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Obama proposes pay freeze
November 29, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Obama proposes two year pay freeze for all civilian federal employees. The freeze would save $2 billion in the current 2011 fiscal year, $28 billion over the next five years, and more than $60 billion over 10 years, according to the White House. The freeze would require congressional approval.
posted by Bonzai (355 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting move.
posted by Bonzai at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2010


This is just posturing to appease some people too dumb to realize federal employee wages aren't the problem, while fucking a group of people who would probably vote for the Dems no matter what. It's about as cynical as it gets.
posted by JPD at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2010 [81 favorites]


This could play well with independents, but I know exactly how much respect and bargaining power Obama will receive from Republicans for this gesture: zero.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't believe I voted for this tool. :-(
posted by Eyebeams at 10:42 AM on November 29, 2010 [34 favorites]


Fuck Obama. That asshole. I supported him, and I was willing to give him another term because you can't turn this ship on a dime. But my (proposed) 1.4% raise, which would still have left me going backwards, is not the problem. Not to sound glib, like 'a billion here and a billion there, pretty soon it's real money' but the total savings they are talking about are rounding errors in the budget.
posted by fixedgear at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2010 [28 favorites]


Interesting move.

Not that interesting. We already got the state of the union spending freeze and the Catfood Commission from this administration; this is a continuation of the rightward hurtle as the Democrats try to reinvent themselves as the Libertarian Party for people who use Macs.
posted by enn at 10:46 AM on November 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


As a state employee who hasn't seen a raise in two years, and actually had a pay cut last year... meh.
posted by sbutler at 10:46 AM on November 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Funny, I was able to balance the budget on the NY Times do-it-yourself federal budget tool without taking it out on the backs of the working class.

I take it he's going full republican then? What's the word on extending the tax cuts for the top bracket?
posted by mullingitover at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2010 [19 favorites]


I plan on holding a press conference to announce that I am reducing our household debt by switching my toothpaste from Crest to Ultra-Brite. Future generations will appreciate the sacrifice we've made today.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


[jimmies Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia cut out lithograph spotlight]
[wonders why Joe still isn't here]

posted by cavalier at 10:48 AM on November 29, 2010


EMRJKC94: Which would make the Republicans against cutting costs. The tea party members will fight FOR this. The established Republicans will fight AGAINST anything Obama does, so it will weaken them.

I think he should let all the Bush-era tax cuts lapse. The Republicans have left him a way of hanging that on them and it'll help the deficit.
posted by Bonzai at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2010


And a lot of smart, talented Federal employees will say, "screw this" and flee to the private sectorl. On a pure percentage basis, the number of employees leaving won't look significant. However, it'll be all the good ones that bolt, leaving behind people that can't get a better job, or are too close to retirement to consider leaving.
posted by COD at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is terrible! One year and then check on cost of living to see what is needed. Why exempt military and Congress ? They are all working for the govt. In fact the retired military get huge cheap health insurance that is a great bargain and it costs us tons of money. When civilians retire, we do not get health benefits that went to us from our job but must pay on our own or use Medicare etc.

As former Reagan economist guy Stockman said: the budget mess will only be solved by raising taxes and cutting benefits and it will not work if we do but the one and not the other.
posted by Postroad at 10:50 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since it's going to save such a trivial amount of money, we shouldn't do it?

Are wages in the private sector going up?

I'll agree that I think this is politically motivated, but I'm not sure why it's bad policy. We need to cut spending, this is a small cut, and it's hard for me to believe it's going to make federal employers significantly less able to recruit and retain talented employees.
posted by bluejayk at 10:50 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, "tool"? The man seems to be more or less trying to play ball, proposes a measure that strikes me as at worst a minor inconvenience to people whose job security is more or less ironclad, and you can't believe you voted for him?

Maybe I'm really misunderstanding the degree to which this is will impact federal employees. When the small company I worked for hit hard times, everybody took a pay cut, and I was happy to still have a job at all.

Couple months later the whole thing failed and a motherfucker was unemployed.

So yes please explain to me, in the context of private sector jobs being shed willy-nilly, how saying "no federal employee raises for a little while" is an undue burden. I mean, maybe it is. Maybe I'm just not seeing it. I promise I'm not being deliberately obtuse.
posted by pts at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2010 [92 favorites]


When are the fucking democrats going to get into their fucking heads that no matter what they they do the fucking republicans are going to call them names?
posted by vibrotronica at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


I don't see how any POTUS would have done anything differently in this political climate, but I doubt this move will win Obama any points with those he's ostensibly trying to appease. Darrell Issa will chortle loudly as he arrays his inspectors general and subpoena servers on the chessboard.
posted by blucevalo at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain me this: if it is going to save $60 billiion over 10 years, doesn't that mean the pay freeze has to extend longer than 2 years? How would you save even more money over time by doing a temporary wage freeze.

Obviously the most savings can come if we just let the tax cuts expire. Is there any kind of concerted effort on the part of any politicians to make sure this happens? We have to support this...
posted by Deathalicious at 10:53 AM on November 29, 2010


So he'll fuck over the public sector worker bees for a penny's worth of savings, but won't re-establish the taxes Bush cut on the banksters, which would bring back real percentage points back to the budget? That's Eastern-European-peasant levels of cynicism.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I wish Hillary would have won the primary. Every move from this guy has seemed calculated to piss off the base.
posted by notsnot at 10:53 AM on November 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


Since it's going to save such a trivial amount of money, we shouldn't do it?



No we shouldn't - the government should not be cutting spending on anything right now.

But to your point - there is a large contigent of the right, even the reasonable right, who believe that the government bureaucracy represents some huge % of government spending, and that government employees are massively overpaid relative to their private sector cohort. Neither of those things are even remotely correct, but by doing this sort of thing Obama is playing directly into their hands.
posted by JPD at 10:54 AM on November 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Can someone explain me this: if it is going to save $60 billiion over 10 years, doesn't that mean the pay freeze has to extend longer than 2 years? How would you save even more money over time by doing a temporary wage freeze.
posted by Deathalicious


Future raises are based on whatever they're being paid then. If they're paid less in the future because of no raise now, the next percentage increase ends up being less money.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:54 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


For reference, 2 billion really isn't that much [PDF] (2009 US Federal budget, in billions: receipts = 2,105; outlays = 3,518; deficit = 1,413). Kind of like California closing state parks to balance the budget, saving millions when the the balance is off by billions. Of course there won't be a single magical cut to make everything work, and maybe this is part of a really big picture plan to balance the budget in the near future and for a long term. But as a lone statement, it's supposed to start a discussion on what it would really take to balance the budget.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Matthew Yglesias says:
I 100 percent understand the politics behind the President getting behind the idea of a freeze in federal civilian pay. If it were the case that political messaging gambits had an appreciable impact on election outcomes, this would be a smart political move. In the real world, however, they don’t and the real question is how does this impact the macroeconomy.

The answer, as I understand it, is that relative to other equal-dollar forms of fiscal contraction, this does a relatively small amount of harm. Which is to say that if you implemented a federal civilian pay freeze and used the money saved on job-creating stimulus, that you’d have a good policy idea. So for example you might want to propose a bargain that involved a spending freeze as part of a negotiating process. Instead, following the principle of “if it didn’t work the first 20 times let me try it again” the Obama administration seems to have decided that making preemptive compromises will strengthen their hand in some unspecified way down the road.
posted by John Cohen at 10:55 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let it be resolved that Obama is either all good or all bad. Let's get this sorted: I have lunch in five minutes.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2010 [21 favorites]


He can freeze my pay if he forgives my debt, eh? eh?
posted by mooselini at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


My husband hasn't had a pay raise in three years. I have many friends and coworkers who have lost jobs, had cut in hours, cut in benefits and cut in pay over the last three years. They are all in the private sector.

Sorry, fixedgear. I can't feel sorry for you about a pay freeze. Sounds about par for the course for the past few economic years. About time the federal government also showed a tightening of the belt.

P.S. I did vote for Obama, too. And I still stand behind it. Even liberals can understand trying to balance the budget.
posted by jillithd at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2010 [39 favorites]


Can someone explain me this: if it is going to save $60 billiion over 10 years, doesn't that mean the pay freeze has to extend longer than 2 years? How would you save even more money over time by doing a temporary wage freeze.

