Obama Suggests Two-Year Salary Freeze for Federal Employees

Conservatives pleased but unimpressed, liberals skeptical

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President Obama announces Monday a proposal for freezing federal workers' pay for two years. The right half of the blogosphere isn't overly impressed, but is pleased nonetheless. The left half shares the right's doubts about the freeze's actual impact, but also isn't wild about the politics.

  • What This Means, Strategically  "Even if the federal payroll were to remain flat, it would not have much of an impact on the overall budget, so in that sense, this isn't a very significant development," explains The American Spectator's Philip Klein. "On the other hand, it is a glimpse into how Obama plans to react to the Republican victory." Klein predicts similar "small, symbolic actions" to show bipartisanship and also "[steal] the thunder of Republicans, who," he points out, "were planning on pushing [the pay freeze] idea" themselves.
  • The Numbers Involved  Ernie Smith at Shortformblog, who thinks this "a very smart move," points out that "as of 2010, 82,000 federal workers make over $150,000--a huge leap from even five years earlier. And had Obama not ordered the pay freeze, federal pay would’ve gone up by 1.4 percent across the board."
  • 'First Post-Election Concession to Republicans'  Andrew Stiles at the conservative National Review calls the move, "as far as commitments to addressing the budget deficit go ... half-hearted at best. Still," he adds, "it's a start."
  • Pander, Pander  "I thought the election was over?" writes David Kurtz tellingly at Talking Points Memo. He calls the move "gimmicky." His question: "It doesn't do much to actually reduce the deficit and it's a shot at a core part of the Democratic base, so why concede it right off the bat?"
  • Confusion  "My initial question was, How the hell can he do that?," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "[Obama's] got no authority to set civil service salaries.  Turns out, it’s merely a 'proposal.'" He admits it will be "very popular politically," but adds, as many do, that "it's not clear how this proposal actually saves any money," since it won't "roll back already-enacted pay increases."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.