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MILLER: Pay cut for bureaucrats

Overpaid federal employees don’t need a raise in a malaise

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2012

Those with a government job are sitting pretty. A typical fed's total compensation averages 16 percent more than that of his neighbor at an equivalent private-sector gig. In this troubled economic time of 8.5 percent unemployment, nothing beats the public dole's 100 percent job security.

President Obama thinks this cushy setup isn't enough; he wants federal bureaucrats to get even more money. On Wednesday, the House put the kibosh on that.

By a 309-117 vote, lawmakers approved legislation that would freeze federal salaries through December 2013. Republican leaders brought up the bill as a political gambit tying an executive-branch pay freeze with a measure blocking a pay increase for Congress.

Though House Democrats want to back their president's call for increasing government salaries by a half of a percent, they didn't want to take the risk of voting themselves a raise at the same time. Election-year pressure proved too hot for the minority's rank and file. Seventy-two Democrats bucked their leadership, giving the bill the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

GOP leaders in the lower chamber said that extending the freeze for one more year would save $26 billion in hard-earned taxpayer dollars. A federal pay freeze passed the House in December to help pay for extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut for another year, but that bill was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, leaving the House and Senate to pass a two-month extension. The package for the remainder of the fiscal year is being negotiated in a conference committee.

Senate Republicans are pushing the case even further. On Thursday, a group of them introduced legislation offering alternative offsets that would avoid the mandatory $1.2 trillion sequestration to hit at the end of the year, disproportionately affecting national defense. Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Marco Rubio of Florida are sponsoring an extension of the current federal-employee pay freeze through June 2014.

They also would cut spending by shrinking the federal workforce by 5 percent through attrition. That is, for every three bureaucrats who die or retire, just two new employees could be hired to replace them. Mr. Obama wants to go in the other direction. He already has added 140,000 to Uncle Sam's payroll since taking office.

America can't afford this anymore. In a report this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the Cadillac health care plans, matching retirement savings and plush pensions lavished on feds cost the public 48 percent more than private-sector employers spend. Even removing the pricey benefits from the equation, the overpaid bureaucrats still make 9 percent more than private-sector workers.

The CBO also forecast this week that unemployment is going to rise to 9.2 percent next year. There's no reason for Mr. Obama to be handing out higher paychecks. Instead, it's time for Washington to send unnecessary employees packing and cut pay and benefits across the board for everyone who is left. It's only fair, as Mr. Obama might say.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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