You are essentially skipping two years of COLA, and the impact of that compounds over time.
posted by JPD at 10:57 AM on November 29, 2010


Can someone explain me this: if it is going to save $60 billiion over 10 years, doesn't that mean the pay freeze has to extend longer than 2 years? How would you save even more money over time by doing a temporary wage freeze.

Presumably retirement benefits are linked to pay, so slowing the rate of pay growth means retirement benefit spending goes down as well. I have trouble believing that's sufficient to explain $2 billion saved in 2011 but $6 billion per year saved over ten years, though.
posted by jedicus at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2010


give me a break... let me get the cheese to go with that whine.

my wife, the teacher, has taken pay/benefit cuts for three years in a row... I (working in the NPO field) haven't seen a raise in 5 years, and have given up benefits I didn't see as life saving (retirement match anyone?) to help keep my agency afloat. A significant number of people in my state are unemployed...

a pay FREEZE, really, you want to complain about that.....??!!!!
posted by HuronBob at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


He can freeze my pay if he forgives my debt, eh? eh?

He isn't freezing the wages of Canadian federal workers, so it doesn't really affect you.
posted by lordrunningclam at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is exactly what governments in a tight situation do. Pay freezes. Hiring freezes. State and muni's typically exempt emergency services (which also tend to cost alot), so it is no surprise that it is civilian only. Employee wages represent a large part of a special part of government budgets - the part they actually control. The US federal government is obligated to spend money providing social security by law, so it unable to make any changes without changing the law, which bureaucracy the or executive cannot do unilaterally. However, it can change how it provides those services - with fewer people and paying them less.

The bad news is that people will continue to have high expectations of the government service, but the government who won't be able to attract talent because the pay will be to low.

Making these decisions's isn't easy - it very politically expedient to pass the problem along and to use creative financing, like Illinois floating a bond based on future "revenues" from the cigarette payout fund, which is possibly the most very stupidest thing I have ever seen in government financing.
posted by zenon at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


JPD: "You are essentially skipping two years of COLA, and the impact of that compounds over time."

Which is why what this actually amounts to is a stealth pay cut. COLA raises aren't really raises, they're just treading water against the rising tide of inflation.
posted by mullingitover at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


FYI, Congress apparently passed on taking their standard cost-of-living increase for 2009 and 2010, so they've already accepted a pay freeze.
posted by fatbird at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


So is this a freeze only in the pay of non-union workers, or is Obama preparing that the federal government default on its existing union contracts?
posted by enn at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2010


s/preparing/proposing
posted by enn at 11:02 AM on November 29, 2010


Neither of those things are even remotely correct, but by doing this sort of thing Obama is playing directly into their hands.
posted by JPD at 2:54 AM on November 30


Doing something your opponents approve of is not "playing directly into their hands". It might be just a good idea regardless of it's political virtues. It's not even a cut, it's a failure to increase spending, it's small but symbolically important, and it's hard for me to see what kind of negative consequences there would be.
posted by bluejayk at 11:02 AM on November 29, 2010


When this hit the grapevine at work the main consensus was "I wouldn't mind so much if my insurance premiums were also going to be frozen."
posted by govtdrone at 11:03 AM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]




Yglesias said:

Instead, following the principle of “if it didn’t work the first 20 times let me try it again” the Obama administration seems to have decided that making preemptive compromises will strengthen their hand in some unspecified way down the road.

Man, totally. Why not bring this into negotiations? Why concede it off the bat? The political motivation is confounding.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus Christ can we just be grown-ups and cut some of this massive defense spending that's sinking this union? Really. I am tired of this being the sacred cow/elephant in the room hybrid. We, the people of the United States, spend way too much on defense and it is wrecking things. Vote for smaller defense budgets in 2012.
posted by Mister_A at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2010 [93 favorites]


This is exactly what governments in a tight situation do. Pay freezes. Hiring freezes. State and muni's typically exempt emergency services (which also tend to cost alot), so it is no surprise that it is civilian only

Except that most of those entities can't run deficits as part of an expansionary fiscal policy - that's where that logic falls downs. This move is emphatically anti-Keynesian.
posted by JPD at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


wonders why Joe still isn't here

Sorry I'm late. I was busy arguing with clavdivs in the Wikileaks thread about Hillary ordering her diplomats to collect biometric information on members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries.

Since everyone already knows what I think about the President, I'll just quote the current top post at the Great Orange Satan:
So...instead of actually doing something real about "sky-high deficit spending" (like pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq ahead of schedule), we get a symbolic gesture that will reduce federal spending by less than 0.05 percent.

And with that symbolic gesture we witness President Obama's unfortunate alter-ego, President Gimmick. President Gimmick isn't serious about solving any of our problems, he's only serious about demonstrating his desire to solve our problems. ...

Confronted with the choice between making the tough decision to defend federal spending during a recession or to develop a plan to actually slash spending, President Gimmick takes a third way: pretending to do something. In the process, he concedes that he believes his critics are right on the merits, but far from signaling strength, he signals that he's too weak to do anything serious about it.

The worst thing about President Gimmick isn't that he plays politics, though. The worst thing about President Gimmick is that he's not very good at it.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's not even a cut, it's a failure to increase spending, it's small but symbolically important, and it's hard for me to see what kind of negative consequences there would be.

Well, in Keynesian terms, it represents a decrease in aggregate demand, and therefore a drag on macroeconomic growth.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's not even a cut, it's a failure to increase spending, it's small but symbolically important, and it's hard for me to see what kind of negative consequences there would be.


If you believe that then you and I have a fundamentally different view of what sort of fiscal policy the government should be pursuing, so it's not worth arguing about it. (said in an "agree to disagree" sort of tone rather than "you are an idiot" tone to be clear.)
posted by JPD at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2010


Fiddlesticks, JPD.

Anyway, it's ridiculous that this doesn't apply to Congress. In my opinion non-civil-service federal employee pay (e.g., the President, members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, etc) should be limited by the employee's outside sources of income. So for example if an employee's pay would normally be $200,000 but they make $50,000/year in investment income, book sales, etc then the government would only pay them $150,000. If the employee made in excess of $200,000 from other sources then he or she would be paid nothing. This would mean many members of Congress, the President, and probably a lot of others wouldn't be paid anything by the government, which suits me just fine.

Retirement benefits for such employees would work the same way. If an ex-President takes in millions from a memoir or the lecture circuit, then he or she shouldn't get any retirement benefits that year. Same thing with members of Congress and Secretaries that go through the private sector revolving door.
posted by jedicus at 11:06 AM on November 29, 2010


I'm a state employee. Haven't had a raise in almost three years.

We've all taken a hit. Is this the only cut Obama is making? Then, yes, it's stupid. Is it part of larger series of cuts that will cumulatively bring down our debt? Then so be it. I'd rather he make a bunch of small cuts than trash one or two really big programs that we need but are unpopular.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


And a lot of smart, talented Federal employees will say, "screw this" and flee to the private sector.

You mean the private sector that's still down 7.4 million jobs since 2007? That private sector? Because most of the people I know in the private sector haven't gotten a pay increase in years. Hell, if my current employer was the federal government instead of a two-bit corporation that still thinks it's a mom-'n-pop shop despite having almost 270 employees, I could be making 30%-100% more than I am now.

The private sector has been shedding jobs, wages, and benefits for a decade. It's about time federal employees started sharing the pain.
posted by valkyryn at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


As someone who is employed by a private company who hasn't seen a raise in gong on two years, and who hasn't received any bonuses during the same period, adding up to an effective pay cut with or without inflation, I'm OK with this.

Oh, and good luck moving on to that private sector job. The headhunters haven't been calling for quite some time.
posted by lordrunningclam at 11:07 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]




And a lot of smart, talented Federal employees will say, "screw this" and flee to the private sectorl. On a pure percentage basis, the number of employees leaving won't look significant. However, it'll be all the good ones that bolt, leaving behind people that can't get a better job, or are too close to retirement to consider leaving.

Anyone who would, in this economic climate, bail on a secure position at a long-term viable employer for the loss of a low-percentage raise is not of the "smart" variety.

