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Federal Pay Freeze a Drop in the Bucket   November 29th, 2010
We need another 216 drops in that bucket       

 
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President Obama announced a 2-year pay freeze for federal workers today. While this certainly makes sense in an economy with very little wage growth, it's a bust when it comes to addressing the deficit: it'll take about 216 more steps of this size to resolve the federal deficit.

President Obama will announce a two-year freeze in the wages of federal employees Monday, with the intention of saving $60 billion over the next 10 years.


This is good, as far as it goes. After all, before making painful choices it only makes sense to do the obvious things. The problem is that this is the symbolic "low hanging fruit." It doesn't make a serious difference in the deficit, but the low hanging fruit is easy to grab, so why not grab it and make some headlines?

Freezing federal pay at a time when so many people's pay has effectively been frozen is just common sense. But it's little more than a drop in the deficit bucket. The deficit is currently about $1300 billion a year. This will save $6 billion a year, so that leaves only $1294 to go.

This may make some people feel good by "sticking it to" federal employees, it makes headlines, and some will claim it shows that they're serious about reducing the deficit. But as far as attacking the deficit goes, this is nothing. The $6 billion/year saved by freezing these wages is less than the amount of money the Federal Reserve is currently printing from Monday through Wednesday.

It's not that the wage freeze is bad. It's not. It's just that this is nothing more than a blip on the spending radar. Now that federal wages have been frozen, our elected officials are going to have to get serious about making the tough, painful decisions.

Freezing federal pay doesn't count as pain, and it doesn't count as a tough decision.

If this is the opening salvo in an attempt to reduce the deficit, that's great. But if this is promoted as some kind of major accomplishment or as a serious effort at deficit reduction, it will not bode well for the prospects of our elected officials making the difficult decisions necessary to solve our spending problems.

It's time to get serious about deficit reduction. And this doesn't qualify as "serious." This qualifies as window dressing.

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