Will Washington Ever Cut Spending?
Nearly every Democrat and too many Republicans cannot grasp a concept self-evident even to a Cuban Communist.


Deroy Murdock

Third, between December 2008 and December 2011, Washington-based executive-branch civilian employees grew from 345,326 to 368,706. This 6.8 percent expansion across Obama’s first three years is ripe for reduction, especially when we consider these feds’ paychecks. According to Bureau of Economic Analysis data analyzed by Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, federal civilian employees in 2011 averaged $128,226 in total compensation ($84,671 in wages and $43,555 in benefits). Private-sector workers, meanwhile, earned half that: $64,560 ($53,463 in wages and $11,099 in benefits).

This federal-wage advantage can be obscene. Despite taxpayer bailouts of $170 billion and counting, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives get paid as if the housing bubble they helped create still were expanding. Based on median-cash-compensation figures in a December 10 report by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, 825 directors at Fannie and Freddie last year made at least $205,300. Among the agencies’ vice presidents, 166 received a minimum of $388,000. Thirty-one senior vice presidents saw at least $723,500. And eleven executive vice-presidents scored $1,718,200 or more. And this is what these 1,033 feds took home after wrecking the housing sector!

“The federal workforce has become an elite island of secure and high-paid workers, separated from the ocean of average American workers competing in the global economy,” Edwards commented. “Federal wages should be frozen or cut, overly generous federal benefits should be overhauled, and the federal workforce downsized through program terminations and privatization.”

Fourth, rather than grant Obama’s wish to borrow whatever sum he desires, former Reagan Treasury official and Forbes columnist David Malpass would impose a hard ceiling to curtail spending. Today’s debt limit is no such barrier. Instead, it resembles an elevator’s digital indicator that cheerfully chirps past each floor as it zooms skyward.

“The current law doesn’t work because it threatens defaults and government shutdowns, but not spending cuts,” says Malpass, an economist at Encima Global in Manhattan. “Better would be a permanent debt-to-GDP limit that forces Washington to do what it is paid for — make true spending choices.”

Malpass explains further: “A new law would give the president extra authority to cut spending (e.g., impoundment authority or a fast-track process for entitlement reform), but then shove him in that direction. When the debt ceiling has been breached, this law would require that the president give monthly spending updates to the public — in person. It would prohibit all raises for government employees making over $100,000 annually and require lobbyists to file weekly disclosures of their contacts. It would defund congressional travel while over the debt ceiling. The idea is to make Washington wear a hair shirt that is so uncomfortable that federal officials actually cut spending.”

If Washington will not stop hiking spending, spending hikes will stop Washington. How sad that nearly every Democrat and too many Republicans cannot grasp a concept self-evident even to a Cuban Communist.

— Deroy Murdock is a New York–based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.