Not to mention that the private sector isn't exactly bursting with job openings.
posted by hockeyfan at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everybody else in America has had a pay freeze for the last few years. Why should government employees be any different? Now, if Obama is planning to force hyperinflation in order to fix the problems with debt created by the bubble, it would be outrageous for him to freeze pay. And, as much as I fear what hyperinflation would do to me personally, I think that in a lot of ways it makes sense as one of the only conceivable ways that the housing market and other markets, as well as student loan debt and other debt, can be repaired. Basically, Obama's an idiot if he's not at least considering that inflation is either what he ought to be making happen or what he ought to be seeing in the future from "natural" causes. And, if he sees that, it's not very nice of him to consider freezing anyone's pay.
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2010


"I wouldn't mind so much if my insurance premiums were also going to be frozen."

This. x1,000

I can't believe how many people think Feds get free health care. Um, no...that's Congress you're thinking of. And oh, hey, they seem to be exempt from this!
posted by JoanArkham at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


So yes please explain to me, in the context of private sector jobs being shed willy-nilly, how saying "no federal employee raises for a little while" is an undue burden. I mean, maybe it is. Maybe I'm just not seeing it. I promise I'm not being deliberately obtuse.

Do you want the NRC or the EPA staffed by people who couldn't find work elsewhere?

Believe it or not, it's a good idea to attract people to government work. Everyone I know in government already makes significantly less than in the private sector. A lot of them are people who wouldn't have a lot of trouble finding work elsewhere (scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals). Lower salary is an ok tradeoff for a lot of people, since it usually comes with predictability. Mess with the predictability and you piss people off BIG TIME. As bad as you think government is, it's got a lot of talented people working in it that could be convinced to jump ship.
posted by pjaust at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't see a problem here. Sure it sucks for those affected by the proposed freeze, but they will still have jobs. The pain has to be shared across the board unfortunately. The private sector has the same problem.

Another alternative is job cuts. Does anyone in the federal government really want that?
posted by inturnaround at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The private sector has been shedding jobs, wages, and benefits for a decade.

Of course and this is exactly why the government shouldn't be cutting wages. IF you believe government spending is stimulatory. If you don't then sure, cut wages, cut spending, etc.

Fiddlesticks, JPD
?
posted by JPD at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2010


It's not even a cut, it's a failure to increase spending, it's small but symbolically important, and it's hard for me to see what kind of negative consequences there would be.

Off the top of my head:

It pisses off many in the Democratic base (perhaps widening the enthusiasm gap).

It pisses off Federal Employee Unions and membership (who mostly vote Democrat).

It makes your party look like asses 'cause your party pilloried the other party when the other party suggested the same thing recently.

It removes a negotiable chip from the table.

It comes too early in the game and will be forgotten when the real fight with the GOP arrives after the holidays.

It cedes too much narrative ground on the deficit (federal workers are expected to take a cut, but banksters enjoying record profits aren't asked to pony up).
posted by notyou at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2010 [24 favorites]


Five years ago I ended a five-year period of wage freeze in the private sector, as the area I'm in got hit by massive oversupply/underdemand of labor. However, it was one of many things that allowed the company I worked for to stay solvent (including the two owners retaining their $1-a-year salaries, even though the stock price -- their entire incomes came from stock profits from the inception of the company -- only went down during that entire period.)

So I can see why it makes sense, even though it sucks for the employees. It is better than a salary cut, of course, in that this won't require employees to change the way they live; it just prevents them from improving it. It's a bitter pill nonetheless.

As to what it means politically: stalemate. No matter what the outcome, everyone on every side will find a way to spin it pro-us/anti-them. So disregard that, and what we have left over is a net reduction of expenses (compared to projections) for the next two years. Every little bit helps, right?
posted by davejay at 11:11 AM on November 29, 2010


Why not bring this into negotiations? Why concede it off the bat? The political motivation is confounding.

As I wrote in the comments of that Yglesias post, at some point you have to at least consider the possibility that Obama's not impossibly stupid, but that he's actually getting the policy outcomes he wants. Maybe CHANGE was just a slogan and Obama's just another neoliberal politician who thinks bailouts for the rich and austerity for everyone else will solve our problems. It wouldn't be the first time this happened.
posted by gerryblog at 11:14 AM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


You want to cut the deficit? Dissolve the Air Force. That's how you do it. They are the crummiest service, everyone knows that.
posted by Mister_A at 11:14 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Comparing the Federal Government to Private Enterprise is incorrect. Things that are rational for a Private Enterprise to do are not rational for a State to do.

It is not as simple as Every little bit helps, right? We're not a Tesco.
posted by JPD at 11:15 AM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't believe how many people think Feds get free health care. Um, no...that's Congress you're thinking of.

Congress doesn't get free health care, either.
posted by The World Famous at 11:16 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe CHANGE was just a slogan and Obama's just another neoliberal politician who thinks bailouts for the rich and austerity for everyone else will solve our problems. It wouldn't be the first time this happened.

Yeah, I gotta admit this is a bit like how I felt after the DADT appeal. Another Christian politician trying to keep his religion the law, first and foremost.

Dissolve the Air Force.

Isn't the Air Force the service that runs the ICBMs?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:17 AM on November 29, 2010


Everyone I know in government already makes significantly less than in the private sector.

In state and local governments, this is largely true. Those jobs do tend to pay pretty badly.

But federal jobs compared to similarly situated jobs in the private sector? I somehow doubt that. Especially when you take in retirement and fringe benefits. Federal jobs have tons of both: lots of vacation time, fixed and rather cushy hours, gold-plated retirement benefits--know any non-government employees who still have pension plans?--and awesome health coverage.

There is an insane amount of competition for federal jobs. True, nobody gets rich working for the feds. But so few people in the private sector get rich and so many more of them are desperately poor that the idea that people are making sacrifices to work for the federal government is just silly.
posted by valkyryn at 11:17 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lower salary is an ok tradeoff for a lot of people, since it usually comes with predictability. Mess with the predictability and you piss people off BIG TIME. As bad as you think government is, it's got a lot of talented people working in it that could be convinced to jump ship.

Predictability is in terms of pay steps and increases, yes...but most people I know who work for the Uncle are there because they can clock in at 8 and leave at 5, and get every other Friday off, which is not possible in the private sector. That and they won't be laid off unless they commit a felony, and maybe not even then unless the press gets wind of it.
posted by hockeyfan at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2010


One of the many reasons I like MetaFilter is that when things like this happen and I don't really understand why it's a big deal or the potential effects it can have on various things, I can usually head over to the blue, find the post on the topic, and read the comments.

So thanks, notyou.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:20 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, why not the military? Ok. No pay cut for those serving when in a war zone, but when not, as for example, at our air force base on the outskirts of Madrid, or in Germany or in Italy. After all, those folks are getting clothing, medical, housing, and pay, as well as building toward pensions. And no, I am not anti-military, having been in the army twice.

Congress has to approve a freeze like this proposal but they are both exempt and have the right to recommend and approve their own pay raises! Nice job.
posted by Postroad at 11:20 AM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Things that are rational for a Private Enterprise to do are not rational for a State to do.

Yes, yes, yes. I have posted this Keynes bit before and I will probably quote it again:
We cannot, as a community, provide for future consumption by financial expedients but only by current physical output. In so far as our social and business organisation separates financial provision for the future from physical provision for the future so that efforts to secure the former do not necessarily carry the latter with them, financial prudence will be liable to destroy effective demand and thus impair well-being....
posted by enn at 11:20 AM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


The man seems to be more or less trying to play ball

So was Charlie Brown, the only difference being Obama understands Lucy at a slower rate.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2010 [22 favorites]


valkyryn, what are you talking about? What are fixed and cushy hours? Flextime is some awesome benefit? What gold-plated retirement benefits? My Thrift Savings Plan that I pay into? Awesome health coverage? My crappy HMO?
posted by fixedgear at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


After a candidate wins the election and the balloons drop and they give their acceptance speech, the newly elected president heads back stage and is pulled into a conference room. The table is surrounded by tycoons and fat-cats and on the conference table is a projector showing an endless loop of the Zapruder film.
One of the fat cats takes his cigar out of his mouth and says "any questions?"
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:26 AM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]



I can't believe I'm writing this, but I wish Hillary would have won the primary. Every move from this guy has seemed calculated to piss off the base.


Obama is still not leading; he's reacting. Then again, can we ever hope to have better as long as big money impacts who is President, and who makes it to the Hill?

So, now we nick the Federal workers, while bankers, who caused the whole goddamn thing to walk free - still collecting their billions?!? Sick.

