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Posted at 1:16 PM ET, 11/29/2010

Will pay freeze strengthen Obama's hand?

By Greg Sargent

The White House this morning announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian Federal workers, a move designed to signal concern about the deficit, and judging by Obama's remarks to reporters about the freeze, he seems to think it will strengthen his hand in coming negotiations with the GOP.

Indeed, it's hard to miss the timing here: He announced it one day before heading into his first high-profile meeting with Republicans tomorrow, to discuss whether to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. The two-year pay freeze would only make a tiny dent in the deficit, and as Peter Baker puts it, it's mainly a "symbolic gesture."

In remarks to reporters just now, Obama left little doubt that he views this move as a preemptive strike against Republicans in the war for the moral high ground over who really cares about the deficit. He called for the GOP to join him in "making sure that we're not dragged down on long term debt."

"This is a challenge that both parties have a responsibility to address: To get Federal spending under control, and bring down the deficits that have been growing for most of the last decade," Obama continued.

Even though the freeze is largely symbolic, Obama seems to think it's a way for him to say to Republicans: "I made a move to prove I'm serious about the deficit. Your move."

In purely political terms, this probably doesn't hurt. If the goal is to signal that he "gets the message" on spending that the voters supposedly sent on election day, as the Beltway consensus has it, this is a relatively easy way to signal that he's "listening." But it's hard to see how this increases leverage over the GOP in any meaningful sense.

Indeed, in a statement just now, Eric Cantor, the number two in the House GOP leadership, seized on the news as proof that Republicans, not Obama, are setting the governing agenda. Cantor said he was "encouraged" by Obama's proposal, noting that House Republicans had already "offered the very same spending-cut proposal on the floor of the House." Cantor continued:

"We are pleased that President Obama appears ready to join our efforts. As the recent election made clear, Americans are fed up with a government that spends too much, borrows too much and grows too much."

In other words, Republicans are simply pointing to this as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script.

By Greg Sargent  | November 29, 2010; 1:16 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, deficit, taxes  
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Comments

Sorry Greg, but you just don't get it: Obama makes a symbolic move, progs act like he's just given Hitler a pass. Try to not act like an emo progressive who would always be in a fight with the GOP that uninformed America would never re-elect, actually read Audacity of Hope and get the message he sent, and you'll be 1000% a better analyst for it.

Signed,

Someone who gets paid for their professional opinion.

Posted by: mediamaimonides | November 29, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Greg:

As Cantor correctly notes, this action feeds into the Con view that average Americans must bear the costs for the economy that the Rich wrecked through greed and gluttony. If Obama does not reject -- as in, threaten to veto -- further tax cuts for the Rich he is finished. For me at least.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Even if, say, freezing pay of federal workers polls particularly well (I haven't seen numbers one way or the other on this), Obama's never going to get any credit for taking this position (among the public or Republican leaders). The media will frame this as something Republican's have already proposed (thus they'll get as much if not more credit in the eyes of the public) and the Republican leadership will keep hitting Obama with the line that if he's serious about cutting the deficit, then he needs to take serious steps to do so(i.e. cut social security, medicaid, tax cuts, ending earmarks - regardless of how responsible these measures are at cutting the deficit). If anyone can find any legitimate political upside to this unilateral concession, I'd love to hear it because as far as I can see, the idea that he's somehow gaining the political high ground by doing this is completely nonsensical.

Posted by: pollibido | November 29, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, who needs Republicans. Obama protects the rich and punishes the working. The Republicans don't have to do anything at all, and aren't.

Posted by: Bullsmith1 | November 29, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

It is waaay too late in the day for symbolic gestures.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 29, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"The White House this morning announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian Federal workers."

Well, that really sucks for them. I went through my own pay freeze - but that was almost two years ago! Why has it taken the Fed govt so long to do what almost everyone else in private industry has already done? Right about now, things are supposed to be getting better for workers, not worse. I read something like this and I see incompetence: "What took you so darn long?"

Posted by: sbj3 | November 29, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"In other words, Republicans are simply pointing to this as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script."

Of course. Politically, what other response would you expect when your political opposition essentially does what you've been arguing for? "Finally, they understand we were right. We applaud their willingness to do the right thing and sign on to our policy ideas."

