Obama: ‘Challenging Times’ Require Federal Pay Freeze

November 29, 2010

(ChattahBox Political News)—Speaking with a newly-stitched lip as a result of a basketball mishap, President Obama joked that “Although Washington is supposed to be a town of sharp elbows it’s getting a little carried away.” But his injured lip is not interfering with his time on the basketball court, nor with his plans to cut the deficit. Obama announced that the pay of federal civil servants would be frozen for a period of two-years that would save $2 billion for the remaining fiscal year. The President, said “I did not reach this decision easily,” adding “these challenging times” require everyone to make a “broad sacrifice.” It’s of course, no accident that Obama announced his federal pay freeze plan the day before a bipartisan meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders to discuss compromises on the expiring Bush tax cuts, the ratification of the START treaty and other issues.

Although, the freezing of federal pay will barely make a dent in the ballooning deficit, it’s a start and it shows the American public, Obama, unlike the Republicans are willing to take reasonable steps to cut the budget, instead of slashing entitlement programs.

Peter Baker of The New York Times acknowledges the pay freeze is symbolic, but nevertheless helpful to Obama politically.

“The pay freeze will save $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in September 2011, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, according to Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer. That represents just a tiny dent in a $1.3 trillion annual deficit but it offers a symbolic gesture toward public anger over unemployment, the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt.”

Obama said he didn’t arrive at his “decision easily,” realizing civil servants are hard-working “patriots who love their country and often make many sacrifices to serve their country.”

The pay freeze will not apply to military workers. “This freeze does not apply to the men and women of our Armed Forces, who along with their families continue to bear enormous burdens with our nation at war,” said the President.

Obama challenged the Republicans to govern responsibly to find bipartisan solutions to cut the budget. “My hope is that, starting today, we can begin a bipartisan conversation about our future, because we face challenges that will require the cooperation of Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” he said.

“We’re going to have to set aside the politics of the moment to make progress for the long term,” added Obama.

Finally, Obama cautioned the Republicans not to mistake the November elections, as a mandate to return to the failed tax-cutting and deregulation policies of the Bush administration, saying “if there’s anything the American people said this month, it’s that they want their leaders to have one single focus: making sure their work is rewarded so that the American Dream remains within their reach. It would be unwise to assume they prefer one way of thinking over another.”

Still, as The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent noted, if Obama thinks his pay freeze will shame the Republicans into making key concessions on well, anything, think again.

“In purely political terms, this probably doesn’t hurt. If the goal is to signal that he “gets the message” on spending that the voters supposedly sent on election day, as the Beltway consensus has it, this is a relatively easy way to signal that he’s “listening.” But it’s hard to see how this increases leverage over the GOP in any meaningful sense.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and soon to be Majority Leader, released a statement congratulating Obama for implementing a Republican idea.

“In other words, Republicans are simply pointing to this as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script,” reasoned Sargent.

Photo Source: White House video


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