Should we have listened to metaman? That guy took a gargantuan fall here on the blue for essentially predicting the kinds of things we have witnessed from Obama over the last months. He may have made a few misstatements in the heat of argument, but I think he predicted what we would see if Obama got elected - i.e. a cautious moderate that would largely disappoint the liberal base.

Obama is certainly better than McCain would have been, and I don't think that Hillary - in making policy - would have done things a lot differently, except for health care (I don't see her negotiating in secret with health care thieves, especially not after what they put her through in 1993).

Look, this country is in a mess! It's going to take 10-15 years, minimum, to just get back to zero - and even that is highly questionable.

We are now challenged like never before. I think Obama is trying, and means well, but he's really not the guy for the job.

I hope to see a Green candidate with balls and national appeal come out to challenge. We really do need a new order in Washington. The GOP and Dems are barbarians, and spineless, respectively.

Here's a very non-risky prediction: we are in for a lot of pain for the next 2 decades, minimum. Recalibration of desire is not an easy thing. Americans are going to have to recalibrate the American Dream, so no matter who is at the top, they are going to be faced with a lot of pissed off citizens who learned - erroneously - that the American Dream was their birthright.

Still, I'm looking for a real leader, who ACTS on his/her words - and keeps promises. Is that asking too much? Maybe, in America, it is. We're about to find out.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


I keep trying to come up with a witty/sad comment about this president and his administration and the Democrats in general, and I just...can't. I can't be anything but sad. This move is both pathetic and counterproductive and clearly, they have utterly lost their way. I don't understand why anyone would go into politics as a Democrat if all they wanted was to make Republicans like them.
posted by emjaybee at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The private sector has been shedding jobs, wages, and benefits for a decade. It's about time federal employees started sharing the pain.

Multiplying misery doesn't even masquerade as a solution; it's just pure ressentiment.

Honestly, "pain for everyone (but the ultra-rich)" is not the only policy option. This sort of thing is happening because the government has been captured by corporate oligarchs who have systematically dismantled the regulatory apparatus and the welfare state; it can be reversed, but not so long as people confuse electoral success of particular parties and politicians with their own well-being.

It's sad to see ostensibly reasonable people so eager to cut other's people's pay for no reason "symbolic reasons" in the name of a phantasmagoric solution to a completely manufactured crisis. We can worry about the deficit when unemployment isn't 10%. My God.
posted by gerryblog at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2010 [25 favorites]


@Joe:
I first read that in Boehner's voice. :/
The Great Orange Satan, oops oh yeah that other one, sorry...
posted by drowsy at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2010


After a candidate wins the election and the balloons drop and they give their acceptance speech, the newly elected president heads back stage and is pulled into a conference room. The table is surrounded by tycoons and fat-cats and on the conference table is a projector showing an endless loop of the Zapruder film.
One of the fat cats takes his cigar out of his mouth and says "any questions?"


Is that true ?!?
posted by mazola at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


It is not as simple as Every little bit helps, right? We're not a Tesco.

Every little bit hurts
posted by yoHighness at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2010


Should we have listened to metaman?

What would that have accomplished? It's just a website, not gun turret on the frontier.
posted by nomadicink at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I keep trying to come up with a witty/sad comment about this president and his administration and the Democrats in general, and I just...can't.

Why are Democrats always surprised when Democrats do what Democrats always do? The greatest (i.e. best at accomplishing anything of merit) Democratic leader in the last 50 years was Bill Clinton - and he wasn't even a real Democrat.

Of course Obama is doing all of these things that disappoint liberals: He's a genuine Democrat true believer. This is what Democrats do. If you don't like it, don't vote for Democrats.
posted by The World Famous at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain me this: if it is going to save $60 billiion over 10 years, doesn't that mean the pay freeze has to extend longer than 2 years? How would you save even more money over time by doing a temporary wage freeze.

We're borrowing money to pay for government employee salaries now, so presumably if we need to borrow slightly less now, we pay less interest in the future?
posted by madajb at 11:34 AM on November 29, 2010


Should we have listened to metaman?

Given that, as IronMouth pointed out in that thread, his comments twenty minutes after the one you linked to essentially boiled down to claiming that Obama wouldn't win Ohio or Florida because he was black, I'm gonna have to say no.

But if we're going to bring that up, then yeah, maybe we should ask how effective the so-called "Tea party" would be if there wasn't a black guy in the White House, if Sarah Palin was still the governor of Alaska and devoid of book deal opportunities, and Obama still a senator. We can also ask how much quicker health care reform would have collapsed because the word "HillaryCare" would have been attached to it, or how much greater our economy would be with Commerce Secretary Evan Bayh. But who knows or cares because it's not ever going to happen.

This isn't about if Hillary Clinton would have done a good job. It's about why Barack Obama is doing such a bad one.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


What gets me is the across-the-board nature of this. I don't know for sure if the following applies to the federal government, but I suspect it does - anyway, what happens in my state is a big ol' hiring and wage freeze in all state jobs due to budget problems. The idea is not to spend any more tax dollars than we already are, right? Great. Trouble is, not all those jobs are funded by taxes - some, for example utility regulators, are funded by things like utility assessments. Kinda like the ol' fee-for-service model; the regulators' time is prorated out to various utilities according to how much time the regulators spend working our various dockets, and they invoice us periodically. The amount of work the regulators need to do hasn't decreased - if anything, it's increased - but they can't hire the extra staff they need, even though it wouldn't be using tax dollars and wouldn't affect the state budget. As a result, a massive regulatory backlog develops, and a lot of stuff doesn't get the scrutiny it deserves, because either the governor or the legislature (or both) has decided the tiny amount of political points they score is worth more than actually having people do the work the government is supposed to do, and pitching an "across the board freeze" sells better than actually thinking carefully about how different work is paid for.

Again, I don't know for sure if the feds use a similar assessment approach, but I'd be surprised if they didn't for at least some things. I know everybody gets upset at "complicated rules" and "things that have details" and "reasons for things" and stuff like that, but sometimes a one-size-fits-all across-the-board approach just isn't very smart.

So that's why this annoys me from a wonky standpoint. It's even more annoying for other (budgetary and political) reasons that have been pointed out, and I'm disappointed that it's coming from a guy who had the brains (and courage, to some extent) to oppose the idea of a gas tax holiday in 2008.
posted by nickmark at 11:36 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's sad to see ostensibly reasonable people so eager to cut other's people's pay for no reason "symbolic reasons" in the name of a phantasmagoric solution to a completely manufactured crisis.

Yeah, this kills me. We saw it during the GM and Chrysler bailout debates, and we see it every other time Unions/labor go up against ownership: "Why should assembly line workers/grocery clerks/UPS drivers get what they're getting when I'm not getting it?".

Maybe it's 'cause you keep imagining your interests are aligned with ownership's interests?
posted by notyou at 11:37 AM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Fiddlesticks, JPD"
?


I answered the question about savings over 10 years about 2 minutes after you did is all.

posted by jedicus at 11:37 AM on November 29, 2010


One year and then check on cost of living to see what is needed.

Except - and this is what makes this nonsense so offensive - we ALREADY DO THAT. Fed salaries are calculate based on ECI, a combination metric based on consumer price index and private sector salaries. Last year there was no increment because the stagnate private sector and almost deflation meant a decrease, which doesn't happen.

And before you have a AHA! moment about that, this isn't the first time this nonsense has deployed and fed salaries already haven't kept up with private sector salaries.

Increases in retirement benefits for retired federal employees were first linked to the CPI by law in 1962. Increases in Social Security benefits have been linked by law to changes in the CPI since 1973. Before then, Congress periodically adjusted Social Security benefits through legislation. Congress chose to tie increases in these benefits to the CPI in order to make the process less subject to political influences. At year-end 2007, the overall price level as measured by the CPI was 450% higher than it was in 1969. As of January 2008, Social Security benefits have risen by 586% since 1969, while federal civil service retirement benefits have risen by 463%. Average wages among all workers in the economy have risen by 618% since 1969. Salaries for civilian federal employees have increased by 398% since 1969, and the salaries of Members of Congress have increased by 298%.[emphasis mine]

My understanding is that the federal workforce is already dealing with a real issue with failing to replenish retiring workers on a consistent basis. As the boomer wave retires we'll see serious brain-drain because we haven't hired folks who will now have enough seniority to have a real institutional memory. This will just make it worse since wages will trail private sector alternatives even more.

