He added that since small businesses and families were tightening their belts, that the government should follow suit.
If approved by Congress, the freeze would stop a proposed 1.4 percent pay raise scheduled to begin in 2011 for all civilian federal government workers. However, it wouldn’t affect members of the armed forces. Congressional workers and Congress members already voted to freeze their own pay in April.
Monday’s declaration goes along with the budget proposal already put out by the president’s bipartisan deficit commission previously this month. That particular proposition also suggested a three-year freeze and would have included non-combat pay for armed forces members.
Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the commission, said that he thought it was the right thing to do because people are no longer in denial that there is a huge debt problem. He added that the federal government is now aware that it has to make plans such as these in order to lower the deficit or else face a one of the most predictable financial crisis in history.
If passed, the freeze would go into affect Jan. 1 and save $2 billion over the course of the current fiscal year, and another $28 billion in additional savings during the next five years. The figures seem tiny if you compare them to the amount of the national budget deficit, which was over $1 trillion in 2009.
The American Federation of Government Employees responded by saying that a freeze on federal employee pay would save only a tiny amount under the best of circumstances and that now isn’t the time to make scapegoats of federal employees.
They concluded their disagreement with the proposal by saying that the American public didn’t vote to hurt a VA (Veterans Affairs) nursing assistant who is only making $28,000 a year or a border patrol agent making only $34,000 a year.
Alan Simpson, Deficit commission co-chair, said that a small amount of savings adds up in the long term and there are more things expected to come in the future. He explained, “Everyone will be taking a chop and no stone will be left unturned.
On a more personal level, Obama agreed that the pay freeze would cause issues for employees, saying that he understood that it wasn’t just a “line item on a federal ledger, “ but was indeed, “people’s lives” that were being affected.
The president’s declaration came as a form of preempting a plan proposed by the congressional Republicans, who had planned to chop federal pay, as well as the amount of workers, in 2011. Republicans have tried to enforce a pay freeze before.
Only recently, Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) insisted that some federal employees earn $120,000, which is twice the average pay of a private sector worker. The stated $100 grand figure seems to be an exaggeration, but a few experts still say that the average federal worker is overpaid.
Two important House of Representative members spoke in praise of the proposed pay freeze, and said the President should keep going and impose more ways to curb the federal deficit.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) said that he felt a pay freeze for government workers was both needed and extremely overdue.
The Current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has a lot of federal employees, said instituting a pay freeze on government workers wouldn’t solve the deficit unless a similar freeze was made on the pay of some military personnel.
He said he felt such as move would provide much more savings if it were shared by both military and civilian personnel. He would have agreed to leave out any military or civil servant employees who were working in areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and or anywhere else where they would be working in harm’s way.
Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, said he felt the freeze on pay was more representative instead of having much substance.
He added that with all the expected cuts still to come, the President was forced into making a cut in federal salaries.
Zandi said that spending cuts were going to happen and that programs such as social security and Medicare have to be scaled back, along with tax increases being imposed. He suggested that over the next few years there would be “a lot of financial pain,” and he didn’t think Obama could ask the American people to go through monetary hardship and not ask government workers to do the same thing.
This isn’t the first incident in which Pesident Obama has centered on federal pay to emphasize a political point since he has already frozen the pay his senior staff receives when he first took office. In 2010, he included senior political appointees in that freeze and took away bonuses.
The expected pay freeze would include more than two million federal civilian workers. The majority of professionals concur that lower-skilled government workers are overpaid. But, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the assortment of federal government jobs is heavy in professional level jobs. These types of jobs, such as physicians, scientists and other technological jobs, earn less money than their peers who work in the private sector. It’s already hard for the government to get the best candidates for some areas of work. The National Federation of Federal Employees reported that they believe the proposed freeze on pay will cause the federal government to be even less competitive.
The union group put out a statement that stated the proposal could make the government have a harder time recruiting and keeping the most talented employees at the federal agencies that keep our borders safe, take care of our veterans, and support our military forces around the world.
Obama agreed that the proposal could cause challenges for future recruitment due to Monday’s announcement, but insisted that such sacrifices were needed.
He said that during these demanding times we desire the topmost and best people to unite and make a difference, but that nowadays there were times when everyone was being called upon to incur some sacrifices and that he was asking federal employees to do the things they have always done to do their part.