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Posted at 2:34 PM ET, 02/28/2011

No, Obama isn't calling for a three-year pay freeze

By Ed O'Keefe

Federal workers, have no fear: President Obama is not calling for a three-year pay freeze, as some feared over the weekend.

Close listeners to Obama's weekend radio and Internet address contacted The Federal Eye on Monday morning after hearing him reference three years of pay freezes.

During his address, Obama said he's asking Congress for a five-year freeze on domestic spending. "Putting this budget freeze in place will require tough choices," he said. "That's why I've frozen salaries for hard-working civil servants for three years, and proposed cutting programs I care about deeply, like community-action programs in low-income neighborhoods."

Wait, three years? Doesn't he mean just a two-year freeze -- as he announced in November?

In his address, Obama was referring to his decision to freeze the salaries of all senior White House officials when he took office in 2009, according to senior administration officials. Since then, he's also signed legislation freezing federal civilian employee salaries for fiscal 2011 and 2012. So he's frozen at least some government salaries for a total of three years -- but has no plans to freeze rank-and-file pay for a third year, aides said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 28, 2011; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

Freezing salaries for "hard-working civil servants" is one thing, but what about "civil servants" who are not hard-working?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 28, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for any confusion...he is only reading what the TelePrompTer scrolls.

Posted by: richardcoreno | March 1, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

In his effort to appear as if he is dealing with the deficit he conveniently used the "3 year freeze" since it sounds better than 2 years. The fact that the 3 years only applies to a few senior WH officials is token and a clarification that very few will be aware of by design.

Posted by: MSoftail | March 1, 2011 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Freezing salaries is NOT freezing pay. They still get automatic step increases every few years - for what? For sitting at their desks. Bonuses are also not frozen. Let's TOTALLY freeze pay and ELIMINATE automatic step increases.

Posted by: thinkingmom | March 1, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

The lack of thoughtfulness in the snarky comments attacking Government workers is overwhelming. Shouldn't we be focusing for ways to develop well-paying jobs in the private sector rather than throwing around unsupported universal criticism of the Federal workforce. Bashing other middle class workers for earning an honest wage is not going to make your situation any better. We're all in this together, so lets try to move forward together rather than making sure no one has anything.

Posted by: davidhturner | March 1, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Isn't he wonderful?

What a (another) farce by this inpet and incompetent moron. All this freeze talk, and after increasing it by 84%, now he talks about freezing pay. Oh, and let's not forget about the debt....increased by these incompetents (all of them - mostly liberal morons) over $5.2T in the last four years....more than all administrations since our founding. anyone that wants to dispute this and wants to blame Bush (the liberal mantra) needs a refresher course in 3rd grade civics...

Our country is becoming a pathetic joke.

Posted by: cstrasburger | March 1, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

A three year freeze on federal salaries would merely move the compensation closer to that in the private and state sectors. When John Carlin was governor of Kansas he did a similar freeze--and state salaries were not higher than comparables. The federal government cannot afford to have the best paid employees for jobs with less responsibility than similar jobs in the private and state/local sectors. The problem is that the federal government has taken on a role of providing highly compensated employment which was not a governmental function the last time I perused the Constitution.

Posted by: JarlWolf | March 1, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Obama twists everything and we should be used to it by now. NOBODY ever attacked "hard working civil servants" so don't get your shorts in a wad. The only thing that the Wisconsin governor is against is collective bargaining for state employees (federal employees don't have that and shouldn't) He, Obama, is twisting the issue to fire you (those who don't understand the facts) up! When did anyone "denigrate" public employees? Never, so relax folks and listen to the debate.

Posted by: sully64 | March 1, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Thank you @davidturner. Since Wall Street got back on track everyone forgot they were the ones who cause this mess and continue to rake in billions. Meanwhile they've managed to demonize federal workers. Hey if Congress is so bent on saving money, why aren't they taking a pay cut or freeze? Or is this the old "whats good for the goose ain't good for me" theory. Federal workers should all just stop working and let's see what you ppl get accomplished in the mean time since we don't work hard.

Posted by: mpshannon1 | March 1, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Please!

I bet a lot of people that comment in here worked for a government contractor.

You can demonize federal workers if you want but we did not make country debt problem.

Posted by: shamken | March 1, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Two years...three years...what does it matter.

