Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If unions can't support a pay freeze, is there any budget-cutting that they would support?

President Obama changed course on the idea of a federal pay freeze and adopted a proposal put forth by Republicans months ago. Eric Cantor had proposed the pay freeze as part of the YouCut proposals on how to cut federal spending. Democrats had reflexively opposed the idea when it was put forth by a Republican, but things will be different now that Obama is proposing it. It is delicious to remember this bit of arrogance from Obama last year.
The common ground found by Obama and Cantor -- whether by coincidence or intention -- also speaks to the changing roles in their animus-filled relationship.

During a White House summit in 2009, Obama said he would "keep on talking to Eric Cantor. Someday, sooner or later, he's going to say, 'Boy, Obama had a good idea.'"

Now, it's Obama's team that is leaning toward Cantor's way of thinking -- at least on the federal pay freeze.
But the usual suspects are out there to oppose even this common-sense idea to freeze federal workers' salaries while employees across the country are worried not about pay freezes, but about keeping their jobs.
Federal employee union leaders said the president was playing politics with worker paychecks.

“If it’s not public relations or political, you tell me what it is,” said John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees union. “This decision was made because they are panicked. The deficit commission report is coming and everyone expects there will be draconian cuts in there. They wanted to get on the bandwagon.”

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) offered the faintest praise for Obama’s idea, saying he would “review” the proposal but avoiding a pledge to take it up in the lame-duck session. He also said including the military in the pay freeze would have increased savings and added “an element of fairness.”

Three liberal advocacy groups blasted a pay freeze as damaging to the economic recovery. John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute, Tamara Draut of Demos and Greg Anrig of The Century Foundation said it was a mistake to freeze pay until the economic recovery takes hold more firmly.

Gage said it was bad politics on Obama’s part to cave to Republican demands off the bat since Boehner would likely come back with a more draconian proposal, such as a five-year pay freeze. He added that the Republican proposal for a net hiring freeze would jeopardize critical programs.
Gage continued his strange perception of the pay situation of federal employees.
American Federation of Public Employees President John Gage yesterday derided President Obama's federal pay freeze as a "slap at working people."
Oh, please. As the WSJ points out, federal employees have been doing quite well in recent years.
federal employment has grown by a remarkable 17% since 2007 to an estimated 2.1 million nonmilitary full-time workers (excluding 600,000 postal workers). This is the largest federal work force since 1992, when civilian employment at the Pentagon began to shrink rapidly after the Cold War.

These federal employees operate in a pay-and-benefit universe that no longer exists in the private economy. According to recent analyses by USA Today, total compensation for federal workers has risen 37% over 10 years—after inflation—compared to 8.8% for private workers. Federal workers earned average compensation of $123,000 in 2009, double the private average of $61,000. Unions like to argue that federal jobs are unique, yet in occupations that exist both in government and the private economy—nurses, surveyors, janitors, cooks—the federal government pays 20% more than private firms.
If freezing pay that has risen substantially in recent years is a "slap at working people" in the view of a union official, it is clear that the unions will never, ever accept any of the necessary budget-cutting that needs to be done. The pay freeze will save a relatively minute part of our deficit, but the opposition that Obama's proposal provoked is emblematic about what a barrier that the public employees' union will be to any sort of realistic approach to government spending.

13 comments:

2421Rich said...

Federal civil service employees are grossly overpaid and if they are anything like their union leaders they are also arrogant. It's time they felt what the rest of us have been experiencing for two years and realize just having a job is a plus.

billmarc said...

A serious effort to reign in the runaway train that is federal government employment should start with decertification of government employee unions. I don't, however,expect the Obama administration to pursue this -- he has too much union money in his pockets and he's a union "true believer".

David said...

There is indeed a problem with excessive compensation for federal employees, not to mention state/local government employees. But an across-the-board pay freeze is not the correct way to deal with it. Some jobs are essential, others are not. Some jobs are overpaid, others are underpaid. Some employees are worth keeping, others are worth getting rid of.

In the private sector, across-the-board pay freezes are usually the sign of an executive who lacks the fibre to make hard decisions. Things are more complicated in government because of the bureaucratic nature of the civil service (which, btw, is a reason to keep government from becoming excessively large) but surely an across-the-board freeze is a pretty primitive way of handling the situation.

LarryD said...

After the Federal Civil workforce has been cut 25% or more, maybe they'll they'll change their attitude.

Really, I think the Civil Service needs to be Term Limited, as well as Congress.

And maybe we need to consider a ceiling on the size of the Federal Civil Service. Set by the States, or by the Electorate in referendum.

