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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Step in the Right Direction

Showing some semblance of sense, President Obama proposed a two-year freeze on salaries for most federal workers yesterday. (Excluding those in the military, who account for roughly half the workforce.) This cancels their scheduled 1.4% pay increase in 2011.

As Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute noted in February, "private-sector employment [has fallen] sharply in the last two years, [while] the public-sector, civilian workforce continued growing until mid-2008. It has since remained essentially flat. As a result, while private-employment rolls are nearly 7 percent smaller than they were three years ago, public-employment rolls have grown by nearly 2 percent.[1] (Approximately 17 percent of U.S. civilian employment is in the public sector.)"

Barro updated his critique in light of Obama's recent announcement. The President's solution is a step in the right direction, but "federal workers only account for about 10 percent of the public sector civilian workforce. The real battle is going to be at the state and local level." When one looks at the backlash against leaders like NJ Gov. Chris Christie, who have cut state and local budgets, it's quite evident that it will be a heated battle.

Hopefully, though, measures like this will restore the title 'civil servant' - someone who sacrifices a very competitive salary for job security (as they used to) - for those who work on behalf of our tax dollars.


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  1. Here in CA, bankruptcy is the only way we can break the stranglehold the public sector unions have on state expenditures. Gov. Brown will have no other option. I expect NY, IL and others may follow suit.

  2. The "backlash" against Christie was largely led by the teachers' union, and it was ultimately unsuccessful because a majority of voters supported him.

  3. @ Rich B, You make a good point, but many homeowners were angered to see budget cuts for schools, development projects, etc as well.

  4. Kathleen, I'll bet most of those protesting homeowners are also union members or related to one. The unions have grown too big to defeat at the ballot box.

    That's why state bankruptcies will be the only way out. Here in CA, the public union employees are too numerous to win at the ballot box and there just isn't enough money to meet their demands. Bankruptcy will force the issue into court where the union contracts will be tossed.

    Then there is the broad-based denial about our own sense of entitlement to our own welfare payments. Most voters refuse to accept that most everyone is on the gravy train. Just bring up eliminating the useless mortgage interest deduction or raising the minimum age for claiming full social security benefits and see how far you get. Conservatives are no better than liberals. Everyone's attitude is: "Eliminate my neighbor's fraudulent and wasteful handout but leave mine alone". If we leave it up to the voters, we will never solve anything. State bankruptcies may be messy but we are leaving ourselves no other option.

  5. The salary cuts are crap. Plain and simple. Obama just enacted huge raises in the Federal salaries. Now he says no 4% raise and we're all supposed to stand and cheer?

  6. As a public employee (county) I guess a lot of things depend on the locality.

    There's been no cola increase in my county for 3 years (our contract was up and I lobbied everyone I could talk to to turn down the cola and extend the contract another 3 years ... we won our vote by a mere 129 votes out of a few thousand!). We've lost by employees via retirement and attrition and now I supervise almost 3 times as many people as I did over 3 different locals (rather than just 1) and I haven't had one bit of raise in over 3 years.

    Personally, I think Moonbeam Brown;s first time around screwed the state by allowing public employee unions. The powerful unions in CA are the Prison Guards and Teachers.

  7. We have seen all this before. Obama is following Bob Rae's play book. The stimulus and now the federal wage freezes are the same.

    Obama: America's version of Bob Rae