Lawmakers: Federal Workers Have Already Taken Big Cuts

by ARLnow.com November 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm 5,330 36 Comments

Federal government employees have made a substantial contribution to federal debt reduction efforts already, say local lawmakers who are trying to ensure that federal workers don’t take a big hit in any upcoming debt reduction package.

The lawmakers are cautioning President Barack Obama and leaders in the House of Representatives to “carefully consider the implications that any proposed agreement would have on these Americans so that it reflects the substantial budget savings that the Federal workforce has contributed thus far.”

The lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Jim Moran (Va.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Donna Edwards (Md.) and John Sarbanes (Md.), plus Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Robert Wittman (Va.) — sent a letter to Obama this week highlighting $103 billion in cuts taken by federal employees in the form of pay freezes, delayed raises and increased benefit contributions.

“The letter comes as Congress and the White House work toward a solution to avoid sequestration cuts mandated to go into effect on January 2, 2013,” Moran’s office noted in a press release.

The text of the letter, which was also sent to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, after the jump.

Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As you continue further negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff”, those of us who represent our Nation’s dedicated civil service – from the Federal and postal employees we represent in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area, to the vast majority of Federal employees who live and serve in communities outside of Washington, D.C. – respectfully remind you of the substantial sacrifice made by these patriotic, middle class Americans over the past two years.

Since the beginning of 2011, through various legislative and administration actions, the budget savings derived from reduced compensation and benefits for the federal workforce has totaled at least $103 billion (or more than $50,000 per employee), as measured over the ten year budget window. This figure includes:

2011 and 2012 pay freeze: $60 billion
2013 raise of 0.5% delayed to April: $28 billion
2.3% increase in employees’ retirement contributions for those hired after 2012 (Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (P.L.112-96): $15 billion

Total: $103 billion

Federal and postal employees and their families share our commitment to serving the American people in the most efficient, cost-effective manner, and, just like other taxpayers, they too are struggling during these tough times. Many face an uncertain employment future under almost any deficit reduction scenario. And to date, no other group has been asked to financially contribute the way they have. Our dedicated civil servants understand the principle of shared sacrifice and justifiably expect others will actually share in it.

We respectfully request that you carefully consider the implications that any proposed agreement would have on these Americans so that it reflects the substantial budget savings that the Federal workforce has contributed thus far.


James P. Moran
Frank R. Wolf
Steny Hoyer
Chris Van Hollen
Gerald E. Connolly
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Robert J. Wittman
Donna F. Edwards
John P. Sarbanes

  • Paul

    Typical Washington statistical games are being played here. (1) Planned increases that don’t happen are classified as “cuts” and (2) and while $103 billion is a big number, it’s a ten-year budget “window.” While it’s true feds have taken it in the shorts the past two years, it’s not out of line with what’s happened in the private sector: i.e., no raises, no bonuses and some givebacks. And it goes without saying, there have not been mass layoffs at the federal level.

    • drax

      Perhaps, but if you were expecting a raise and didn’t get it, it would rightly be a cut. It would be less pay than you were expecting to get next year.

      And pay comparisons with the private sector aren’t cut and dried. You could just as easily say the private sector is UNDERpaid. But such comparisons are fair in the short run.

      • Josh S

        Dude, enough.
        It would not rightly be a cut. If I expect my tree to grow a foot this year and it only grows 6 inches, in no way could we say that it was “cut” by six inches. It still grew.
        The only place where forgone increases are called cuts is in discussions involving future government expenditures. And then only when it suits the politicians who are using the language to paint the picture the way they want it to be painted.
        Off the top of my head, I don’t know whether it is legally acceptable to count forgone increases as cuts under the sequestration deal made last year. Maybe it is. In which case, there will be no cuts, but because of inflation and population growth, any flat spending from year to year usually ends of *feeling* like a cut, even if it is not, absolutely speaking, a cut.

        • drax

          Dude, enough.

          If you expect your tree to grow a foot, and then you cut it six inches and it only grows another six, that’s a cut.

