Posted by: Mary1966 | November 29, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who thinks Obama is doing this to PROTECT federal peons is delusional.

This is just Obama's opening shot. Next he will be stealing our pension funds. Count on it.

Posted by: solsticebelle | November 29, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Mary1966 wrote in part:

I'm mystified as to why the pay for military personnel hasn't been frozen.

]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

ProCounsel explained:

Americans LIKE and RESPECT the military.

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

President Obama proposes saving $60 billion over the next decade by withholding raises on Executive Branch federal employees. So instead of paying up to 25 percent in taxes on their due raises, they will forfeit 100% of that amount to the Treasury. His claim that fairness dictates this action fails the smell test as long as hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than those changing bedpans in VA hospitals.

To throw two million feds and their additional millions of dependents under the bus thus encouraging a goodly part of his base to sit out the 2012 election as he races to compromise with the TEA and GOP parties to maintain tax cut for those making between $250,000 and $1 million looks less like shared sacrifice than a cynical shift of income and wealth and shows that he’s not a lot better than the likes of Palin, Boehner or McConnell for his employees, and you may be sure that the afore mentioned pols will be spilling crocodile tears for feds to help split their votes.

A lot of people who worked hard for the president’s election in 2008 will be unable to make contributions or have the time to boost him in 2010 as they hustle to find work delivering for the local pizzeria to cover lost income.

While most of these people would never vote for the Republican nominee in 2012, they certainly will not be in a great hurry to open their wallets or work for someone who shafted them without getting anything for the common good in return.


Posted by: brennan01 | November 29, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Dumb, Dumbest, and Dumber

Obama is not addressing the unemployment problem. His politicking is of no use to the American people.

Posted by: Maddogg | November 29, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

The best part of the wage freeze .... It did not affect members of congress or their staff because they are EXCEPTIONAL and the rest of America is not.

Posted by: knjincvc | November 29, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I don't see what the fuss is about. Two years ago, faculty where I teach got no raise; our union agreed to give up the contracted raise in return for reduced likelihood of layoffs. Last year, same thing. This year, we're taking furlough days that amount to a salary cut of 1 to 2 percent of our salaries--everyone, from top to bottom. What's the big deal?

Posted by: amstphd | November 29, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

What's Good for America never stopped the GOP for going after what they wanted before and their priorities aren't likely to change.

Choice A: What I want.

Choice B: What's Good for America.

Republican's Choose A every time

Posted by: tigman_2 | November 29, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Close enough for government work.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

This is chicken feed. I will be impressed when he abolishes whole worthless agencies, programs, and decreases the size of government. Until then, it's just verbal hyperbole.

Posted by: kucy1 | November 29, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

If the JournoList were still around, they'd tell Mr. Klein that the word he wanted was "effect," not "affect." The copy editors have all been let go, Ezra. You're going to have to take responsibility for your own writing.

Posted by: Rob_ | November 29, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

PREVIEWS OF COMING REPUBLICAN ATTRACTIONS

shark budgeting.............

no one knows the waste fraud and abuse

of govt agencies

quite like other agencies

under shark budgeting one agency can get its Cost of Depression budget cut reduced

if it can show waste in another federal agency

this will be incredibly popular in america

you know–that flyover country beyond the beltway

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Federal Employees as a percentage of total population is actually fairly low historically. As a percentage of the labor force, its a tad high, but on par with the early Reagan years and way lower than under Nixon. Things are complicated though. Its hard to tell what gets counted as some number include unfilled positions and there's contract workers etc. But hey, what the heck, let's fire a few hundred thousand people. Its worked miracles for all the state and local gov'ts that have fired people. Economies are booming. Its not like these people who will lose their jobs actually buy any goods and services from the rest of us or anything. I also hear that we won't have to pay any of them unemployment insurance or severances or anything. Plus, I hear its a great time to be looking for a new job. The private sector is hiring left and right!

But seriously, one thing we can do is see how it works out for the UK. They're firing a huge amount of government workers. We can see how it works out for them. Its probably about as good of a counterfactual as we'll get.

Posted by: Nylund154 | November 29, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing how many anti-government teabagging nitwits want Obama to go even further with cuts in the federal workforce. But none of them mention the ridiculous and inconceivable amount of money that corporate executives (including federal contractor executives) make. To touch these salaries, which are in the millions, is sacrosanct and socialist. This is total and complete horse manure, and the Republicans know it.

Best bet for Republicans: don't feed us the BS line that tax cuts for the rich will benefit the economy, when repealing the tax cust for the rich will save us considerably more than $28 billion middle class government workers are being asked to fork up over 5 years.