Freeven said...

This isn't an across the board pay freeze. Among those excluded are members of Congress, their staffs, defense contractors, postal worker, and federal judges and court workers. Also, the freeze is only on cost-of-living adjustments. Step and bonus increases will continue to rise as usual. Since the official cost of living has actually fallen over the past two years, its not clear to me that this will have any effect in the short term.

While I favor the freeze in principle, in isolation it sounds pretty meaningless. It may actually be a negative, since it gives the illusion of fiscal responsibility without delivering. This gives politicians an "accomplishment" to point to that may get them off the hook for making more meaningful reforms.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

nice friends you tea party people have. they think you shouldn't be allowed to vote:

Two weeks ago, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips hosted the program and discussed changes that he felt should be made to voting rights in the United States. He explained that the founders of the country originally put “certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote.” He continued, “One of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners

http://www.thinkprogress.org/2010/11/30/tea-party-voting-property/

Pat Patterson said...

The whole passage was also prefaced by saying those ideas couldn't be implemented today.

TXStrat said...

To explain the rapid growth of government in recent years is simple, and it makes sense. The Department of Defense, and specifically the Army, have made a concious effort to replace contract support personnel with government employees in order to realize cost savings. Contractors are paid much higher salaries, and cost the government more in both the short and long terms. The effort of the DoD to "insource" all of the previously contracted positions will save millions over course of several years. There are many out there, myself included, that voluntarily took large pay cuts to move from being private contractors to government employees in order to keep serving our nation. I think it is a bit unfair that those of us that have already voluntarily taken large pay cuts to be expected to sacrifice more when the outcome of the Federal pay freeze will be fiscally negligible. The common notion that government employees make more than their private sector counterparts is largely exaggerated. In my case, I took a 15K annual pay cut to move from contracting to government. I also lost a very good vacation program and profit sharing plan.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Pat Patterson said...
The whole passage was also prefaced by saying those ideas couldn't be implemented today.


see, pat - poor reading comprehension:

"Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner."

so restricting voting to property owners was not included in the set of things you wouldn't think about today. that is why, pat, we use words like "but". i know you don't agree with dictionaries, but just try looking it up and learn how to use a word properly for a change

this is why it's pointless to debate with you guys. pat and rick read words but misunderstand them to mean something else. tfhr seems to be always involved in some argument going on in his head with somebody else who appears to have different opinions than mine

no wonder you guys are so confused

equitus said...

this is why it's pointless to debate with you guys. pat and rick read words but misunderstand them to mean something else.

And TV is so adept at reading our minds and that of Philips, and then telling us definitively what we believe! /sarc Usually laughable but sometimes annoying.

TXStrat, your claims don't really ring true to me and you don't do anything to support your claims. For example, I'm a contractor at present, and there's not even a shadow of a vacation plan and profit sharing. I gave those up when I went into contracting. Also, most of what I've read makes the case that contracting is more cost-effective than full-time employing. So for now, I'm not buying your argument.

Pat Patterson said...

It clealy says these restrictions wouldn't be thought of today and one of those was the voting franchise only extended to those owning property. Where does your claim that he would implement such a change come from?

TXStrat said...

Equitus, what would you have me do, post scans of my contractor pay stub and my civil service LES? With my previous employer, a contractor, I earned 14 hours of vacation time per month. Now. I earn 8. There is no profit sharing in the public sector. The only thing close is the Thrift Savings Program which is woefully lacking compared to the private sector. As stated, I took a 15K cut in direct compensation. To verify my claims of insourcing efforts, just Google DoD insourcing, Plenty of articles will pop up in the results.

Rick Caird said...

TV, once again, posts a reference to something he does not understand. The original was not ThinkPprogress, it is:

http://teapartynationalism.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=135:tea-party-leaders-attack-constitution&Itemid=104

My comment on that site is:

The 14th amendment is the basis for the "anchor babies". That is a major contributor to our immigration problems. One assumes (maybe incorrrectly) Burghart and Zeskind are aware of that. Does that mean they favor continuing with anchor babies?

Second, the 17th amendment removed one of the major prongs of federalism. For example, in Florida we have a renegade Senator in Nelson who puts Democratic party policy over the interests of the state of Florida and of his constituents. ObamaCare would never have been passed by the Senate without the 17th amendment because of the Medicaid burden it plans on putting on the states.

Finally, the radio excerpt, by design, leaves out a reference to the actual radio program from which it has been taken. That, by design, makes it difficult to determine context. I suspect this quote has been taken out of context and I suspect Burghart and Zeskind know that.