I don't oppose belt-tightening in principle but this working is predicated on the economy recovering and leaving government workers behind. If the economy and wages stagnate this does nothing that wasn't already accomplished by following ECI.
posted by phearlez at 11:39 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


We have always been at war with Eastasia.

From the link:

Obama's Federal Worker Pay Freeze Was Blasted By Democrats Months Ago

In recent months, Democrats have attacked Republicans for proposing federal pay and hiring freezes, and experts have derided the idea of attacking massive budget deficits with small-fry initiatives like this one. ...

The same week, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) called the GOP proposal "arbitrary and restrictive."

And just a week ago, the National Federation of Federal Employees called out Republicans for pushing a pay freeze, and signaled their fear that Obama would join forces with the GOP.


Oh, and...

I don't understand why anyone would go into politics as a Democrat if all they wanted was to make Republicans like them.

It would make sense if one's beliefs were fundamentally Republican, but one's skin color was objectionable to Republican voters.

Speaking purely hypothetically, of course.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:42 AM on November 29, 2010


I only have this to say about Obama: he better find something to pick up the economy by 2012 or he's fucking toast. It doesn't matter if his opponent is some half-wit Alaskan barbie who wants to outlaw abortion, Wicca, evolution and gravity.

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter because people are scared. One in ten of us are jobless. One in one hundred of us are in prison. Something has got to give.

If Obama keeps pulling do-nothing bullshit stunts like this, people are going to notice. Americans like demagogues and hate compromisers. They especially hate compromisers who can't seem to get anything useful done.

This economy needs to turn around stat before we start electing presidents who offer easy answers and cast easy blame on hated minorities. President Palin might be a joke but Weimar America sure isn't: and that's exactly where were headed.
posted by Avenger at 11:46 AM on November 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


This is only the beginning, President Palin will cut the Federal workforce by 50% and cut pay by 50% for those remaining.

Who needs the SEC, EPA, Dept of Ed, SSA, SBA, DOT or DHS anyway? Not hardworking Real Americans.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2010


Obama's Federal Worker Pay Freeze Was Blasted By Democrats Months Ago

Oh noes, a politician flip flopped!

I only have this to say about Obama: he better find something to pick up the economy by 2012 or he's fucking toast.

This. If the economy improves he could be caught in a white mini van on the freeway with a live boy and a dead girl and it won't matter. If the economy still sucks or gets worse, we may be saying "President Palin". Maybe.
posted by nomadicink at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2010


Congress doesn't get free health care, either.

My mistake. I was thinking of the on-site health services, but I see where they do pay for that.

I still think it's pretty crappy for a Senator making $175,000 to tell an admin making $40,000 that they need to "sacrifice."
posted by JoanArkham at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2010


...federal workforce...failing to replenish retiring workers on a consistent basis. ... we'll see serious brain-drain because we haven't hired folks ...

Man oh man do I wish we still had the ability to display images...

Please click and view:

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/gono/Federal%20Workers_1_1.jpg

(comparison between years 2005 and 2010 of number of federal workers at >$150k, >$160K, >$170K and >$180K salary levels)
posted by de void at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If Obama keeps pulling do-nothing bullshit stunts like this, people are going to notice.

They already have.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:57 AM on November 29, 2010


Government workers are an easy target. Even though we're underpaid and overworked, the general public's perception is that we don't do anything and are living in luxury. So yeah, go ahead with the wage freezes that really don't mean fuck-all to the overall budget, it's popular with the shithead proles.

What is it, now, my 2nd year in our wage freeze in Canada? Likely to go on for a few years still. And considering our wage increases didn't even cover inflation, we're getting fucked every which way.

Yeah, go ahead and ask me what I think of popular opinion and generalized ignorance.
posted by splice at 12:00 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama's preemptive stike playing right into the Republican narrative of a post-election mandate -

Eric Cantor, the number two in the House GOP leadership, seized on the news as proof that Republicans, not Obama, are setting the governing agenda. Cantor said he was "encouraged" by Obama's proposal, noting that House Republicans had already "offered the very same spending-cut proposal on the floor of the House." Cantor continued:

"We are pleased that President Obama appears ready to join our efforts. As the recent election made clear, Americans are fed up with a government that spends too much, borrows too much and grows too much."

In other words, Republicans are simply pointing to this as proof that Obama agrees with their interpretation of the elections and in response is now willing to follow their script.


Hapless Democratics administration makes inept blunder, Republicans make out like bandits. News at 11.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:02 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


How 'bout we also get out of two nebulous wars with no foreseeable end and a cloudy objective?

...signs out to watch Bristol Palin on dancing with the stars
posted by toastchee at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2010


inept

People keep using that word. I don't think it means what they think it means.
posted by gerryblog at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2010


Again, why not the military? Ok. No pay cut for those serving when in a war zone, but when not, as for example, at our air force base on the outskirts of Madrid, or in Germany or in Italy. After all, those folks are getting clothing, medical, housing, and pay, as well as building toward pensions. And no, I am not anti-military, having been in the army twice.

Congress has to approve a freeze like this proposal but they are both exempt and have the right to recommend and approve their own pay raises! Nice job.


How are you proposing that? Cutting the military pay table and boosting combat pay?
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 12:04 PM on November 29, 2010


inept

People keep using that word. I don't think it means what they think it means.

1: lacking in fitness or aptitude : unfit
2: lacking sense or reason : foolish
3: not suitable to the time, place, or occasion : inappropriate often to an absurd degree
4: generally incompetent : bungling

Check. Check. Check. And check.

posted by T.D. Strange at 12:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hapless Democratics administration makes inept blunder, Republicans make out like bandits.

Is he sure who's driving the car?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


(comparison between years 2005 and 2010 of number of federal workers at >$150k, >$160K, >$170K and >$180K salary levels)

Except that none of them are here in this thread, right? These are SES folks in agencies that didn't previously exist. Or SES types in agencies (think TSA, Homeland Security) that have seen their missions grow exponentially in that period.
posted by fixedgear at 12:07 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


My company froze my wages right when the recession started. They have as yet to announce when the freeze will be lifted. I know I'm not alone. But at least I have a job. For now.

Too bad this doesn't apply to Congress.
posted by tommasz at 12:10 PM on November 29, 2010


(comparison between years 2005 and 2010 of number of federal workers at >$150k, >$160K, >$170K and >$180K salary levels)

Except that none of them are here in this thread, right? These are SES folks in agencies that didn't previously exist. Or SES types in agencies (think TSA, Homeland Security) that have seen their missions grow exponentially in that period.
posted by fixedgear at 2:07 PM on November 29


If I could favorite this 1 bazillion times I would.
posted by govtdrone at 12:11 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


T.D. Strange, I was just making a joke, but in any event I prefer dictionary.com's "inept":

1. without skill or aptitude for a particular task or assignment; maladroit: He is inept at mechanical tasks. She is inept at dealing with people.
2. generally awkward or clumsy; haplessly incompetent.
3. inappropriate; unsuitable; out of place.
4. absurd or foolish: an inept remark.


All of these definitions (like yours) presume the Democrats are "making mistakes." If we presume that Obama is about as clever as we all used to think he was, then it's probably reasonable to at least consider the possibility that these aren't "inept blunders" but exactly the policy outcomes he wants to achieve. His actions are a whole lot less inscrutable that way; he's not tragically mistaken or haplessly maladroit, he's just wrong.
posted by gerryblog at 12:11 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


They already have.

Obama approval doing better than Reagan, Clinton
posted by shakespeherian at 12:12 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interesting chart, de void, though it's far more useful in context over at USA Today.

However it leaves out a few pertinent facts. One, all those folks represented on the chart still only represent 3.9% of the federal workforce. Neither it or the USA Today article mention the growth rate of fed jobs over that period, making it impossible to know how many of those big-money jobs are raises vs additions.

None of it, however, addresses the question of what those folks would earn in private sector. One of the USA Today items says "Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005." If that's a market-competitive salary then it's not unreasonable to bring those docs up to match it. Else we end up with the med school dregs treating our vets.