Posted by: c_attucks | November 29, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

If the so-called (but phony to the person) 'fiscal conservative' Rs REALLY want to cut wasted federal expenditures they ought to review the overly generous tax-free so-called "housing allowances" that are handed to the all volunteer active duty military, from E-1 to O-13, the VAST majority of who are NOT and HAVE NEVER BEEN IN Iraq or Afghanistan, but in fact have served and currently serve their Nation in admin support roles in safe and sunny state-side or overseas bases.

These preposterously high entitlements are for all to see on the intranet-posted "BAH Tables." Tens of billions (with a B) are squandered each and every year. Many members, including single twenty-something donut and cookie baking singles with HS diplomas or less get handed tax-free allowances that far exceed their actual housing costs. And many volunteers pocket windfalls each and every month.

These tax-free "housing allowances" average between $2-$4k per month and even more. Based on IRS statistics, it takes the full annual federal tax liability for 4.5 average US taxpayers to support the annual cost of a single member's near $48K in surmised so-called "housing" expenses!

ABSOLUTELY NOT, no, some admin support desk-based O-6 w/26 years sitting behind a desk in San Francisco or Los Angeles or Honolulu or Miami who is already paid a handsome base pay of circa $130k per year SHOULD NOT be getting handed ANOTHER >$4k per month for his so-called 'housing' costs, and again much of which is being LITERALLY POCKETED!. If that bean counter or other similar admin support staffer who does not even work 40 hours a week perceives himself entitled to live in Beverley Hills or Waikiki Beach or Miami Beach, then let him use some of the circa $130k he already gets handed in salary each month from the taxpayers to pay for his own darn housing just like the rest of the American population.

Put ALL these members back on base housing. And if there's not enough, then START BUILDING MORE! And if they are single, then let them live on the ships or in barracks. Or better yet, simply allow them the opportunity to use their salary to pay for their own housing just like the taxpaying public!

And if it is perceived that these objectively tax free monthly give-aways are what is required to have the all-volunteer military, then it is far past time to re-initiate the draft.

Posted by: michaelsmith21 | November 29, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm a software engineer, in private business working contracts. doing pretty well, even in these times.

I will not work for the government, I won't take a contract from the government, I won't even subcontract for a contractor working for the government.

Why? Because they don't pay sht. I can make 150% of their top dollar for the same job in the private sector.

And besides, everything in government work is political. Who's arss is kissed, who's leg is humped, which boss is stealing credit for your work and which boss is blaming you for his failures.

Why would anybody who's worth a damn ever work for the government? Oh ... you want to help your country.

Right. Get a real job, come out here and compete with the rest of us.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

the e-bay solution

periodically place certain federal trough jobs

up for bid on e-bay at a lower salary

then FIRE the current federal employees

once obama realizes how popular
FIRING federal employees is

federal employees are DOOMED

as there are three things obama loves

1. Obama

2. Obama

3. Obama

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Maybe O read the OMB report:

http://rightwingnews.com/2010/11/us-government-crapped-away-125-in-billion-in-2010-via-improper-payments/

Posted by: drowningpuppies | November 29, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

psssstt.........wash po media allstars

INSIDER TRADING

do a FOIA request for

all federal salary increases in nov 2010

we are talking pulitzer

for YOU

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Mary1966 wrote in part:

I'm mystified as to why the pay for military personnel hasn't been frozen.

]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

ProCounsel explained:

Americans LIKE and RESPECT the military.

----

That still doesn't tell me why military pay shouldn't be frozen.

Posted by: Mary1966 | November 29, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

pssttt........obama

anytime you have a bad week

just FIRE some federal employees

it will help you EVERY time

just do it

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

It's 1 and 3. If you think the GOP isn't going to shut down the government you're naive.

Obama failed to protect and further damaged the economy and gained nothing for it. He's a total failure as a leader and I pray for a primary opponent.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | November 29, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

So Obama sets the tone. The peons will get their pay frozen while I do not take a pay cut! Dumber is, dumber does.

Posted by: Maddogg | November 29, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

why aren't the posters who are railing against government workers rallying for Congress to freeze/lower their pay? NONE of you have any problems with the "decision-makers" in Congress who have been sitting in the same seats regardless of recession, wage issues, struggles affecting ordinary everyday Americans (which presumably we all are)? How is it possible that you can be such blind sheep missing the big wolf?

OK fine, no cost of living increases for the federal worker - EXCEPT Congress which is already full of MILLIONAIRES... you angry posters have no problem with that?


Sheep all of you. mindless sheep.

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | November 29, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Mary 1966--


it is hard to conceive of how

our uniformed military can possibly be overpaid

when their uniform is literally

a target

for terrorists

and we are AT WAR

and realize most americans RESPECT the military

and LOATHE federal employees

and obama knows it

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

The memo and bottom line to our government, is this: The American people have lost ALL confidence and trust in our government!

You have ZERO CREDIBILITY.