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Is this move even Constitutional ???

Can Obama do this on his own ???


Congress sets the pay of Federal workers -

Posted by: RainintheForest | November 29, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

If this was tied to something like extension of unemployment benefits I'd be happy about it. As a symbolic gesture it pretty much leaves me lukewarm at best. I've never seen someone so eager to put their cards face up on the table.

Posted by: lmsinca | November 29, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"In other words, Republicans are simply pointing to this as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script."

I don't know how the WH is going to play this tax cut negotiation.

But, I do know that it's not necessarily a bad thing for the WH to be interpreted as "following their script." With Cantor coming out with the statement he did, he may have taken the WH's bait.

Now, the WH can turn around and say: "Hey, since you guys are serious about cutting the deficit, and we are too, how are you gonna pay for those $700 billion tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? You know, that tax cut that even billionaires Warren Buffett, Ted Turner and Bill Gates don't want."

Republicans should be careful about their rhetoric. It could come back to bite them in the a** if the WH decides to take direct aim at Republicans' deficit hypocrisy.

Posted by: associate20 | November 29, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Typical lib misunderstanding. A freeze isn't a cut. You hear libs screeching in CA every time a freeze is made. They scream that it is a cut. Libs aren't too bright in the basic math dept.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 29, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

It is a symbolic act, but he got nothing in exchange. That is not a negotiation, ut a surrender.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | November 29, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: associate20: "You know, that tax cut that even billionaires Warren Buffett, Ted Turner and Bill Gates don't want."
-----------------------------------------
Really? So, if that were ACTUALLY the case and not, blatant lying, they've been cutting extra checks to the US Treas all those years.

What!? They haven't? Oh! They ARE liars. Well, people with IQs>50 already knew that. Others, well, they forward that objectively proven line of B.S.

LMAO @ gullible libs.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 29, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Obama cut some major programs??

A 3% increase is not going to hurt anyone - especially when the Fed is pumping all sorts of money into the system and slamming people with inflation.


Obama is pathetic.

Posted by: RainintheForest | November 29, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

illogicbuster

You need to keep up with the news from CA better than that. Just the week before last the SEIU agreed to a 4.62% pay cut plus 12 mandatory days off per year, basically institutionalizing furloughs. Also, all new hires are contributing another 3% to their pensions with the earliest retirement at age 60 from 55. We're nothing if not austere here in CA now.

Posted by: lmsinca | November 29, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"Will pay freeze strengthen Obama's hand?"

It isn't Obama's hands that are suspect, it's his guts.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time" - Harry S Truman

Posted by: jnc4p | November 29, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

From the DNC talking points accompanying the pay-freeze announcement:

"Just as American families and businesses have tightened their belts, so must the American government."

Here, I think, is an illustration of one of the few really credible progressive criticisms of the Obama admin. The talking points continue to push this zombie truthiness line about how govt spending should contract along with consumer spending. I think the admin thinks this is a harmless throw-away line that makes them appear to "get it" when in fact the real cost is a perpetuation in the popular perception that conservatives are right on economics.

Posted by: jbossch | November 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lmsinca - "You need to keep up with the news from CA better than that."
---------------------------------------
Actually, no. YOU need to see this years (and every year for the last 15) screeching by libs and Teachers Union over freeze suggestions and their blatant lies that they are proposed cuts. Apparently, you don't listen to the news in CA much...

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Obama can not freeze anyone's pay - it is Congress which sets the pay


This is just another example of Obama's ego - saying he is doing something when he really isn't.

.

Posted by: RainintheForest | November 29, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

@illogicbuster:

Perhaps, you should try to watch or read the news sometime? Or, maybe try a Google search.

You just might be surprised by what you find outside your bubble of "lib" bashing.

Posted by: associate20 | November 29, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Also, I predict the second part to this is Obama agreeing offset the cost of extending unemployment benefits, aka Senator Jim Bunning's original position.

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/03/02/republicans-urge-bunning-to-drop-unemployment-filibuster/

Posted by: jnc4p | November 29, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

And what, exactly is being "frozen"? is it all wage increases or just COLA's? How will Mr Trumka take this news? Will the boys at AFSCME be OK with this?