So even if those folks represent an egregious over-spending - which I don't think can be shown by those numbers - they're still a drop in the bucket compared to the remaining 96.1% of the workforce who are potentially going to be really badly hit if inflation reduces the value of their wages.
posted by phearlez at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


comparison between years 2005 and 2010 of number of federal workers at >$150k, >$160K, >$170K and >$180K salary levels)

Except that none of them are here in this thread, right? These are SES folks in agencies that didn't previously exist. Or SES types in agencies (think TSA, Homeland Security) that have seen their missions grow exponentially in that period.
posted by fixedgear at 2:07 PM on November 29


actually it is even less nefarious then that - they are virtually all Doctors for the VA. Of the 18k employees making more than 180k, 13k of them are Doctors., 170k is even more dominated by Doctors. The next round in the 150's is very DoD-y.

Data:
http://www.fedscope.opm.gov/cognos/cgi-bin/ppdscgi.exe?DC=Q&E=/FSe%20-%20Status/Employment%20-%20September%202010&LA=en&LO=en-us&BACK=/cognos/cgi-bin/ppdscgi.exe?toc=%2FFSe%20-%20Status&LA=en&LO=en-us

BTW - to be clear I am just about the furthest thing imaginable from a government employee.
posted by JPD at 12:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Phearlez - thanks for the USA Today article. You left out this:

...Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis...

Fixedgear - pardon my ignorance, but what is an "SES Type"?

I would like to see that chart I linked with a breakdown by government agency...
posted by de void at 12:25 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Senior Executive Service.
posted by fixedgear at 12:26 PM on November 29, 2010


I would like to see that chart I linked with a breakdown by government agency

go to fedscope.opm.gov they've got all the data you need you can even drill down way below the agency level. Really we aren't lying - most of the highest paid people are doctors.
posted by JPD at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the record, one of Palin's first acts as governor was to lay down a hiring freeze that lasted over a year. So, no pay cut but departments ended up trying to cover multiple positions with one person. It really shat on the low paying positions that tend to work in groups with high turn over.

As a government worker, if taking a pay cut meant that another family in dire straight gets into the food stamp program, I would do it. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:30 PM on November 29, 2010


I get my salary indirectly from State level taxes. I understand that in difficult economic times I do not get a raise, that is entirely reasonable, I don't like it, but I understand, and I make significantly less than most federal employees, and my benefits while decent are also significantly less than federal employees.

to make this truly fair it should apply to all members of all branches, elected officials as well.
posted by edgeways at 12:32 PM on November 29, 2010


My understanding is that the federal workforce is already dealing with a real issue with failing to replenish retiring workers on a consistent basis. As the boomer wave retires we'll see serious brain-drain because we haven't hired folks who will now have enough seniority to have a real institutional memory. This will just make it worse since wages will trail private sector alternatives even more.

Yes and no. The threat of a boomer retirement wave was well-documented during the Clinton Administration and agencies went through a series of succession planning exercises. However, the retirements (and resulting brain-drain) simply haven't materialized at the predicted levels. At least, they haven't at my agency which hired very few people from the early 1970s through the late 1990s.

Right now we've got a bunch of people who are well beyond retirement age and I'm hoping that the pay freeze will push them out the door. They've been holding on due to the poor economy and freezing their pay (meaning their "high-3" pay years won't get any higher) will be the first disincentive for them sticking around any longer. It's not that they're bad workers; they're not. They work differently, though, and I see a real culture clash between older and younger employees. In addition, with retirement age folks in the jobs, there's nowhere to promote younger employees who are often better-educated, more technologically proficient, and offer greater bang-for-the-buck.
posted by weebil at 12:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


The freeze would save $2 billion in the current 2011 fiscal year,

How much would the taxes on the top 5% wage earners in the country need to be raised to provide this same amount of money? Which would feel the impact on their quality of life more?

It might not be popular to tax the rich, but the fact is that getting the same amount of small number of people who will hardly notice the loss, is less damaging then getting it from thousands who are already feeling the pinch.
posted by quin at 12:33 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reading through this thread, it's really, really remarkable how effective the language of "pain" is. I know it's nice to think that, if we all just make some sacrifices, we'll get out of our economic malaise and pay off the deficit at the same time! It's an entirely reasonable line of thinking when considering household expenses, but unfortunately is not supported by any empirical evidence when it comes to macroeconomies.

Rule number one of recessions: you don’t take money out of the economy in a recession. Freezing federal salaries is a relative drop in the bucket, but a non-zero number of people will be economically harmed by the decreased purchasing power of federal employees, and that’s certainly not worth the seriously tiny budgetary impact of the freeze.

Rule number one of politics: you don’t give your opponents a victory without getting one in return. Obama didn’t have to do this, it will make absolutely no difference in public perception (look at memorandum and see how the teahadists have already moved the goalposts), and he didn’t even get a single concession from the GOP in exchange.

I know there's a moral argument that says, my pay's been frozen, so why shouldn't government employee pay be frozen, too? And sure, whatever. My pay was frozen too until recently. But it's counterproductive (will harm the economy), and won't have any measurable budget impact. Why cut off your nose to spite your face?
posted by downing street memo at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2010 [29 favorites]


It's interesting, as a state employee paid by a federal grant - I usually get screwed by state pay freezes that, in my case, don't actually save the state any money.

Will I finally see the other side of that, the state will un-freeze and I'll be a lucky person that's paid by the federal government and doesn't get frozen?

Also, what always bothers me about the "state/fed employees should share in the bad times" statements is that we don't share in the good times. Maybe nobody is getting bonuses and stock options aren't so exciting anymore, but they sure as hell were in the late 90's, and I'm fairly sure I was under a pay freeze then.
posted by kevin is... at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


getting the same amount of small number of people who will hardly notice the loss,

When you draw the "rich" line where it is currently drawn for income tax purposes, you include a lot of people who will notice the loss.
posted by The World Famous at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


After a candidate wins the election and the balloons drop and they give their acceptance speech, the newly elected president heads back stage ..."

Is that true ?!?

Its a paraphrase of yet another eerily prescient Bill Hicks bit. I think its from his album entitled "Rant in E Minor" but i could be mistaken.
In the meanwhile, I found the unparaphrased version:

no matter what promises you make on the campaign trail - blah, blah, blah - when you win, you go into this smoky room with the twelve industrialist, capitalist scumfucks that got you in there, and this little screen comes down... and it's a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you've never seen before, which looks suspiciously off the grassy knoll.... And then the screen comes up, the lights come on, and they say to the new president, 'Any questions?'

"Just what my agenda is."


ya...
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the most powerful person in the entire world wants to save a few billion, what he should do is turn a group of rogue military men who have different specialties into an A-Team.

These guys wouldn't be assassins...but they would assassinate the reputation of pharmaceutical companies, hedge fund managers, ceos, i-bankers, and other douchebags around the nation.

A pie in the face wouldn't hurt either. I'd love to see some funds fail after everyone pulls their money out because their bigwig got a pie in the face.

Would it solve world problems? Probably not...

Would it be bad-ass? HELL YES.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:38 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If we presume that Obama is about as clever as we all used to think he was, then it's probably reasonable to at least consider the possibility that these aren't "inept blunders" but exactly the policy outcomes he wants to achieve. His actions are a whole lot less inscrutable that way; he's not tragically mistaken or haplessly maladroit, he's just wrong.

If he's as clever as we thought (wished?) he was, it was only in his ability to make us think he held policy positions aligned with the best interests of his voters, rather than his handlers, controllers or large donors. In a choice between (a) clever and complicit in destroying the middle class at the behest of monied interests or (b) well meaning but politically incapable of correcting a badly derailed agenda, (b) is much more paltable, if slightly less likely to reflect reality at this point.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:38 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this kills me. We saw it during the GM and Chrysler bailout debates, and we see it every other time Unions/labor go up against ownership: "Why should assembly line workers/grocery clerks/UPS drivers get what they're getting when I'm not getting it?".

To be honest, I don't really care what pay/benefits a grocery store clerk or assembly line worker gets. That's between them and their employer[1].

I do however, care a lot about the pay/benefits that a government employee gets, since I'm on the hook for it.
I don't believe that government workers should average higher pay than their private sector counterparts, that seems to be an unsustainable disparity.

Whether or not to do something about it right now I think is debatable, but if not now, when? Certainly not in the boom times if history is any judge.

[1] In a general sense. I do think all workers should be a paid a living wage.
posted by madajb at 12:39 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


valkyryn, what are you talking about? What are fixed and cushy hours? Flextime is some awesome benefit? What gold-plated retirement benefits? My Thrift Savings Plan that I pay into? Awesome health coverage? My crappy HMO?