          But enough word games. So don’t call it a cut – it’s still a sacrifice. It’s still getting less than they expected to get for the same amount of work at another year’s level of experience. And you’d complain about it if it happened to you too.

          No, future government expenditures are not the only place where lower expected spending is called a cut. You have to measure it against the need. For instance, if you have 2 children and then you give birth to a third one, and you spent $10,000 on child care but the next year you spend $12,000, that’s a cut in child care expenses per child. So in cases where you have growing needs, like say Social Security, you can cut benefits and still spend more in total.

          Again, if you want to insist that cut only means lower spending than before, fine. I have no problem with that. But everyone understands the math, we don’t need you explaining it to us.

          • Josh S

            Talk about word games. Now you’re shifting to expenses *per child*. That’s completely different than total expenses, which is where we started and is the main focus of all conversations about “cutting” the federal budget.
            Plans are just pieces of paper. What matters are the actual expenditures. Next year, this year’s plan is just bird cage lining. If spending goes up year over year, there is no logical way to call it a cut. In the case of deficit spending, perhaps your debt doesn’t go up as much as someone had predicted it would, but it still goes up. So you’re not really addressing the problem.

          • drax

            No, I’m not playing word games, I’m saying that the word “cut” is already complicated, and can mean different things. To insist that it always means one thing is the word game.

            Our government spending should be expected to grow as our nation grows. It’s perfectly legitimate to reduce the rate of growth of that spending as a solution to our problems – especially since growth should also bring revenue increases. Insisting that we cut spending over last year’s spending, rather than over what we are on pace to spend in the future, is legit.

            So the real point here is we should stop saying the word “cut” and expecting that to solve all our problems and explain everything. It’s not that simple.

    • Sam

      Generally, I’d agree with you. However, when the private sector DOES thrive, you don’t see public servants getting big bonuses and perks. It seems that we (yes, I do have a dog in this fight) are expected to give when the rest of the country gives but we are not allowed to get when the rest of the country gets.

      • NPGMBR


      • GetAGrip

        Couldn’t agree less. The public servant sector is much more insulated and they are much less productive – read – they did not “build that”. They have relative job security – the lack of bonuses is the price one pays for an easy life of just showing up to work and logging on to ArlNow to complain about the mud splats on the Audi.

    • Josh S

      Let’s not forget that when you speak of the private sector, you must qualify any statements about no raises, no bonuses, and some givebacks to clarify you are only speaking of the 99%. The 1% continue to do just fine (actually it’s probably the 5% or so, but especially the 1%) – somehow they have figured out a way to skate along without any suffering. (And PLEASE don’t tell me it is because of their either A) hard work, or B) superior ability, or both. It ain’t.)

      • drax

        But I thought the people who are 100 times richer are working 100 times harder!

    • barticus

      Federal budgets are set 2-3 years in advance with built-in increases. From those levels, they are cuts. Incidentally, if no raises or bonuses are the norm, how do the rich continue to get richer and gain a greater percentage of overall wealth?

  • MrMeow

    Also demspeak is also referring to as maintaining a current tax level as a “tax break” or deductions or tax breaks to corporations is a “subsidy”. A subsidy is giving other people’s money to someone else, NOT keeping more of your own money.

    • mr econofarmer

      Yes because money grows on trees and never comes from anyone else. You should be allowed to keep what you harvest.

    • drax

      If you paid not taxes but everyone else did, yes, that would be a subsidy of your income.

    • Josh S

      Yeah, the farther away in time we get from the Bush tax cuts, the harder it would be to call them cuts since people forget what the baseline was. But thankfully, we have history to remind us.
      Allowing some businesses to pay lower taxes than other businesses is a subsidy because they presumably benefit equally from the services that are provided by everyone’s tax dollars.

      • drax

        Yes, Josh, whether a cut is really a cut depends on the baseline. That’s part of what I was talking about above.

  • Brian K

    Interesting that there are less nonmilitary federal employees today than there was in 1980.

    The President who added the most fed employees (Reagan 10%)

    The President under whom the amount decreased the most (Clinton, -9%).

    Just a few things I found when I did a lil research on this that surprised me.

