What is it with politicians and government employees? Where does that hate come from? Every time there is some minor crisis in the budget, the first solution out of the gate seems to be to reduce or freeze the pay of government workers. State Senator Dave Lewis (R) Helena wants a referendum reducing the pay and benefits of state employees. It seems that he has found that state employees make about the same salaries as the rest of the people in the state and that seems just horrendous to him. In a report to Senator Lewis, the Fiscal Division reported that 46% of state employees make more than $60,000 including things like retirement, health care and insurance. Of course, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for private workers in the country is $44,223, which doesn’t include benefits. So, if you have 46% of state workers making over $60,000, it would seem logical that you have 54% making less than $60,000 which would likely average out to around the average Montana salary, but let’s not get hung up on facts. Everybody knows that the biggest threat to the state budget is that guy out there on the snowplow clearing your streets, or the lady who cleans Senator Lewis’ washroom at the capitol. And yes, this is the same Senator Dave Lewis who already introduced a resolution calling on Congress to withdraw from the U.N.
Not to be left out, Barack Obama and his coterie of Wall Street insiders just seem to be absolutely befuddled at a lack of support every time they caves to Republican ideas. Now, he too wants to freeze the salaries of federal employees for the next two years to solve the budget crisis. This brilliant “shared sacrifice” will reportedly save the government $28 billion over the next five years. If that all seems too much, he will then turn around and extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires blowing a $700 billion hole in the budget. Somehow this is supposed to make sense to his supporters. I’m not sure where the “sharing” part comes in.
All is not lost. Republicans are willing to “compromise” by extending unemployment benefits for 2 million folks. Our own Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill today to extend the benefits through the end of next year. Of course, the benefits would get extended with or without the President caving in to the Republican cabal on tax cuts. They don’t want to be seen as the only ones holding up the extension, but that is neither here nor there when it comes to caving. They can use the “compromise” to pay off their campaign donors with lower taxes.
The director of the Economic Policy Institute put it this way:
This is another example of the administration’s tendency to bargain with itself rather than Republicans, and in the process reinforces conservative myths, in this case the myth that federal workers are overpaid. Such a policy also ignores the fact that deficit reduction and loss of pay at a time when the unemployment rate remains above 9% will only weaken a too-weak recovery.
In June, when Senator John Thune (R) SD, proposed an amendment that would have included freezing federal employee pay and benefits in order to help extend the Bush tax cuts, Senator Baucus called the cuts “arbitrary” and “restrictive” in a floor speech. Referring to the phony GOP obsession with deficit spending in relation to the recovery from the depression of the 1930s, Baucus said;
I understand the desire today to reduce deficits. I share that desire. We do need to put in place deficit reduction that will take effect after the recovery has kicked in.
But we must learn from the 1937 history. We must not repeat the mistake that led to the double-dip downturn of the late 1930s.
If we were dramatically to cut spending or increase taxes to reduce the deficit in the short run, it would run the risk of causing a double dip in this Great Recession.
So, now the question begging for an answer is whether Senator Baucus will be as strident in his criticism of the same Republican ideas when they come out of the mouths of Congressional and Administration Democrats. Will we bargain away a few billion dollars from freezing pay of middle class workers in exchange for borrowing $700 billion from China to feed hungry billionaires?