Not Valkryn, but as a former fed employee, I can attest that yes, the hours are fixed and largely cushy by comparison to other similarly situated in the private sector -- one reason for the pay trade off. And yes, to many people, flextime is a HUGE benefit, one worth giving up extra $$ for.

I won't argue the gold-plated retirement benefits. I never saw any of those.

Health care coverage is no worse than private sector and generally is better if for no other reason than the premiums aren't terrible and you actually have a choice of plans. Most private employers have one plan and you either participate or don't.
posted by hockeyfan at 12:43 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The World Famous wrote: "Everybody else in America has had a pay freeze for the last few years."

I keep seeing this come up, and it's just not universally true. Using my SO as an example, her 2008 and 2009 raises were not very good at all, but were slightly in excess of cost of living. (In '08, her company laid a bunch of people off to make room for the pay increases..really)

Finally, in 2010, they stopped being such tightwads and did what amounted to a year and a half of raises at once and a bonus about equivalent to what the '08 raise would have been were it not for the economic crappiness. Of course, they can only afford it because they laid off so many people in '08 and '09.

The point being that some in the private sector are no longer being screwed (aside from the permanent loss of income from the poor raises in previous years). Given the profitability of large companies in the last year and the vast fortunes they're just sitting on, if raises this year were crappy, they're screwing you just because they can, not because their survival is at stake.

My only problem with the government freezing pay right now is that it sounds like a great way to keep itself from getting good employees for the next few years. Federal employees simply aren't overpaid relative to private sector employees, and lately they haven't been underpaid, either. This is good. I'd rather not be scraping the bottom of the barrel for bureaucrats.
posted by wierdo at 12:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama is really starting to remind me of Thabo Mbeki. A technocrat who looks like he should be in control of things except things just keep going wrong and he can't make the right decisions at the right time and he ends up getting replaced by a serial philanderer with a child out of wedlock.

John Edwards, fear not, your time is coming....
posted by PenDevil at 12:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama's preemptive stike playing right into the Republican narrative of a post-election mandate -

As I've argued before, this is one time when narrative really doesn't matter a whole lot. Having the majority in the house gives the right wing of our body politic the initiative and, ultimately, the prerogative to set the tone and legislative agenda of congress. In effect, the US government is now officially a right wing government, whether you like it or not. Obama's job now is to be the executive of that right wing government. And whether you like it or not, unless you want his role to be doing nothing other than vetoing legislation from now until the next presidential election, that is effectively all he can do. That's why the Republicans put so much effort into capturing the house in the midterms in the first place. They know this.

The last election, whether it's interpreted as a mandate or not, effectively gives the Republican party control over the entire legislative process. That's a fact. It will be the Republican leadership that decides what legislation gets put on committee dockets, and it will be the Republican leadership setting the political agenda for the next two years. Period. There's no amount of political maneuvering or wiggling that's going to change that and the only alternative other than going along with Republican policy goals is for the Dems to become as obstructionist as the Republicans have been over the past two years. It sucks, and it's a disaster (especially at this point in time), but in my opinion, that's the situation and no amount of complaining or appealing to reason or good-intentioned wishing is going to change it. That's why the midterms depressed me so much. It was a fait accompli. There's no point whatsoever in hoping for anything even remotely good to happen in terms of policy for the next two years. The Senate is not typically an active originator of legislation (and it's conservative as all get out by design anyway) and there's only so much (non-militarily) the administration can really do through executive orders and vetoes, so the next two years, given the discipline of the Republican party, is already a done deal. Don't wake up one day hoping for a different reality.

The best the Dems could possibly do legislatively would be to block the Republican's policy agenda (basically, do what the Republicans have been doing for the last two years), and unlike the Republicans, they don't stand to gain politically by doing so because the Republicans will just fool low-information voters into blaming even the Republican obstructionism of the last two years on the Dems (as they already started doing even during the election, with robocall push-polling that specifically laid the blame for legislation inaction on the Dems, in complete disregard for reality).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Quick aside: Thanks for making this a spirited but civil discussion. Carry on.

Not Valkryn, but as a former fed employee, I can attest that yes, the hours are fixed and largely cushy by comparison to other similarly situated in the private sector -- one reason for the pay trade off. And yes, to many people, flextime is a HUGE benefit, one worth giving up extra $$ for.

Thanks for making my point. I've already made concessions.
posted by fixedgear at 12:46 PM on November 29, 2010


don't believe that government workers should average higher pay than their private sector counterparts, that seems to be an unsustainable disparity.


of course - except this isn't true. Adjusted for education level federal employees make less then the private sector - even with pension benefits included.
posted by JPD at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that's remotely true!
posted by entropicamericana at 12:52 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Of course Obama is doing all of these things that disappoint liberals: He's a genuine Democrat true believer. This is what Democrats do. If you don't like it, don't vote for Democrats.

I eagerly await your proposal for who liberals should vote for. The Magical Unicorn Party, perhaps?

At the moment, the most productive action almost seems to be a: build time machine, b: prevent institution of Electoral College and resultant entrenchment of two-party system.

Works about as well to fix things as the bullshit we're doing now.
posted by emjaybee at 12:55 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Interesting. The people who are FEP in our company are on a higher pay scale, get more vacation, more FMLA, more benefits than the rest of us and no one can tell us why.
posted by stormpooper at 12:57 PM on November 29, 2010


I keep seeing this come up, and it's just not universally true.

My apologies. It was slight hyperbole on my part.
posted by The World Famous at 1:00 PM on November 29, 2010


more FMLA

FMLA leave is statutory. It is not a "benefit."
posted by The World Famous at 1:01 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


valkyryn, what are you talking about? What are fixed and cushy hours? Flextime is some awesome benefit? What gold-plated retirement benefits? My Thrift Savings Plan that I pay into? Awesome health coverage? My crappy HMO?

hockeyfan has already talked about some of this, but here goes.

1) Vacation time. Federal employees earn more vacation time than many if not most private sector employees. Thirteen days for the first 3 years, then twenty days from three to fifteen years, and twenty-six days after that. I got ten days my first year, ten days my second year, and I'll get thirteen for my third and fourth years, upping to fifteen days after five. No one in the company gets more than twenty days. Federal employees can also carry over up to 30 days of vacation time. We can only carry over ten.

2) Sick time. The disparity in sick time is even more stacked towards the feds, who accumulate sick time at the same rate they accumulate vacation time. At my employer, all employees get seven sick days a year and can carry over an additional seven. That's it. So not only does this mean federal employees can be a little more "creative" about their use of sick time, but even sticking within completely legitimate uses, that's a hell of a lot more time you can use before you have to start taking unpaid FMLA leave.

3) Flexible work schedules. Federal employees are broadly able to choose flextime and compressed work-weeks as well as telecommute. I'm not allowed to do any of those things, and most of my co-workers aren't either. Some do flex, but no one telecommutes and there aren't any compressed work-weeks. There are a whole ton of employers who don't permit any of this.

4) Retirement benefits. The vast majority of private sector employees do not have a pension plan. All federal employees do. Adding insult to injury, the federal government contributes more towards its employees' 401(k) plans than mine does. So you get both defined benefit and defined contribution. I only get the latter, and it sucks. 'course they don't pay me enough to be able to contribute in the first place, so I'm really getting no retirement benefits at all here.

5) In-grade step increases. Even absent actual pay increases, federal employees routinely advance steps and pay grades based primarily on adequate performance and seniority. Almost no one in the private sector gets that.

So yeah, I'm pretty comfortable arguing that federal benefits are, on the whole, far superior to private sector benefits.

I'm completely on board with the fact that my benefits suck, which is one of the reasons I'm looking for the exit as quickly as possible. But they're not that bad. I certainly know of employers--particularly those with lots of wage employees--who have worse benefits or none at all.
posted by valkyryn at 1:03 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Perhaps in arguing this issue we should bear in mind that federal workers live in a very expensive area of our nation...
posted by Postroad at 1:05 PM on November 29, 2010


At the moment, the most productive action almost seems to be a: build time machine, b: prevent institution of Electoral College and resultant entrenchment of two-party system.

