Baby, It’s Freezing Outside

Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason used the same pic as us.

Peter Baker at The NYT:

President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers on Monday as he sought to address concerns over sky-high deficit spending and appeal to Republican leaders to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health.

“The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government,” Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference.

“I did not reach this decision easily,” he said. “This is not just a line item on a federal ledger. These are people’s lives.”

Ed Morrissey:

Give the President some credit.  This mainly empty gesture will net a lot more than Barack Obama’s earlier exhaustive budget trimming that saved all of $100 million after running up a $1.3 trillion deficit.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

In his press conference, Obama claimed that the move would save the government $28 billion over five years. Taking that number at face value, that would represent a sixth-tenths of one percent reduction in the projected $4.52 trillion deficit over that same period (2011 through 2015). It would be the equivalent of a person who expects to rack up $10,000 of of credit card debt over the next five years touting the fact that he’s found a way to reduce his expenses by $60 over that time period. In football terms, it would be like a kickoff return that gains about a half of a yard.

James Joyner:

This will of course be very popular politically, since non-military federal employees are widely believed to be overpaid and underworked.  And, frankly, given that we have near-zero inflation, there shouldn’t be any cost of living hikes, anyway.

Indeed, it’s not clear how this proposal actually saves any money.  It’s not like this would roll back already-enacted pay increases.  Presumably, this is “saving” in the federal government sense of not getting a spending hike that you had previously mentioned wanting to have.

Scarecrow at Firedoglake:

For the umpteenth time, the Obama White House has made the foolish mistake of confusing efforts to “boost economic growth and spur job creation” with the need for near-term deficit reduction. Even his economic team tried to keep the two different time frames — short run vs long-run — separate. And for the umpteenth time, this President has repeated discredited Republican gibberish that when households are having to cut back spending during a recession, government should do the same thing.

That’s just wrong. Foolishly wrong. Depressingly (literally), tragically wrong.

The economy is suffering from, among other things, the collapse of the housing market and it’s relationship to a massively fraudulent, rapacious financial system. When housing prices collapsed — and they’re not done yet — households lost over $6 trillion in wealth and families lost trillions in retirement savings. With 15 million unemployed and millions more living in job and health insecurity, typical non-wealthy households have no choice but to cut back. So private spending cannot pull the economy out of the ditch as it has in the past. But that is not true of the federal government.

Government spending can pull the economy up from the bottom. And only government has the resources and the power to fill in the gap in aggregate demand to bring the economy and jobs back.

Atrios

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

There’s a certain class of moderate Democratic strategist that thinks symbolic moves like this brilliantly capture the center, but I’m not sure it really works like that. Instead, it will be reported on the evening news, with a complaining comment from a liberal, a sneering comment from a conservative, and a dismissive comment from a Centrist Budget Wonk who says you have to cut entitlement spending. If you’re going to do something like this, at least do it during the State of the Union address so you can get the message out unfiltered.

Jonathan Zasloff:

Mr. President, it is not park rangers’ fault that Wall Street decided to gamble with the global financial system and lost.

It is not FBI agents’ fault that the Republican Party wants to give tax breaks to billionaires and get them to pay for it.

It is not USDA food inspectors’ fault that you and your advisors have not bothered to tell the American people why your program is good and have gone out of your way to alienate your base.

It is not VA nurses’ assistants and caregivers’ fault that Larry Summers was so infatuated with his own economic models that he didn’t give you the right options for the stimulus or that Tim Geithner can’t figure out that this unemployment is cyclical.

Mr. President, you said at your news conference today that “this is not just a line item on a federal ledger. These are people’s lives.”  You are right.  They just happen to be lives that you don’t really care about.

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Filed under Economics, Political Figures, The Crisis

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