According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, President Obama will push for a 1% salary increase for all federal employees in his 2014 budget proposal. This announcement comes on the heals of continuing bad economic news in the private sector. Reports released last month indicate that the United States economy actually shrank during the fourth quarter of 2012 with GDP falling 0.1%.
The White House has already contacted labor unions and informed them of the details of this proposal. William R. Dougan, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, offered his support to the measure: "After all that federal workers have sacrificed the past three years, they have earned a raise. I repeat, they have earned a raise.” Regarding those “sacrifices,” Mr. Dougan is referring to a federal pay freeze that has been in effect now for two years.
While federal worker salary have been frozen, salaries of workers in the private sector have contracted during that same period. During the past four years, median income in America has dropped by over $3,000. Federal labor unions may complain about not receiving a raise last year, but many of their counterparts in the private sector have seen significant reductions in their annual pay, been forced to transfer into part-time work, or lost their jobs altogether due to weak economy.
In tough economic environments businesses must reduce costs, which unfortunately often includes reductions in compensation. Why is the government not bound by this same principle? After being fiscally irresponsible and incurring trillion dollar deficits, the federal government should not be allowed to reward its own employees with pay hikes at the expense of taxpayers in the private sector who have seen their own salaries fall.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are already considering proposals to extend the federal pay freeze for another year. By making a federal pay increase such a priority in his budget proposal, President Obama is setting up a partisan fight over what should be a non-issue and further demonstrating his inability to understand the plight of private sector workers in today’s economy.