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 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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