Is today’s announcement from President Obama calling for a two year freeze in the pay of federal employees an example of Triangulation, or is it simply what is necessary to reign in federal government employee salaries in these difficult economic times?
President Barack Obama on Monday called for freezing the pay of 2 million federal employees, saying the move is the first of many difficult decisions that must be made to slash the nation’s mounting deficits.
“The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government,” Obama said.
The two-year freeze would apply to all civilian federal employees, including those working at the Department of Defense, but would not affect military personnel. The freeze is expected to save more than $5 billion in savings over two years, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, White House officials said.
You may recall a post that Drae penned on OB&B in the days following the election that questioned whether or not Barack Obama had the political savvy that his Democrat predecessor Bill Clinton had in moving to the center following major mid-term election losses. With the timing of this news (four weeks post-election and after incoming house speaker John Boehner had already proposed an even more aggressive federal hiring freeze) it certainly appears as though it could be happening before our eyes.
Credit must be given to President Obama for this move, and in a rare display of bipartisanship Republican leaders have been very supportive of Obama’s plan. The President’s allies in Big Labor have not.
Labor leaders assailed Obama’s decision as bad for the economy and the middle class.
“We need to invest in creating jobs, not undermining the ones we have,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a statement.
John Gage, president of the 600,000-member American Federation of Government Employees, called the decision “a slap at working people.”
“Working people’s wages are not the issue with this deficit or what is going on in our country,” Gage said. “To symbolically hit at federal employees I think is just wrong.”
Gage said the White House was using federal workers as scapegoats for the nation’s deficit problems. He said the move would not really save as much as the White House claims because federal employees often get just a fraction of projected raises. Federal workers received a 1.9 percent pay increase this year.
At a time in which potentially unpopular solutions have to be adopted to reign in federal spending, Barack Obama’s announcement today is a welcome sign that the White House may be willing to work with House leaders -and that House leaders may be willing to listen. Though it is only a drop in the ocean that is federal spending and makes no real impact on its own it shows that the President is willing to at least come to the table in these discussions and is willing to risk upsetting some of the left’s biggest interest groups to do it. And if President Obama can take the lead role away from Republicans in the push for fiscal responsibility then we may be seeing an even more impressive display of triangulation and political dexterity than Bill Clinton in 1995.