Buzz of the Week

Obama kicks up some dust on federal pay

President Barack Obama's proposal to trim the fiscal 2010 pay raise prompted a range of reader responses and concerns

There is no simple way to characterize the response of FCW.com readers to President Barack Obama’s proposal to trim the fiscal 2010 federal pay raise.

Many readers were outraged, as might be expected with any pocketbook issue. But other readers who posted comments were less concerned about the practicality of a smaller raise than they were with what they perceived as the proposal’s underlying value judgments.

The most common concern was that the proposal reflected a dim view of federal employees and the worth of public service.

The bottom line, as many saw it, was that federal employees were being asked to pay the price for what they view as out-of-control government spending. Much of that outrage was directed toward the president.

“If President Obama would balance the budget and stop doing everything he can to increase the deficit and national debt, I would be agreeable to accepting 2 percent or even no increase,” wrote TT. “But until he starts making some sacrifices, I’m not inclined to step out there and say, ‘Less pay, please.’”

But that grievance predates the Obama administration by a long shot. One reader noted that President Gerald Ford kept a lid on pay raises to “whip inflation now,” and feds took a financial hit, one way or another, under presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “Add to that the politicians who say the government is the problem,” Steve wrote.

Another reader expressed a similar sentiment. “The federal employee has always been an easy target for reducing federal expenditures. Fortunately for our nation, the majority of federal employees do jobs that they believe in” and are willing to suffer the loss. The reader added that he has taken a second job delivering pizzas to help put his children through college.

Several readers wondered if members of Congress were willing to make the same sacrifice because their paychecks also come from the federal coffers.

“They should absolutely set the example and take a cut in their own pay,” wrote a D.C.-based reader. “They should also fly commercial like the rest of us and contribute toward their health insurance costs like the majority of those with insurance.”

But the beneficiaries of the federal government’s largesse can be found far beyond the Beltway. Several readers asked why those beneficiaries weren’t feeling the pain, too.

“1.8 million federal employees, 18 million contractors working for the federal government. You tell me where the cuts should come from to have the biggest impact on the deficit,” Dave commented.

However, many readers saw it differently. Any pay raise — whether 2.4 percent or 2 percent — is more than they should have hoped for, given the current economic crisis.

“This will cost me 13 cents an hour — and I’m all for it,” Wayne wrote. “Federal employees as a whole will be fine with this. We aren’t a greedy bunch, from what I can tell. I’m happy to get a raise at all.”

“If the government were a corporation, probably a good portion of individuals would have already been laid off, and the rest would probably not get an increase or a minimal one,” one fed commented.

That perspective was echoed by a contract employee. “I saw my last pay raise in June of 2008. I can possibly, just possibly, expect another one sometime in 2011,” the reader wrote. “If I could get into a government job, I would in a heartbeat.”

To see all the reader reactions, check out “Obama wants smaller pay raises for employees” and “Annoyed by pay complaints and cynical procurement lawyers” and click on “View all comments.”

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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 6, 2009

Those at the top of the GS schedule, and even those in the middle of the schedule who live in low cost areas, aren't complaining because their greed has been satisfied. I'm so sick of hearing those in the 55+ category tell me how GS-13 pay is excessive in the Baltimore-Washington area. Hey buddy...we're not living with 1980s dollars anymore. So stop calling me greedy for wanting a decent salary that compensates for all the years of education and training. This is a generational issue, and is not about fairness in pay. The lower paid workers are usually younger yet we bear the brunt of health insurance increases which are caused by the older, better paid workers being in the health insurance pool. Look up "Generation Jones" and maybe you'll understand the issue better.

Mon, Sep 21, 2009

Think of the alternatives. Many state gov't and local employees are being furloughed (w/o pay). Atleast the feds are getting an increase. I am a federal worker and not happy about the amount however when I think of the alternatives (furloughs and layoffs) and the many other people that DO NOT have jobs I am thankful. I do agree that all government(Congress etc) should share. We should also find ways to cut other federal agency's budgets. Examples would include more telework, conference calls rather than traveling to meet face to face when appropriate.

Mon, Sep 21, 2009

True, true, and true. Depending up on your perspective, all are worthy points. As a servant to the people, I'm grateful for them paying our salaries. Thank you. Its always nice to have a little extra, but I'd accept less or none so long as it went towards a worthy cause, eg the deficient.

Mon, Sep 21, 2009 Clem Munno

What I do not understand is why there is a different economic adjustment clause for raises in place for Social Security Retirees, Military Retirees and Railroad Retirement Retirees; Members of Congress and their staff; Civil Servants, Active Military, and Executive Salaries; and, Court Salaries? Why would Government retirees have an indicator that reflects 0 while all others have indicators that give them raises? Why would the Government get raises when they are capping maby salaries at low levels in industry? Why are Government personnel getting raises when people in indusry are getting cuts in salaries and, even worse, losing their jobs? Government salaries and benefits are way out of line with industry. They are too high. Why don't our leaders start leading by being first in these matters?

Mon, Sep 21, 2009 RayW

I sort of took a pay cut when I went from contracting to GS. But I gained more leave and some 401K match so I guess it evened out then. However I was a short term contractor, less than 6 months, so I missed a lot of benefits that the firm had for long term contractors. Talking to a friend at my last real job, his pay raises for the last few years have been less than prior years, but still in the 3-6% range. And their medical insurance is still better than what the government offers us, although how much longer is the question if many folks are reading the Obama plan correctly. As far as Obama and other politicians, as many have said - Cut your gravy trains, hangers on, syncopates, toadies, bonuses, perks, benefits, high powered 'retirement' benefits, special travel arrangements, free health, and salaries, then maybe the rank and file workers would not complain too much over less pay increases. It seems like every year we take a pay cut due to less insurance coverage and higher 'matching' payments and you get another good raise from it (yeah, I know, those who make the rules reap the benefits).

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