Obama changes his story to suit his audience...As someone else pointed out...if it is on the teleprompter..it is his avowed policy.

He is totally clueless as he is led by the nose by Progressive Liberals to institute their policies.

Posted by: ferrylas | March 1, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

It is mostly well known that the majority of Civilian Federal workers are Highly Educated/Trained individuals that are also Required to have Educational Hours yearly as well. We cannot just sit back and comfortably collect a pay check without keeping ourselves up to date in our fields. Why shouldn't we be compensated for our knowledge/education/experience etc? Those that are jealous - go back to school and then apply for a new job - with the Federal Government if you so qualify!

Posted by: pattollie | March 1, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

It's not a big surprise that Sully64 doesn't know that Federal workers DO have collective bargaining rights and have for decades. Interestingly enough, those who side with the anti-union mantra, have little knowledge of how things work. Fed unions (all unions), when engaged, can provide the government bureaucracy with the skill sets needed to save tax payers big $$$ by bringing common sense to the table. I suspect WI will miss that in all of the hyperbole.

Posted by: fedworker21 | March 1, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

"A three year freeze on federal salaries would merely move the compensation closer to that in the private and state sectors.... The federal government cannot afford to have the best paid employees for jobs with less responsibility than similar jobs in the private and state/local sectors."

Sigh... How many times do we have to correct this falsehood?

Look, if you compare apples-to-apples, in terms of education levels and experience (i.e., stop comparing Ph.D.s with decades of experience to entry-level fast food employees), federal employees make LESS than their private sector counterparts. I took a substantial pay cut when I left the private sector, and I actually have more responsibility now. I am good at what I do, and I can and do go toe-to-toe with people in the private sector who make a lot more than I do.

And some of my benefits are actually less generous than they were in the private sector, so don't bother with that argument. Specifically, I pay quite a bit more now in health care premiums, for a plan that actually covers less. Retirement is probably about comparable, since the FERS pension is something I didn't have before, but the TSP match is much lower than my private-sector 401(k) match was. (I don't know whether this is typical; I know that government benefits are considered to be pretty good, so it's possible that private employers in my particular field are unusual in this regard.)

Posted by: Janine1 | March 1, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Bob Herbert has a good column in the NY Times today about the need for middle class workers in America to organize, whether through unions or otherwise, or we won't have a voice. Federal workers, in general, do not earn more than equally qualified private sector workers. In many fields, they earn significantly less. They generally do not get significant bonuses, and they pay substantially into their health care and retirement plans. However, I never hear Federal workers suggesting that private sector workers should have their pay reduced to the level of Federal Worker compensation. Rather, they would like to be compensated at the higher level of their private sector counterparts. Shouldn't the highest common denominator rather than the lowest be our goal?

Posted by: davidhturner | March 1, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh,"he" means two not three...sure, just as "he" meant closed, behind locked doors when he said open governing. Seems strange "he" freezes pay, when Congress writes the checks! If "he" had not led the pillaging of the U.S. Treasury to bail out industry and feather some union beds, then WE would not have a nation breaking debt load and would not need to take pennies from all the kiddies weekly salary for the next two hundred years to pay our way out of hock!

Posted by: JonzVu | March 1, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"If 'he' had not led the pillaging of the U.S. Treasury to bail out industry and feather some union beds, then WE would not have a nation breaking debt load and would not need to take pennies from all the kiddies weekly salary for the next two hundred years to pay our way out of hock!"

Really? Maybe you need to be reminded of a few things.

1. Most of the "bailouts," including TARP, were put into place under the Bush administration. (And yes, Obama continued those policies, which pretty much all economists agree kept us out of an actual depression. And most of the TARP funds were repaid.)
2. In 2001, Bush pushed for huge tax cuts because Clinton left projected budget surpluses and Bush said that taxpayers should get our money back. (And yes, Obama recently compromised with the Republicans to extand all of those tax cuts, despite the fact that we have long been back to running deficits.)
3. Bush started two very expensive wars, one of which was elective, and both of which he generally kept out of the official budget, making the official deficit look much smaller than it actually was, while adding hundreds of billions to the national debt. (And yes, Obama has so far continued both wars, though he does include the costs in the budget.)

So, you were saying?

Posted by: Janine1 | March 1, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

does anyone on here realize that government worker does not mean they all work for the federal government. There are city governments, state governments, and federal government. The Obama administration can only regulate federal government!