Posted by: kucy1 | November 29, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

All Obama concentrates on is what the Republicans are saying. This guy is weak. Hillary in 2012!

Posted by: Maddogg | November 29, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I did not say

to cut military pay.

I was asking,

why soldiers

who also are

federal employees

are not having

their pay frozen.

Posted by: Mary1966 | November 29, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

President Obama proposes saving $60 billion over the next decade by withholding raises on Executive Branch federal employees. So instead of paying up to 25 percent in taxes on their due raises, they will forfeit 100% of that amount to the Treasury. His claim that fairness dictates this action fails the smell test as long as hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than those changing bedpans in VA hospitals.

To throw two million feds and their additional millions of dependents under the bus thus encouraging a goodly part of his base to sit out the 2012 election as he races to compromise with the TEA and GOP parties to maintain tax cut for those making between $250,000 and $1 million looks less like shared sacrifice than a cynical shift of income and wealth and shows that he’s not a lot better than the likes of Palin, Boehner or McConnell for his employees, and you may be sure that the afore mentioned pols will be spilling crocodile tears for feds to help split their votes.

A lot of people who worked hard for the president’s election in 2008 will be unable to make contributions or have the time to boost him in 2010 as they hustle to find work delivering for the local pizzeria to cover lost income.

While most of these people would never vote for the Republican nominee in 2012, they certainly will not be in a great hurry to open their wallets or work for someone who shafted them without getting anything for the common good in return.


Posted by: brennan01 | November 29, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

And whether one

likes or loathes

federal employees

or military personnel

has NO bearing on

whether one's pay

should be frozen.

Your argument otherwise

is insane.

Posted by: Mary1966 | November 29, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

How shocking ! Government employees dont get their raises...welcome to the United States of Reality.

Now cut their pay and fire half of them and we just may get out of this mess.

Posted by: metroman76 | November 29, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Obama proves he is as dumb as Bush.

Posted by: Maddogg | November 29, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Mary 1966--

3 reasons ProCounsel can think of:

1. Americans RESPECT the military and LOATHE the Federal workers--this poay freeze is really punitive its NOT to save money

slapping federal employees is EXTREMELY popular and obama was brilliant to steal the idea from the republicans.......

2. The Military is productive, there need is self apparent with terrorists

3. The Polls say Obama cutting pay raises for Federal Workers is extremely popular if the military is exempted

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

The deficit and debt cannot be handled through paycuts or layoffs of government workers. The deficit and debt can only be tackled through the creation of well-paying jobs in the private sector.

Obama and Congress will have to have a down right bloody fight with the business community to get them to stop job destruction and begin job creation. Its more than just outsourcing.

Anything short of well-paying job creation is non-sense and avoids the central problem the country faces.

Hillary in 2012!

Posted by: Maddogg | November 29, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Aw c'mon, quit whining about the pay the politicians are making in washington. How many of these cretins spend millions out of their personal fortune to gain a seat in the congress, only to make a 'lousy' couple hundred thousand dollars?

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/congresspay.htm

DO you really think they're doing it because they want to help America? If you do, I got some really important other crap I want to sell to you. Real live ufo alien parts, bagged up alien flatulence and eyeballs. True pictures of Elvis taking that last dump. Sasquatch and Bigfoot having a gay 'event' in a tent somewhere outside of Portland. Oh, and my best one - the image of jesus in that piece of toast I had on the morning of July 12th, 1993.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse


I am certainly in favor of any soldier in combat getting a pay raise, but some general sitting on his duff in the Pentagon should not get a pay raise just because he's wearing a uniform.

Posted by: Thoughtful-Ted | November 29, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. As if Congress could ever do anything that required self-sacrifice.

*********************************************Congress froze its pay in April 2010.

Posted by: twoeagle | November 29, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Last week the question was how to keep young federal employees. Uh, this ain't the answer.

Posted by: BigTrees | November 29, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

When he was fired, Gen. McChrystal was earning $214,000 a year. Because he was stationed in Afghanistan, this was largely tax free, and he's now living on a pension that equals his salary. So, yes, the military needs to share any freeze on pay. They also need to pay more for TriCare health programs that are draining the federal budget and accept budget cuts that are probably going to be impressive.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 29, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Congress froze its pay in April 2010.

Posted by: twoeagl


Wow, that like ... totally changes my mind about everything.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

The average pay of a federal employee was $67,691 in 2008 (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics) - NOT $123,000 as another poster has claimed.

You can torture the merits of the pay freeze all you want, but let's leave the facts alone.

Posted by: dsk36

----------------------------

If you re-read the comment you're refuting, you'll understand that the figure they used included benefits, whereas yours doesn't. They even said in their comment that their figure included benefits.

Posted by: Benson
-----------------------------

Benson, thank you for pointing that out, but here's why your comment is irrelevant (and why the "benefits" were omitted in the first place).

