Workforce largely spared in first super committee session

At its first public session, the congressional "super committee" created by the debt ceiling deal had little to say about salary freezes, furloughs or other federal workforce measures for cutting government costs.

Coming after several months of legislation that would have imposed staff reductions and furloughs, along with a salary freeze that did go into effect, federal employees were concerned they would be a prime target for the panel. Instead, the members of Congress appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction heard testimony by Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and talked about unemployment and war funding.

"We all agree that we're facing an unsustainable financial future, and under the CBO's alternative fiscal scenario, the debt is going to reach 82 percent of GDP by 2021," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) "It's higher than in any year since 1948, and we all agree that we can't let that happen."

Kerry argued that the country made some wrong turns more than a decade ago. "Some would argue [it's been] even longer," he said. "You have economic meltdown, two wars, rounds of the largest tax cuts in history that did not produce the jobs some had predicted and then efforts to forestall larger economic collapse -- all of these contributed."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the fastest and most efficient way to reduce the deficit long term is to lower unemployment and to take a balanced approach that contains savings achieved from modernizing certain programs, as well as savings gained from simplifying. He also urged reforming the tax code to generate more revenue.

"Addressing a problem of this magnitude requires shared responsibility in order to grow our economy and reduce the deficit," Van Hollen added.

Elmendorf pointed to the aging population and increasing costs for health care as factors that will push up federal spending, requiring significant changes in spending policies and tax policies.

But changes must be thought through and cannot be done haphazardly, Elmendorf warned.

"Implementing spending cuts or tax increases abruptly would give families, businesses and state and local government little time to plan and adjust, he said.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 Mike

Federal employees are 'tax payers' and they work for the government. The chain-of-command is through the government and applicable administration in charge. The government and administration both work for the tax payers, and are charged with taking care of our nation. I've heard enough of 'the feds work for the tax payer.' They work for the government; and they pay taxes.

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 Frank DC

Based on the previous comment and the statement quoted above "Coming after several months of legislation that would have imposed staff reductions and furloughs, along with a salary freeze that did go into effect, federal employees were concerned they would be a prime target for the panel." Believe me you still are. As stated in the previous comment there are offers of buyouts and early retirements pay freezes and hiring freezes. Everything that has lead to RIFs in the past. The government however has learned from the past and knows to be cautious and down right secretive about the way they operate now. Best way to avoid conflict is not give sufficient time for debate. Regardless I'm all for what ever it takes to get us back to where we need to be. I sure wouldn't want to loss my job, but if it means paying more taxes so we can quit fighting about the tax breaks the rich are getting. Let them keep their money if it makes them feel better. But I'm for making our country great again.

Mon, Sep 19, 2011

Lets get a few things clear here. Federal employees work for the taxpayers. For every dollar in taxes they pay another 5 to 10 dollars in taxes thay take from the rest of us so calling themselves "taxpayers" is not very accurate when in reality they are far bigger tax spenders. Attacks on the rich by people who live on money forceably taken from those who work hard to earn money, create all sorts of jobs for others, and produce useable products (ie food, clothing, shelter, and much more real things we all ask for by actually voluntarily paying for) is just plain low and cowardly. These people need to get with reality and out of the fantasy and often corrupt world of living off the government.

Thu, Sep 15, 2011 sumner

Why do politicians say that they '...owe it to taxpayers, to cut the public sector workforce..' . Did I miss the memo stating that public sector workers are exempt from Income tax? Brace yourselves. As stated previously in FCW, when it comes to public perception there is a "disconnect between workforce cuts and operational realities" Our NYS Governor threatened 9,800 layoffs if the major unions (PEF.CSEA) did not agree to contract concessions. The public in general seemed to have no problem with the layoffs. It's as if when they hear the number, they think that 'these must be 9,800 jobs that weren't needed anyway'. The reality won't sink in until a Firehouse or Public Hospital closes, or no beds are available when someone seeks Mental Health services or programs for people with Developmental Disabilities. THEN the outrage will be 'why aren't these services provided?.

We were told that the so-called 'NYS millionaires tax could not be continued because small business men and the rich needed that tax break so that they could create private sector jobs. Probably true.. When they buy that new toy, a valet attendant could be hired to park it, The local car wash could hire more staff to soft-cloth hand wash it... and since they are above pumping their own gas .. they will give some full service attendant work (if they can find one). I'll get my bucket and squeegee ready

Thu, Sep 15, 2011

The US Government does not follow basic accounting: for every debit, a credit exists!

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