Monday, November 29, 2010

Freezing Times

No raises for federal workers for two years, then.

That's the bipartisan message of president Obama to the Republicans. The way this kind of bipartisanship works is that Obama will lie on the floor and hold the knife at his throat BEFORE the Republicans get around to the attack attempt.

I don't get it but I'm just a minor goddess. In any case, perhaps this is part of that n-dimensional chess game I've heard so much about. Perhaps the Republicans will now have to give in on the tax concessions to the very wealthy?

Obama said the pay freeze would save approximately $2bn over the current fiscal year and up to $28bn cumulatively over the next five years.

That is still a drop in the ocean of the deficit, which reached $1.3tn, but is a symbol of the president's willingness to give concessions to the newly empowered Republicans as Congress returns from the Thanksgiving break. He said that he had not made the decision to impose the freeze lightly.

"These are people's lives. The doctors and nurses who care for our veterans; scientists who search for better treatments; men and women who care for our national parks, borders and skies."

But he said these were times when "all of us are called upon to make some sacrifices". He added: "I'm asking civil servants to do what they have always done: play their part."

The move will require congressional approval for it to come into effect. It will not apply to military personnel, though it will hit civilian employees at the defence department. The announcement of the pay freeze is a pre-emptive move by Obama as he prepares to confront the Republicans.

Tomorrow he will meet Republican leaders to discuss the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which is likely to be an area of intense political contention.
I don't think the Republicans work like that. They think he's the enemy.

What about the pay freeze in itself? Perhaps not a bad idea if it is extended to the Congress and if it is extended to Wall Street and if it is extended to the health care sector and so on, and if the money saved will then be spent to employ more of the unemployed. I don't see any of that happening.

So why pick one particular group only? Or is this a beginning of some larger cutbacks of freezes in, say, Social Security payments? Is Obama courting the tea-party section of the Republicans? By punching the greedy bureaucrats in the nose? Including the fairly low-paid ones among them.

And how is all this belt-tightening going to provide economic stimulus?