President Obama made a meaningless gesture in freezing the pay of federal workers. He talks about making sacrifices but manages to forget that government workers already make less than people in the private sector for comparable jobs.
He again falls into the trap of justifying a Republican talking point by doing the very thing people who despise him have been pushing. And, economically, he isn’t addressing the economic crisis with this move, since, as the New York Times says: the $5 billion to be saved over two years will barely dent a deficit that has exceeded $1 trillion for the past two years. And even those savings would be swamped by the multitrillion-dollar costs of the bigger issue dividing Mr. Obama and the Republicans — what parts of the Bush-era tax cuts to extend beyond their Dec. 31 expiration, and for how long.
Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank in Washington, says: In the context of the deficit, Obama will get chump change from freezing federal pay, and will only enlarge the degree to which federal pay lags that of the private sector (a gap of 22%, according to the federal pay agent’s report. …)
This is another example of the administration’s tendency to bargain with itself rather than Republicans, and in the process reinforces conservative myths, in this case the myth that federal workers are overpaid. Such a policy also ignores the fact that deficit reduction and loss of pay at a time when the unemployment rate remains above 9% will only weaken a too-weak recovery.
Obama’s tendency to compromise with Republicans without getting anything in return is getting tiresome. And with each failure in resolve, he ensures the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Paul Krugman, as usual, has the right take on this:
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.
We are overdue for a backbone transplant.