  • bobbytiger

    “Federal ‘workers’ have already taken big cuts”? That’s very funny. It really is, no?

    • fed

      We did not get COL increase for the past 3 years…all the while facing exponential increase in health insurance, etc.. Yes. we have taken personal hits..along with promotion freezes in many agencies.

      • waaaahhhh

        Boo freaking hoo. Join the club. I haven’t gotten a COL increase in 3 years, my health insurance costs have increased considerably, my company had to cut back other benefits as well, because of layoffs I need to do far more work than previously required, work longer hours and haven’t gotten a pay increase for it. But I’m thankful I still have a job unlike many others, I like who I work for and with and willing to do what it takes to make my company a success.

        • CW

          Right, but the difference is that Congress does not have the potential to write into statute language which will officially cripple your personal growth potential, which is what it could do here by mandating changes to federal compensation. As another poster pointed out, the feds don’t reap the benefits in the good times. No stock buy plans, profit sharing, bonuses, etc. Yes they have job security but it is low risk low reward.

          • NPGMBR

            Thank You

          • Sloth

            Live by your choices. Lethargy is a choice with little reward.

        • drax

          So others should suffer just because you are?

      • BoredHouseWife

        I sympathize with you.

  • Chuck

    Ummm how about the classification and compensation studies conducted in the Fed? You know the ones that bumped pay grades up in the same job (yep, no COLA just a higher salary for the same job).

    • Josh S

      So as to bring federal salaries more closely in line for the same work being done in the private sector.
      (If one organization pays one accountant $90,000 and another organization pays $60,000 for the same job, where do you think the better, more capable accountants will tend to accumulate? Yet the government sectors’ accountants are arguably more important to more people, so shouldn’t we be concerned about making sure we get capable candidates? (I use accountants purely as an example.))

  • JohnB

    Feds are perfectly willing to chip in to the budget solution as long as the sacrifice is a shared one. All this letter is saying is that Feds have already contributed to reducing the long term budget deficit and that should be factored in when looking at how much more they should contribute.

  • Carlos

    I’ve worked in the private and public sector. In the private sector your salary is tied to your performance. In the public sector you just go up in the GS scale (or w/e pay scale your gov’t entity uses) and your salary is by no means tied to your performance. Granted locality pay has been frozen (good in my opinion). Lots of people just sit and collect a paycheck in the public sector and that needs to stop. I do well for myself because I work hard, I’m not a 1% by any means also.

  • drax

    That’s a ridiculous generalization. The federal government has performance-based pay for at least some workers. In the private sector, some pay is performance-based, but many pay increases are automatic or based on cost of living, not performance.

  • Brett

    Federal employees are compensated 10% more than corporate employees. Historically, countries in this situation, fail. The federal work force (including contractors) needs a good 250k cut. Just because this county benefits from gluttonous Keynesian economics, doesn’t mean the country needs to pay for it. –Arlington Homeowner

    • drax

      “Federal employees are compensated 10% more than corporate employees.”

      Whoa. No, that’s not true. The good studies show that blue collar jobs pay higher in the federal workforce (largely because they are still union) but white collar jobs pay lower.

      “Historically, countries in this situation, fail.”

      Really? Where’d you get this? Give us a few examples please.

      “Just because this county benefits from gluttonous Keynesian economics, doesn’t mean the country needs to pay for it.”

      How does one benefit from something but not pay for it?

    • Fed

      Drax is correct. Lower skilled workers do make more in the federal government. Higher-skilled workers make less, and in some cases much, much less. Not long ago, I was offered a private sector position at twice my current government salary. I turned it down because (a) I have no interest in working as a lobbyist and (b) along with that increased pay would have come increased work hours. Mind you, that would not be TWICE as many working hours, more like 25 percent, so even on an hourly basis moving to the private sector would dramatically increase my salary.

  • derp

    Until all jobs and wages have guaranteed increases to keep pace with inflation, i don’t think any job should

  • Carlos

    Add in the union protection and extraordinary benefits and you see that gov’t employees have it real cushy. Even the blue collar workers.


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