The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

President Obama Is the Most Unlikely Mr. Freeze Since the California Governor


After a few days off for Thanksgiving and some Comcast-related abbreviations on Monday, the Morning Jolt is back and off to the editors, on your way to your e-mailbox. A sneak preview:

Obama Backs a Pay Freeze for Federal Workers? I Guess Hell Is Frozen, Too

It feels like anytime this president reduces spending, and is willing to cross federal unions in the process, we ought to be thankful: “President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits and appealed to Republicans to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health . . . The pay freeze Mr. Obama announced wiped out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise in 2011 for 2.1 million federal civilian employees, including those working at the Defense Department, and it would mean no raise in 2012. The freeze would not affect the nation’s uniformed military personnel, and civilian workers who are promoted would still receive the higher pay that comes with the higher grade or position. The move would save $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 and $5 billion by the end of two fiscal years. Over 10 years, it would save $60 billion, according to Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer.”

With unemployment remaining at 9.4 percent since May 2009, it was past due that federal workers share some of the pain of this recession. But this is pretty small potatoes in terms of deficit reduction, and all Obama is doing is signing on to one of the smallest of Republican proposals. (More on that below.) Finally, is eliminating a cost-of-living adjustment to federal salaries really what small-government conservatives want? Wouldn’t we prefer something a bit more focused, that hacked away on a larger scale on bureaucracies? Of all government spending, is the adjustment to federal salaries to keep up with inflation really what stirs the ire of fiscal conservatives? Isn’t it bigger-scale expenditures, like runaway entitlements, Obamacare, subsidies to industries that don’t need it, agencies that have outlasted their usefulness, bailouts upon bailouts, stimulus packages that don’t stimulate, etc.?

At the American Spectator, Phil Klein is thoroughly underwhelmed by the scale of the move: “Taking that number at face value, that would represent a sixth-tenths of one percent reduction in the projected $4.52 trillion deficit over that same period (2011 through 2015). It would be the equivalent of a person who expects to rack up $10,000 of of credit card debt over the next five years touting the fact that he’s found a way to reduce his expenses by $60 over that time period. In football terms, it would be like a kickoff return that gains about a half of a yard.” . . .

But Eric Cantor, among others, noted that Republicans had been calling for this move for months. It feels a bit cheap, for a GOP proposal to be outlandish and extreme one moment and the administration’s sensible compromise the next. And on that note, you have to wonder how Obama fans in the federal workforce feel at this moment. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post informs us, “The critics are the expected — mainly progressive economists and union officials. And in addition to condemning the president’s position on both policy and morality grounds, the question they’re asking in private is, what exactly did the White House get in return for the chip it gave away?”

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Cantor


Subscribe to National Review