To begin, "benefits" doesn't account for the $60,000 needed to reach the fabricated figure. It probably wouldn't even account for an additional $10,000. So, even if we included "benefits," we still wouldn't reach the number you're hoping for.

Further, "benefits" are generally excluded from such comparisons because it's generally impossible to accurately compare between several employers (the terms vary too greatly). Thus, we're left with pay as the most meaningful comparison.

Sooooo....back to where we started. The average pay was $67,691. But that just gets you a number. It too is meaningless as a comparison to the general workforce (the federal workforce on average is far, far better educated and employed in jobs that are far, far more skilled than the general workforce).

The meaningful comparison would be to federal employees' private counterparts in identical sectors and with comparable experience. However, that's going to show that federal employees, on average, are compensated slightly less than their private counterparts.

Again, Benson, you can torture the merits of the pay freeze all you want, but let's leave the facts alone.

Posted by: dsk36 | November 29, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

more addictive than morphine...............

the poll increase to obama from freezing govt salaries

and like an addict obama will require larger hits

FIRING govt employees

and then ELIMINATING entire departments

good. very good.

Posted by: ProCounsel | November 29, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised he didn't say what everyone else seems to be: It's a drop in the bucket.

$5 billion over two years? I mean, yes, it helps, but considering the deficit this year will be about $1.3 trillion, it's not a huge deal.

Posted by: ravensfan20008 | November 29, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Freezing the pay of federal workers is an ineffective means of generating savings, and a certain means to punish a large number of middle class workers because the funds that might have gone to their paychecks, went instead into the bonus checks of Wall Street executives.

This is a cheap move to placate the teabaggers, who will still hate Obama, at the expense of the middle class, and his base. It is beyond cowardly, conniving, and gutless.

Posted by: losthorizon10 | November 29, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

The federal workers have no way to fight back. It is picking on the little guy, not something the manly character John Wayne played would do. So its better that Mr O picked on them than the Repubs. An unmanly act is still an unmanly act. Especially since it is symbolic and does not really lower the deficit and probably hurts the recovery as it did when Roosevelt did it.

Posted by: bluetiger | November 29, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

The government workers cannot fight back. it is like picking on a little guy, not something the manly character John Wayne played in the movies would have done. So it is better to have Mr. O do an unmanly thing than have the Repubs do an unmanly thing. Especially when it is a symbolic thing and will not lower the deficit by a significant amount. On top of which will hurt the recovery as it did when Roosevelt did it.

Of course this goes for other government workers in states and universities. So we should be glad I guess they have not figured out a way to outsource the government workforce to India another concept which would slow down the recovery.

Posted by: bluetiger | November 29, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

If the goal is to even out people who have comporable jobs than provide a pay boost to the skilled labor positions and apply a pay cut to the janitorial/ non-paid positions. The federal government really overpays for unskilled labor and has a hard time holding on to top talent at career positions because the pay at them sucks.

Posted by: Natstural | November 29, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Hope the pay freeze will include the White House and Congress as well! But that's probably to much to ask!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | November 29, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I think you forgot a few other ways to look at this my Washingtonian friend:

4:) It's long overdue and should last longer than two years.

Posted by: mhammel22 | November 29, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Proving once again that our elected political leaders are spineless opportunists.

We are running a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit and what does Obama do? He decides to lop 2 billion out of the budget by holding down raises for the employees who work for him.

That is like trying to balance your household budget by not tipping the newspaper boy for Christmas. Sure you can save a few bucks, but it just makes you look like a cheap bum. It certainly isn't courageous, unless you think looking for your morning newspaper in the rose bushes in courageous.

Posted by: millerroberta | November 29, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't think any of us civil servants can really object if this sacrifice is part of an overall sacrificial endeavor. However, I for one will be extremely unhappy if my small contribution is merely a symbolic gesture and the Bush tax cuts for the rich are renewed. Let's see, I get to give up my smallish increase to save a couple of billion, while the rich get their tax cuts extended which adds trillions to the deficit. Yes, that makes sense to me.

Posted by: bobwhite1 | November 29, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Well, according to the Great and Powerful Dept. of Labor, there's no inflation, right? Why should there be pay increases?

Posted by: John991 | November 29, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

beeep, doop beep tooo wooop:
(Indian accent) Hello, my name is Roger, I am help you now.

Uh, my computer isn't working.
Is your computer plugging in?
Uh, no ... there, it's plugged in now. But it's still not working.
There is button, it says "on", if you press on button your computer will be onning soon. Thank you, come again.

Why is so much work like this being outsourced to India? Because they're too nice to tell you morons what a bunch of stupid dipshts you really are. And the computer companies know it.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that most federal employees understand the concept of shared sacrifice.