Most of you do not have a clue!

Posted by: fizzypuddin | March 1, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As a federal worker in a certain agency, there are those that have little or nothing to do and those that are overworked. This is a time for agencies pay attention to their mandate. Cut waste and reallocate to critical mission areas. Start with bloated middle and top heavy management structures.

Posted by: otis1 | March 1, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@ janine - you seem to have plenty of weekday free time to post messages *insisting* that you work hard and yet earn less than others in private employment. Including your prior position.
Glad you have lots of time on your hands to make this point. lol.
If the private sector was so more more lucrative for you, maybe head back that way?
The dozens of examples of fed. gov. bloat (see this week's GAO report about "billions" wasted on duplicate efforts by feds building little (or big) empires to run) belie your statement.
Anyone who has dealt with the every-other-Friday off offices, the "I'll get to it tomorrow" and the rows of cubes filled with Dilberts knows the score on fed pay.
No doubt a small number of people, like lawyers and doctors, could command more in the real world. (Well, so they say. Every bell curve has a left-hand side...)
But the platoons of 'budget analysts' and 'program managers' I have seen are comically cosseted in jobs that do not even exist in the real world. To say nothing of the admins - I see universities that have done away with admin support almost entirely.
The feather-bedding, lite work sked and inefficient process of fed depts. is well-known.
You can be defensive and cite skewed stats. The odd nature of the fed job categorization makes them moot. They pay p.r. people $110k - with five years experience. Try finding that in the real world. Admins getting high $40s - are you s----ing me?
Good luck with the job hunt. I would toast your departure and welcome you to the real world where we have to prove our value week by week, and are happy to do so.

Posted by: FloridaChick | March 1, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

FloridaChick: you make some valid points, but who are you to make such categorical and unqualified generalizations about the federal workforce? Please bear in mind that when you do, you insult and betray the hard work of thousands of civilians who spend months if not years working their tails off in combat theatre ops to support our military (who also happen to be federal employees), CONUS and OCONUS.

I'm lucky and proud to say that my work and the work of my colleagues matters to very important people, on a daily basis. Some of us prove our worth by the minute, and spend long days in the wringer, with stress levels I never saw in my private industry career. Failure to get the job done, sometimes, results in consequences far more dire than losing our jobs. And while many feds do not in fact know what it's like to sleep under a helicopter at night with nothing but a sidearm and a piece of chickenplate armor in the name of collecting combat load data so that we can develop better aids to human performance on the battlefield, my guess is you don't either. Please consider that all professions and industries contain a contingent of people who aren't worth their paychecks, yours included. As a corollary, it's also worth considering that some of us really aren't wastes of biomass. Lo and behold, we might even be doing more than you and are pretty darned happy to do it. :)

I have no idea what you do for a living, but I suggest you revisit your attitude of blanket condemnation of federal employees. Some sacrifice in ways that very few do in the outside world.

Posted by: DoDfed | March 1, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama has surpassed Bill Clinton as the parser in chief.

Posted by: 4noone | March 1, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Three year pay freeze on federal civil servents? What about the multi-year benefit freeze that has already been dropped upon the not forgotten, but IGNORED fixed income poor. While gas prices have skyrocketed and expenses have greatly increased for us, the federal government has once or twice given us a pittance and THIS year given us nothing at all. All the while this has been going on, both major political parties have subjected US to bashing, all the while giving major tax breaks for the wealthy. WE catch the hell and get blamed for the national debt when our portion is a mere pittance. The republicans ranted heavily about 'death panels' when the subject was healthcare. Now they and every other political party is wishing us starved to death. This coming from just another of the 'ignored fixed income poor' who will probably either be further ignored or bashed here.

Posted by: dlsoops | March 1, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Since the Republicans are pushing for pay freezes, are they going to freeze their pay. They say that the American people should spend more money to stimulate the economy. Where are we going to get the money? Our homes are being foreclosed and our elected officials won't lift a finger to help us.

Posted by: rparker7317 | March 2, 2011 4:17 AM | Report abuse

Since the Republicans are pushing for pay freezes, are they going to freeze their pay. They say that the American people should spend more money to stimulate the economy. Where are we going to get the money? Our homes are being foreclosed and our elected officials won't lift a finger to help us.

Posted by: rparker7317 | March 2, 2011 4:18 AM | Report abuse

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