"I did not reach this decision easily," Obama said. "This is not just a line item on a federal ledger. These are people's lives. They're doctors and nurses who care for our veterans; scientists who search for better treatments and cures; men and women who care for our national parks and secure our borders and our skies; Americans who see that the Social Security checks get out on time, who make sure that scholarships come through, who devote themselves to our safety. They're patriots who love their country and often make many sacrifices to serve their country.
"In these challenging times, we want the best and brightest to join and make a difference. But these are also times where all of us are called on to make some sacrifices. And I'm asking civil servants to do what they've always done -- play their part."
The move would hit more than 2 million people, including Stephen Whitmore, 59, of Newark, a disabled U.S. Coast Guard veteran who works on a military installation just north of Philadelphia. He was counting on that 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment. It's not a lot, he said -- maybe $1,500 -- but it would help offset increasing gas prices. A freeze would snuff out a step increase he is supposed to get in 2012, too, worth about $4,000 a year, and would affect all of his future income, he said.
"I think it sucks," Whitmore said. "The federal worker has always borne the brunt of this. I'm very disappointed. ... The tax cuts they're giving to millionaires and billionaires will be more money than they save with this. They're taking my COLA and giving it to millionaires."