This was a very smart political move by President Obama. I'm not sure how most federal employees realize how poorly they're viewed outside the beltway in the real world where the unemployment rate is 9.6%. This is just a little taste of reality.

Posted by: publius29 | November 29, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: publius29 | November 29, 2010 8:09 PM

You want a little taste of reality? How's this, there are hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are working past the age when they are eligible for an immediate annuity.

The reality is that giving a pay freeze will be incentive for them to retire.

I personally am working for about 25 cents on the dollar for what I could make by retiring from the government. So, this may just be a good time to consider my options and see whether my time could be better spent.

I am sure that some will say "good riddance." But, I will be crying all the way to the bank.

Posted by: millerroberta | November 29, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

1981: Neutron Jack Welch responsible for 100,000 employees losing jobs at GE.
2011: Neutron Barack responsible for ???,??? Federal retirements, transfers, bailouts

Posted by: honu1 | November 29, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

As a current Federal Employee, I don't love this decision, but I understand it.

I also think it could go much farther. In my 4 years working inside Washington, I have seen tremendous bloat, inefficient processes and poor performers that I am confident U.S. tax-payers could get a much higher return on their tax dollars than what they are currently getting today. I think this could be accomplised 3 ways:

- Automating many of the labor-intensive, non-value-added jobs that exist in the Government today. For example, I am required to fill out a weekly time-sheet. I do this on paper and that paper is given to another Federal Government employee to be keyed into a time an attendance system. That is one simple example of a labor intensive process that should be automated and done online. The employees who's jobs it is to key in that time and attendance information should be transitioned to higher-value-added work or, if none exists, should be transitioned out of government. U.S. taxpayers should not pay someone's salary (+ benefits) to perform busy work.

- Federal Employees who perform sub-standardly should be transitioned out of the workforce. Currently there exists an attitude among large swaths of the government workforce that federal jobs are jobs for life. While many employees continute to work hard on a daily basis, others proceed to do the bare mimimum while waithing for their government guaranteed pensions after 20 years. In order to get the highest return for our tax dollars, federal employees who do the bare minimum at work, or get poor performance reviews consstently, should be transitioned out of the workforce. This would bring in new blood to fill key jobs more often than not more cheaply than predecessors with a higher quality standard. This action would enable the government to do more while spending presumably less.

These two simple suggestions would at best enable the Federal Government to do more while spending about the same amount of money or, at worst, allow it to do the same as it does today while spending less.

A pay freeze is easy. But it doesn't solve the issue of a bloated workforce with inefficient (read: costly) processes, one that doesn't reward the best Federal Employees and keeps many of the worst in the system.

Posted by: drs12180 | November 29, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

If you are not happy with your job or your pay as a federal employee, there's the door.

Posted by: PieTraynor | November 29, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

chicago11 wrote (November 29, 2010 4:40 PM):

"I think it's an opening gambit for negotiating with the GOP - I ticked off my base, now what will you do to tick off yours?"
________________________
What? This isn't beanbag. It's Washington politics and Obama is too naive and inexperienced to recognize it. Oh, I forgot: he's also too arrogant and thinks he'll outwit the GOP politicians.

Posted by: Paaa | November 29, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

hah! Obama vs the gop in a game of wits. Talk about your unarmed opponents.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 29, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm typically an Obama supporter, but I'm quite unhappy with this.

If they're going to freeze government pay, it should include the military. President Obama has said time and time again that federal civilians need to lead the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of federal civilians from the Department of Defense, State, Treasury, Justice, Agriculture, and others serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. To state that the military is the only one bearing the burden of our wars is false. The reality is that a uniform no longer determines whether someone is "in the fight" anymore. I've deployed twice as a federal civilian -- yet I know military members who sit behind desks in the States and avoid deployments. Not the norm, but it happens.

Personally, I believe that neither of these groups -- sacrificing everything for their government -- should feel a freeze. Or, at least, civilians who deploy should continue to receive raises -- it's the least you can do for treating us like soldiers without giving us the corresponding respect.

Posted by: thesuperlative | November 29, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

The people voting against Obama will no doubt love this pay freeze proposal. The people voting for him have been wondering why he's gone so far to the right. In either case, Obama's chances of being re-elected are diminished by his inability to speak truth to power. He should try being the President he promised to be instead of the Democrat version of George Bush Sr.

Posted by: JustSayNoToOil | November 29, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

The only problem with the pay freeze is that it will probably end the Obama Presidency? Why? Well, Federal Civilian Employees voted for Obama in droves. The military didn't. Now, Federal Civilian Employees will have the opportunity to re-think their decision. If just a few leave Obama, he is sunk. Probably he is sunk anyway. But, he seems to want to seal the deal.

Posted by: bert8 | November 29, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

If those who think the federal workforce is clueless now, just wait till the experienced people decide to get up and go en masse.