Given Obama's closeness with the American union movement I'm sure all of this was sold to the union fact cats well before it was announced. Obama has done little to lead folks to trust him and something like this seems shady.

All in all though, this is a decent start. Now let's reduce the size of the Federal Gummint's civilian work force. Hatch introduced legislation:
"In 2008, there were 1.2 million civilian workers. In 2010, that number jumps to 1.43 million federal workers."

that's just too many. If we make the benefits package more in line with the private employees who pay the taxes maybe some of the nipple suckers will quit and find real work.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 29, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Just another case of the President negotiating with himself. This won't help him with Republicans but will hurt him with Democrats. I just don't get what he is trying to achieve as this is an anti-stimulus move at a time when he should be finding more ways to get money into the economy or at least give the appearance that he is. Now if he rolls on the tax cuts, I'll seriously question which party he wants to identify with. It's just very discouraging.

Posted by: mikemfr | November 29, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"If we make the benefits package more in line with the private employees who pay the taxes maybe some of the nipple suckers will quit and find real work."

You really shouldn't speak that way about our military.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mark Kirk will be sworn in at 4:30 today -


There is a court-order in place to make sure that Harry Reid doesn't try to delay his swearing-in.

The two democrats elected this month have already been sworn-in. Those are Joe Manchin and the guy from Delaware who no one can remember his name - they remember Christine O'Donnell.


.

Posted by: RainintheForest | November 29, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

OT:

Ran across this on Ezra's blog. Isarithmic History of the Two-Party Presidential Vote. Very cool to watch.

http://vimeo.com/16732494

My conclusion: people who predict a permanent end to one party or the other are not likely to be correct. History would auger against that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 29, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Now if he rolls on the tax cuts," he will. He'd be fighting that battle now if he intended to fight it ever.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 29, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

"Now if he rolls on the tax cuts, I'll seriously question which party he wants to identify with.:

Personally, I've had enough. If Obama rolls on taxes -- and let's be clear that a "temporary" extension is capitulation -- then I will no longer support him. I won't vote for Obama again and I sincerely hope he gets a Liberal primary challenger, whom I will support wholeheartedly.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Sure, stick it to federal employees for what is an admitted drop in the bucket amount and is "largely symbolic".

Try building a few less bombs.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | November 29, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Personally, I've had enough. If Obama rolls on taxes -- and let's be clear that a "temporary" extension is capitulation -- then I will no longer support him."

Ditto for me. The tax cut issue is going to be the defining issue of his first term. If he caves, he will lose substantial support from his base. People like me will sit on their hands come next election day.

Posted by: filmnoia | November 29, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

filmnoia:

And before we start getting attacked by Democrats let me say this. I am very close to regretting my support for Obama. If McCain had won then the Cons couldn't pretend that Liberalism had anything to do with the nation's failures. Maybe it's going to take President Palin to wake the country up. So be it.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

@wb: "I am very close to regretting my support for Obama."

Who else would you have voted for?

Posted by: sbj3 | November 29, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

All, some really interesting new numbers on Don't Ask Don't Tell:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/only_conservative_republicans.html

Posted by: sargegreg | November 29, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"Who else would you have voted for?"

No one. Or Nader (I assume he ran again). Anyway it doesn't matter b/c the question is whether I will vote for Obama again.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

wbgone seems to have lost the grip on reading skills. Please note the prominent use of the word "civilian".

Bomb aren't made by federal workers. They are purchased from contractors. I played roller hockey with a bunch of electrical engineers who built cruise missles. Different group of fellows, no doubt about it!

But as I said, freezing some wage increases is a great start, now let's lay off a few hundred thousand civilian (see wbgone, out of respect for you I didn't write that all in caps!) employees, reduce some contracts and shut down some agencies.

