In a move that appears to be his first post-election concession to Republicans, President Obama is set to announce a two-year freeze in civilian pay for federal workers — excluding military personnel — according to White House press release. The freeze will save $2 billion for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and $28 billion over the next five years. It will also require the approval of Congress.
In explaining its decision, the administration made sure to include an obligatory shot at the Bush administration, and went out of its way to insist that the move was in no way a post-shellacking readjustment of any kind:
Because of the irresponsibility of the past decade, the President inherited a $1.3 trillion projected deficit upon taking office and an economic crisis that threatened to put the nation into a second Great Depression. He moved quickly to get the economy moving again. Now, the economy is growing, and we have gained private sector jobs for the past 10 months. But families and businesses are still hurting, and our top priority is making sure that we are doing everything we can to help boost economic growth and spur job creation.
Now, we need to turn our attention to addressing the massive deficits we inherited and the unsustainable fiscal course that we are on. Doing so will take some very tough choices. Just as families and businesses around the nation have tightened their belts so must their government. That must be done in a targeted way that focuses our investments in what works and in what will lay the foundation for job creation and economic growth for years to come while cutting back elsewhere in our budget.
As far as commitments to addressing the budget deficit go, it’s half-hearted at best. Still, it’s a start. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients said the decision was “consistent” with actions the President has already taken to make government more efficient. Right. Zients declined to say whether the size of the federal workforce was being considered for a freeze or reduction, but that such considerations are being included in next year’s budget process.