The fact is that the handwriting is on the wall. The pay freeze is just step one in what is likely to be a steady erosion of pay and benefits of federal employees.

I personally plan to get out while the getting is good and avoid the stampede to the door.

As Louis XV observed, "Apres mois le deluge."

Posted by: millerroberta | November 29, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Funny stuff again from the White House...is he KIDDING ME??? Good job solidifying my OTO (One Term Obama)prediction....now put into law freezing your own pay at 400K...if not, hope you can live on it...lol, A LOT...

Posted by: powerange | November 29, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Every year at this time the president wants to hurt the federal worker. I am tired of being hurt. I think I will quit the federal work force and become a contractor overseas and not come back to america. The politics is making me sick.

Posted by: CCDC1 | November 29, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I choose 1 and 3.

Posted by: ejs2 | November 29, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

And on cue, Boehner speaks:
Without a hiring freeze, a pay freeze won't do much to rein in a federal bureaucracy that added hundreds of thousands of employees to its payroll over the last two years while the private sector shed millions of jobs.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/11/29/923987/-GOP:-Obama-proposal-a-good-start,-but-doesnt-go-far-enough

Posted by: eRobin1 | November 29, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Time to cut the salaries of Congress to 50%. Times are tough and they are not performing anyway. Playing games on our dime when we can all use the money. Use the other 50% for unemployment benefit extension, until Congress gets serious and does the work of the country and her people instead of their own.

Cut their salaries and if and when they try to appeal healthcare reform, suspend their government tax supported health care benefit, too. They need to feel some of the pain the rest of the country is feeling.

Posted by: nana4 | November 29, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

It past time to freeze public workers who make more than the private section and have better benefits and work about 50% less than the private section....finally Obama does something the make good reason.

Posted by: tonyjm | November 29, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

If he was really serious about reducing the deficit, he would roll back the wages of his White House staff (highest in history) and eliminate his travel budget.

Posted by: wantingbalance | November 29, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Those receiving social security haven't gotten raises either ... so join the club. It would be a lot more painful if federal workers didn't have jobs at all.

Posted by: gitouttahere | November 29, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?ci) shows that total compensation costs for local and state government increased by higher percentages than private sector compensation through most of the last decade.

How does anyone square increasing the compensation of public employees at a faster pace than the people who are paying the taxes?

The Federal technicalities (pay bands, differences in job content, regional pay differences) are lost on an angry, economically dispossessed public outside the Beltway.

Posted by: Clear_Eye | November 29, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I take it one way - an all-out assault on American workers, specifically federal workers.

These people have been shortchanged before. Reagan made it a habit of insulting and assaulting them. His movement to downsize government while freezing salaries was in reality a privatizing at exorbitant costs government functions. He succeeded in making some of his business buddies richer but government grew under his assaults.

Boss Gingrich and his Contract On America followed Reagan's pattern, making right-wing business supporters even richer while making government much more expensive, inefficient and unmanageable.

The meat puppet known as 43 went a step further by staffing our government with most incompetent, unqualified ideologues not seen in western history since the French revolution, which led directly to Emperor Napoleon, possibly not since the egotistic Romans allowed the destruction of the western empire while occupied with their own infighting.

I don't see anything positive coming from this Reagan-era attack on federal workers. I see our government becoming even more dysfunctional, a goal long sought by generations of right-wingers.

Posted by: BigTrees | November 29, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

As long as that includes Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, go for it! Yep, that means you, too, Mr. Pres.

Posted by: ldgregg | November 29, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

According to the other article all the executive branch is affected, meaning Bush Biden and White House staff.

DOD is exempt but DOD civilians, that's support and intel, including folks who deploy to combat zones take a hit. FBI, CIA, EPA et al take a hit but Judges and postal workers are free and clear.

Posted by: shadow27 | November 29, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The entire private industry has accepted 'low' or 'no' wage increases during the past few years...The federal sector workforce has g-r-o-w-n in the past several years...Ezra, you're a really smart guy but this column is a too-perfect example of a opinion writer who has a "inside the beltway" disconnect!

Posted by: TruthHurts2 | November 29, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Man, I've been defending Obama from the left but this is weak sauce. I could possibly understand forcing federal workers to eat a pay freeze in the course of some rough negotiations, but this seems almost insulting. Future wages just thrown away for nothing. And of course many of these people are the ones IMPLEMENTING ALL OF OBAMA'S NEW LAWS, and making sure they don't just blow up in his face.

Again, I could deal with that if it were being traded away for a reason. But this is just flippant. It's a disrespectful middle finger to the people he's asking to implement healthcare and financial reform without wrecking the whole economy.

The thing is with federal wages, lower-skilled people probably ARE paid more (and at least get better benefits) than the market. But you've also got a ton of lawyers, scientists, managers, and other people with tons of experience and advanced degrees working at roughly half (or less) than what private firms pay (or would pay, if there were any damn jobs left in this country).