I have plan. Let's take the letter tiles from a basic scrabble set. Let's place them in a bag (plum colored, in honor of the plum list of federal appointments) and select three or four at a time. I am confident that any three letters chosen at random would be those of some obscure federal agency. Let's shut it down. rinse and repeat.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 29, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"Bomb aren't made by federal workers. They are purchased from contractors"

With whose money are they purchased? Our tax money. Typical Con. Opposes government except for the parts of government he likes: bombs, war, and the military. Here's a history quiz, : what was the gravest danger feared by the Founders of our country? BZZZZ. Wrong! It was not providing health care to citizens. It was STANDING ARMIES. But just like Beck the Rodeo Clown, you only acknowledge those parts of the Constitution that you like. Just another Phony Con Man.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Interesting approach. As your inability to argue with facts or even accurately read the comments of others continues to raise questions, your nastiness increases. In other words, the weaker your position, the louder you shout it out.

Way to go.

I made a simple and easily understood assertion: America must reduce the size of its Federal civilain workforce. You want to argue about something I've never even mentioned. Beck? Really? Where the f word did I mention him? Oh that's right, I didn't. you did. I doubt that you have any idea what you're talking about at this point. It seems that you are just looking for a fight and have decided to fight with yourself.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 29, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'll be curious to see if the House, in the next session of Congress, votes to freeze pay increases for all members and their staffs, as well as freeze pay for the judiciary (including the Supreme Court).
Somehow I doubt it.

Posted by: dbitt | November 29, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

How about "Reducing" federal pay? Private industry has had to take 20% pay cuts the past 3 YEARS to keep their jobs!
And many of us don't even have health insurance through our employer, or any pension either.
Federal employeee's pay is approx. 40% higher than private industry, and that doesn't even include their health benefits and pension!
Obama, this move is too little, too late.

Posted by: ohioan | November 29, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

One thing is clear: No matter what the president does the neocon whackos will find a way to have an issue with it and spread their malicious idiocy of self-contradiction. Scanning the news on this item you get:

A) Conservatives in one hand: We thought it FIRST!!
B) Conservatives on the other hand: Too little too late!!!
C Conservatives in lala land: That is a horrible idea!!

So basically, damn if you do, damn i you don't, damn if EVERYTHING!!!!

American Exceptionalism: Exceptionally malcontent whiners!!

Posted by: Mighty7 | November 29, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"And many of us don't even have health insurance through our employer, or any pension either."

If you supported Liberalism you wouldn't have to worry about health care or retirement. Let's see how much the Cons help you out. BTW: Other people's suffering does NOT make you feel better.

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

skippy:

You said that you said this:

"I made a simple and easily understood assertion: America must reduce the size of its Federal civilain workforce."

But you actually said this:

"If we make the benefits package more in line with the private employees who pay the taxes maybe some of the nipple suckers will quit and find real work."

Are they the same? I report. You decide.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I would remind mediamaimonides that, like his insipid post at Daily Kos, wanting your president to live up to his campaign promises is NOT being an "emo progressive."

Nearly 2 years later...

End to DADT? Where is it?
Closing Gitmo? When?
Public Option Health Care? What happened?
Real Wall Street Reform? Not happening.

Compromise isn't compromise when you give the other side everything they want and get nothing in return.

Now, Obama infuriates his base with a pay freeze that will save, what, $60 billion while the GOP struggles for a continued tax cut that will cost $700 billion. And the GOP says the pay freeze "is a good start" but it's meaningless without a hiring freeze?

What's the "over/under" on the day that Obama caves on THAT?

What happened to the progressive I voted for? The progressive I stood up in front of the TV for, holding hands with my wife when he was sworn in?

It's not just his fault, but the fault of EVERY spineless Democrat who rolls over on his back and urinates in terror when a Republican walks by.

If Obama can't be the progressive president I want and this country needs, perhaps he needs to face a progressive challenger in the primaries.

A country extreme enough to elect a Ronald Reagan can also be extreme enough to elect a Russ Feingold.

Posted by: ParkyBill | November 29, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: ParkyBill | November 29, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Great post. I am in the same boat as you.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 29, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Try to not act like an emo progressive who would always be in a fight with the GOP that uninformed America would never re-elect, actually read Audacity of Hope and get the message he sent, and you'll be 1000% a better analyst for it.

Signed,

Someone who gets paid for their professional opinion.

===============================

Hopefully someone gets paid to edit your stuff, too, because your babbling is incomprehensible.

Posted by: ibc0 | November 30, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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