Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Suck It In, Folks

There are times I part company with both my leftist friends and my union buddies. This is one of them:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits and appealed to Republicans to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health.

...The move would save $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 and $5 billion by the end of two fiscal years. Over 10 years, it would save $60 billion, according to Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer.

Now, I get the objections. Federal workers are, compared to the private sector, substantially underpaid already and they have not been exempt from some of the economic crisis.
There is one thing they ARE exempt from, and that has to be acknowledged by our side: federal employees are much much harder to fire or layoff.
And it doesn't save much, and so why are federal workers, mostly working and middle class family people, being forced to shoulder the burden of a wage freeze?
Again, in the private sector, jobs are being cut, so are wages and benefits, and hiring is seeing very slow progress. We have chronically unemployed people whose benefits run out in a few days. None of this is really affecting the federal bureaucracy.
Obama makes a symbolic gesture to Republicans. Since the lame-duck Congress has kicked deficit reduction forward, Obama took a step that was calculated to deflate a Republican negotiating chip, one that is very popular with the base.
Remember, these are innumerian idiots who think that 19% of them are in the top 1% of wage earners, among other really insane and wacky mathematics. Somehow, they think that $60 billion will balance the budget painlessly.
Fareed Zakaria points out the underlying problem, the one that Republicans will have to settle with their base:
Americans have an appetite for government benefits that greatly exceeds their appetite for taxes. For more than a generation, we have squared this dishonest circle by borrowing vast amounts of money. As more people age, this gap between what we want the government to provide and what we are willing to pay for is going to widen to an unsustainable level. Over the next 75 years, benefits under entitlement programs will exceed government revenue by $40 trillion. The federal budget deficit, if unattended, will reach 24% of GDP in 2040 —well beyond Greek and Irish territory. At that point, the measures it would take to close the gap are so punitive — we're talking tax hikes of 70% or spending cuts of 50% — that it is inconceivable that we will make them. If by some chance we were to make them, they would put the economy in a death spiral.
In many ways, the GOP winning the House is a great thing for the nation as a whole. Now, they have no choice but to roll up their sleeves and get involved, as opposed to sitting back and criticising everything Pelosi and Reid did, and by retaining the Senate, Obama has political cover to avoid vetoes (altho you have to know he's itching to stamp a bill or two hard for all the shit he's been taking).
If the Republicans take this seriously, and that's a big-- no, huge grey area, then this next Congress could conceivably get much of the necessary heavy lifting done. If the Republicans decide to risk the House by trying to capture the Senate thru obstructionism and deferral of these issues, the Democrats will rightly point out that they had skin in the game, and did nothing, whereas the past Congress got more done for Americans than any Congress since LBJ.
And we'll be back to one-party rule for the forseeable future. The Republicans are on the clock too, now. Their base has become more rabid, and won't put up with much compromise, and yet, it will have to be compromise to get anything done. By taking a chip off the table, Obama has given them one less accomplishment to tout to these whining mewling babies.
This is why the Party of Children is such a fascinating topic to watch.