Note also that the federal government has been a big source of hiring for new grads entering a crappy economy. Every new grad is going to stagnate through his life just for graduating in this economy. But now all the ones that went Fed are going to stagnate even further. Some thanks for public service.

Posted by: NS12345 | November 29, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

A 4th way to look at this is: here is a way for Federal workers to take their fare share in this economic downturn. Wages at my company have been frozen since 1997 AND every employee took a 5% PAY CUT AND the company 401(k) matched was stopped. Others lost their jobs, others took pay cuts, and lost benefits. This pay freeze isn't as drastic as we non-federal workers have been feeling for years. It's unfortunate, but fair.

Posted by: LoveSnow | November 29, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

A 4th way to look at this is: here is a way for Federal workers to take their fair share in this economic downturn. Wages at my company have been frozen since 1997 AND every employee took a 5% PAY CUT AND the company 401(k) matched was stopped. Others lost their jobs, others took pay cuts, and lost benefits. This pay freeze isn't as drastic as we non-federal workers have been feeling for years. It's unfortunate, but fair.

Posted by: LoveSnow | November 29, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

There's a nice collective 'waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa' from the idiot lefties here.

Posted by: krazen1211 | November 29, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

As a Fed, I have no issues with the pay freeze. It's actually needed, and we should be willing to make the sacrifices needed to get the fiscal house in order.

But I have to correct a couple things: We don't get awesome pensions, and we pay for health insurance!!! Holy sh$t, the amount of disinformation in this forum is staggering! Anyone who started in the government after 1984 (which is a majority of the workforce) gets a small pension that is really meant to complement your 401k. And I pay a nice chunk of my health insurance every pay period. Granted, my employer probably pays for a bigger share than say a private employer would, but I still pay a decent amount nonetheless. That is the truth.

Posted by: ezcheese81 | November 29, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

When you consider that the heads of agencies earn about what the average dentist in this country makes, you understand that federal salaries are ridiculously low.

Posted by: millerroberta | November 29, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

How fantastic! Wall Street and the Fortune 500 just had the best financial quarter ever, record profits, cash spilling out of the pockets of the banksters, oil executives, and masters of outsourcing and offshoring.

Perfect time to again tell the public servant that they are not worth another dime as the gilded age dances on ahead, leaving the middle class including your VA nurse, your air traffic controller, and your poultry inspector to just "suck it up" and wait for a few gold coins to trickle down.

In fact, lets pay for more bigger better tax cuts for the suffering C-suite executives by slashing a few more federal workers, a few more social safety nets, and let the poor eat cake if they complain!

Posted by: RalfW | November 29, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

So who are all you people, and how did you get to this normally sleepy little town?

Posted by: 54465446 | November 29, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

So I worked in the private sector for 10 years, and went into government 2 years ago. I've got a pretty good idea as to how government employees are viewed in "the real world." It isn't pretty. I get it.

Let's say they do decide to fire all those "bloated inefficient government workers." OK. Let's say they fire 10% of the total Fed workforce. That means that the current reported 14.8 million unemployed would become 15 million, the unemployment rate goes up 0.5%, and all of those employees would be drawing unemployment benefits, taxing the states that are already under water who would get bailout money from... the Feds.

Meanwhile, the pay freeze is keeping $500 million out of local economies. Firing all those employees would keep out an additional $24 million (a very generous $120k at 200,000 fired workers), and drain unemployment from states as above.

The practical result is that the people that need services wouldn't get them and wouldn't understand why. See, you got rid of the dead weight, so things should be more responsive and smoother, right? Sadly, the answer is NO.

For one, you've just reduced the headcount by 10% but haven't changed the rules under which government employees have to operate. This isn't as simple as waiving a magic wand and making it so, either. Federal executive employees have jobs because they are executing laws of the United States as determined by Congress. Congress isn't about to waive the wand to make things less legally restrictive- they're lawyers!

The president -by the Constitution- "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

I'm not going anywhere. I love my job. I understand why people are upset. I'm willing to take cuts for my country. But the catharsis that's occurring against government employees is not new, not original, and not even close to a solution. Also, my co-workers? They also get it. We watch the same TV programs, read the same news, and listen to the same radio. We do what we do because we like doing it. If we didn't, we'd quit.

Do what you gotta do. We'll do the same. Best of luck to you and your future, whether you wish the same for me or not.


