WASHINGTON - President Obama’s deficit commission plan would have a devastating impact on the federal work force and on federal programs that Americans count on each and every day, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.
The recommendations, issued today by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, would freeze federal wages for three years, slash the size of the federal work force by 200,000 jobs, cap discretionary spending through 2020 and create a task force to consider major reductions to civil service and military retirement programs. The commission also proposes turning the federal employee health insurance program into a voucher program that would shift more of the cost for health insurance onto federal employees and retirees and serve as a model for doing the same thing to Medicare.
“Rather than rely on the experience and knowledge of federal employees to recommend ways to save money, the deficit commission decided to treat federal employees as the problem and one of the main causes of the massive deficit,” American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage said. “If these recommendations are enacted, it’ll be a race to the bottom for the federal work force and American taxpayers will be the ones who will ultimately suffer.”
The commission also proposes slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits that working-class Americans rely on to make ends meet, while retaining the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.
“This misguided plan would do little to address our nation’s real financial problems, but it would have a devastating impact on millions of hard-working men and women,” Gage said. “Congress should consider this plan dead on arrival.”
Even though mandatory spending accounts for more than 60 percent of the federal budget, three-fourths of the savings proposed by the deficit commission would come from slashing discretionary spending. Everything from veterans care and homeland security to law enforcement and public health programs would have to undergo drastic cuts to meet the arbitrary budget reduction targets proposed by the commission.
The commission also recommends slashing the federal work force by 10 percent – roughly 200,000 jobs – by hiring only two new workers for every three that leave. Although the commission says that these cuts should be accomplished without risking a decline in essential government services, it’s foolhardy to believe that services won’t suffer as scores of jobs go unfilled.
What’s more, agencies no doubt will turn to costly and unaccountable private contractors to take up the slack – largely undoing any spending reductions from the federal employee cuts. The plan released Dec. 1 deleted proposals in an earlier draft that would have eliminated 250,000 non-Defense contractor positions and cut Defense service contracting positions by 4 percent.