Posted by: dgw1091 | November 29, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

I am a federal employee with a doctorate and a masters in administration. I get paid about $116,000 a year plus benefits. I have been with the government seven years and during that time, I have turned down offers in the private sector primarily because of the security. Now, I need to reconsider that. This week, I was approached again by two private sector employers. With pay freezes, gridlock that prevents me from doing what I was hired to do, spiking insurance premiums, low morale, no Christmas parties, no bonuses and the the threat of furloughs, the last selling features of working for the government are gone--so hello $250,000 in the private sector:)

Posted by: Prosperity2008 | November 29, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Paying Fed workers less makes about as much sense as lowballing policemen and firemen. At its best, it leads to indifference and corruption. At its worst, the best and brightest will leave leaving a terrible situation in a time of crisis. Remember, the situation after Katrina?

Another way to look at it is--penny wise, pound foolish. A salry freeze will lead to a wave of retirements since part of a worker's pension is tied to his high 3 years of salary. This early retirement will force the Fed's to find senior people at great difficulty. It is not easy replacing someone with specialized skills and 25 years of experience. Anyone want to fly when the planes are guided by newbie air traffic controllers?

Posted by: akibono3 | November 29, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

The sad joke on the ignorant tax payer is that for every 1 FTE they can abolish...they are replaced by 2 MUCH higher priced Contractors (tax paid)!

Posted by: snowbucks | November 29, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

To all the gov't employee commenters: You have a job, stop whining.

Posted by: mhammel22 | November 29, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I'm a DoD Federal employ, retired military and many will probably flame me for being a double dipper but I have sacrificed plenty and would have done nothing else with my life even in a do over. But...... why punish the Govt worker, why not drop the AZ lawsuit and go after the leaches of our country the illegals, would save by many accounts over 100 million a year, AZ claims the illegals cost them 2.5 million a year which is more per year than not giving the Federal worker a raise and we work and pay taxes. Now before you get your panties in a bunch there is a big difference between some one wanting a better life and coming to the US legally as opposed to some one doing it illegally. We as a country should put the citizens of the US first, not the citizens of another country first. JMO

Posted by: LeeU1 | November 29, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

JournoLister Klein continues the Washingtopinion Compost directive of promoting the political ideology of its owners at the expense of even pretending to be a journalist. He has clearly taken a side in his "article" and presents his argument as an "us vs. them" confrontation.

Well, "them" won on the 2nd. You lost. Elections have consequences and you are about to experience them firsthand.

If you were part of the revolution on November 2, you are the resistance.

Posted by: Charley_XF | November 30, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse


You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price check http://ow.ly/3akSX .If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: robertjimeniz | November 30, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

What Klein fails to understand is that Big Government Democrats are not the whole party. Obama actually believes in less government than Klein. There is a perception that they are getting too much, and he's obviously reacting to that politically, but to look at it all in terms of Democrat/Republican is just so old school you'd think Klein was the second oldest person in DC.

Posted by: staticvars | November 30, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Oy. I guess we now know the audience that the WaPo hired Klein to write for.

A pay freeze is nothing. Whole agencies should be shuttered. Large bowls of alphabet soup should dumped in the sewer and written off.

But, of course, it won't happen, and the factionalization of the country will continue apace, with the civil sector increasingly at odds with the people they leech off, and the people they leech off increasingly angry at being taken for saps, until the whole thing blows up.

Every govbot thinks his or her special job is the necessary one, but they all come out of someone else's pocket, and they are all of them that much productivity and success sucked out of the economy.

Posted by: msoja | November 30, 2010 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Three contractors for every Federal employee. Yet their pay is unfrozen. It's unnecessary contracts, and poorly executed ones, that caused the deficit. Oh, that, and 2 wars, tax cuts for the rich, earmarks & pork, etc. Sure, there are lazy and ineffective workers in the Government, who need to be booted. Sure, unskilled Federal workers are the overpaid ones. But freezing pay to higher skilled workers seems unwise. You need that talent onboard.

Posted by: Client_9 | November 30, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I think the Republicans need to close the government again. I remember when the services were shut down it was quite a wakeup call on what citizens relied on Federal workers for. It was hard to maintain denial when the services were shut down and the checks were not getting printed. Sure helped Clinton. Hope the Republicans repeat that mistake.

Posted by: withersb | November 30, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

--*I remember when the services were shut down it was quite a wakeup call on what citizens relied on Federal workers for.*--

Unfortunately, sending people home from work doesn't magically abolish the monopoly on the various services the pols and bureaucracy have usurped over the years. But there is nothing the government does that the free market couldn't do better.

Posted by: msoja | November 30, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I don't care what the rest of you say. Obama will forever be my favorite conservative President.

Posted by: Kevin71707 | November 30, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The government workers are posting comments on another website stating that they will refuse to give to the CFC (government approved charities) this year as revenge. In my view the original 1.4% is such a small amount of money, hardly any kind of a raise and nothing to get excited about, however it's not fair to target those "overpaid, bloated pension government workers" that the GOP has succeeded in demonizing. Obama is not a democrat and what we have is another Reagan.

Posted by: ElizabethA1 | November 30, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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