It's really not the Electoral College that's the problem. The system for determining electors by vote is decided at the state level-- the problem is that 48 states determine electors on a winner-take-all basis. Bingo bango, there's your two-party system. The EC isn't strictly the issue.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:06 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was about to giggle at all the "cushy benefits" etc. comments but Atrios beat me to the note I was about to give:
Obviously congressional staffers are only a small part of the federal workforce, but the dirty little secret of Washington is that the country is run by poorly paid 25 year olds. Washington is an expensive city. Low level staff jobs really don't pay enough* unless you have some sort of parental support and backup, and of course such jobs are stepping stones to other careers in various corridors of power. In other words, only people of a certain class will tend to take such jobs and move into positions of real power.
I have never been paid less in my entire life than when I was on government payroll, and I have a temp job right now. And I never attended more house parties than when I lived in Washington DC because the entire fucking city is five 20-somethings in a house carpooling to the Hart Office Building together.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:07 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


the dirty little secret of Washington is that the country is run by poorly paid 25 year olds.

Yeah, I know a few of 'em. But unless I completely misunderstand the proposal, their salaries would not be affected.

Also, I'm actually pretty sympathetic to the plight of state and local government employees. They get paid jack. I'm just not quite as sympathetic to federal employees, for the reasons I've outlined above.
posted by valkyryn at 1:11 PM on November 29, 2010


So yeah, I'm pretty comfortable arguing that federal benefits are, on the whole, far superior to private sector benefits

So let's make sure employment continues to suck just as much as humanly possible for everyone, out of personal spite, instead of working to raise the bar for everyone by creating competitive incentives for employers to improve benefits, like a civilized society might.

/but seriously, who cares anymore? we're obviously entering into a protracted collapse stage, now, so the good news: yay, we outlasted the commies. we win! the bad news: only by a few years. and we still lose. at least we've still got enough nukes we could bring the rest of the world down with us, if only we finally elected someone crazy enough. that'll probably happen too eventually. why not.

posted by saulgoodman at 1:13 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why all the the anger towards government employees and their supposed great salaries and benefits? Who prevented you from applying to work at your local state, county, city or the federal government?

Its not an exclusive club like Skull and Bones or something. Meet the educational requirements, take a Civil Service test and wait on a list. Then pass the interview(s) and go off to your "great paying" mind numbing, drag you through a knot hole everyday type job. Its not too late. You can probably find some agency that's still hiring. I did. I had a professional job, a Master's degree, and never made more than 50k in 35 years. And I won a Director's Award for my work. Now my little pension and social security are all I have and Obama and his cat food cohorts will have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands to get them!
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 1:14 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Perhaps in arguing this issue we should bear in mind that federal workers live in a very expensive area of our nation...

The federal government has a locality pay adjustment designed to at least partially account for that.
posted by valkyryn at 1:14 PM on November 29, 2010


of course - except this isn't true. Adjusted for education level federal employees make less then the private sector - even with pension benefits included.

I'm not sure why adjusting for education level would be a useful metric but ok.

However, all of the stories I see in a quick search (granted, they all seemed to be based on the same number of limited sources) support the prevailing opinion that the average federal wage+benefits is higher than the equivalent job in the private sector.
posted by madajb at 1:15 PM on November 29, 2010


But if we're going to bring that up, then yeah, maybe we should ask how effective the so-called "Tea party" would be if there wasn't a black guy in the White House, if Sarah Palin was still the governor of Alaska and devoid of book deal opportunities, and Obama still a senator. We can also ask how much quicker health care reform would have collapsed because the word "HillaryCare" would have been attached to it, or how much greater our economy would be with Commerce Secretary Evan Bayh. But who knows or cares because it's not ever going to happen.

This isn't about if Hillary Clinton would have done a good job. It's about why Barack Obama is doing such a bad one.


The point was that it was soundly and roundly pointed out by metaman and a few brave others at the time that Obama was *not* going to serve a liberal agenda; that he was in fact a pure moderate in liberal/progressive clothing - that Hillary's policy stances were being worn on her sleeve, and Obama was playing to the votes. You're right, it's moot, now, but please don't tell me that everything that is going on, today, with the Tea Party is solely because Obama is black. You can't be serious.

Americans are *hurting*; it doesn't matter *who* the next, or next after that, or next after that, POTUS is because they are probably going to get tossed after one term, just like Obama probably will. Why? Because scared and angry people who think that the American Dream is theirs by birthright are going to keep banging their head against the wall looking for a one-man or one-woman solution, and and nothing will work until those same Americans recalibrate their desires!. We're in for years of upset in this country, period. While that's going on, it would be nice to have someone in office who is of a moderate/liberal bent and doesn't *waffle*.

So, please spare me with the excuse that Obama is black, and that's why we have a Tea Party, because that plays into the same stupidness that led to Obama's being able to promise the world, in the first place. We'd better wake up to what the real problem is - it you, me, and every other American that had better look in the mirror and figure out real quick that the party is over, and take this challenge on without thinking that some President riding in on his black or white or brown horse is going to save us.

Then, after that sobering up, we need to figure out how to get innovative again - to release American inventiveness, to do something *new*, instead of the same old insane politics that Obama and everyone else has been taking our country down with. Insanity is defined as doing the asme thing over and over again, without results. That sounds like the American people, with their penchant for thinking that someone at the top of the GOP or Dem, or Tea Party is going to make everything right. Fugettaboutit!

I don't know what the answer is, but I sure know what it isn't. Obama is not failing because of racism; Obama is failing because he is not putting his actions where his promises were, period. Stop apologizing for the man, and using race as the reason for his current coming up short. As long as excuses like that continue, we will continue to get politicians of all stripes playing the race card, and I for one am sick of it.

Too many liberals rode in on Obama's horse thinking that he was going to change everything. they failed to even look at who was advising the man (advisors = policy!). It's time to wake up and smell the real problems, no matter who the President - i.e. 1) unreal expectations harbored by Americans after 5 decades of being spoiled with advantagem due solely to the fact that Europe and Asia were destroyed in WWII - that's what the American Dream was built on - it's over; and 2) leaders who recognize the latter point; drive our current status home, with no compromise (all the while not letting the GOP and Tea Party goons get away with anything) - even at the risk of losing the next election. Courage is called for; it's courage that this Administration is lacking.

To be clear, Palin is a pure opportunist,, but let's not go panicking and think that she will be the next President. If she thinks that playing the class card will win, she doesn't understand what full transparency of the press, including the intelligence of the American people. We're an adaptive lot; Palin has already had her 15 months. She's at the top of her personal Peter Principal. Tea Party? Who knows? We're going to see a lot more of this. Where the heck kare the Greens, or someone to play a foil to the TP nuts? Are we wimps, or what?

We'd better find Dems who can speak in the vernacular, just like the TP crazies, or we're going to stretch this damned thing out for another 10 years beyond the 15-20 that we're already in the sink for, as we (Americans, and America) re-invent ourselves.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:17 PM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


So let's make sure employment continues to suck just as much as humanly possible for everyone, out of personal spite, instead of working to raise the bar for everyone by creating competitive incentives for employers to improve benefits, like a civilized society might.

You might want to dial it back a bit, just, you know, because of the global and historical context of what "mak[ing] sure employment continues to suck just as much as humanly possible" actually means.
posted by The World Famous at 1:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why all the the anger towards government employees and their supposed great salaries and benefits? Who prevented you from applying to work at your local state, county, city or the federal government?

Again, there's a pretty sharp distinction between state/local employees on one hand and federal employees on the other. The former are pretty drastically underpaid, and their benefits aren't fantastic. The latter get paid pretty competitively vis a vis the private sector, and their benefits are pretty good.

And competition for federal jobs is pretty fierce, in no small part due to that. Job postings are frequently taken down after 24 hours because they'll get hundreds or thousands of resumes.

The proposal in question here is entirely directed at federal employees. State/local employees aren't in view. Which doesn't really matter, because most of them have experienced hiring freezes for at least the past two years anyway. I'm actually more worried about that, as state/local agencies have a hard enough time attracting good talent as it is. But a two-year pay freeze isn't going to make the demand for federal jobs go anywhere.
posted by valkyryn at 1:21 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure why adjusting for education level would be a useful metric but ok.



Because you are comparing like vs like. Nearly all government employees have 4 year college degrees vs only about 35% of the total workforce. I wouldn't want to compare what high school dropouts get to what people with a BA get paid. Also government employees tend to be older and more experienced then private sector employees.
posted by JPD at 1:22 PM on November 29, 2010


Half of government employees - not all
posted by JPD at 1:22 PM on November 29, 2010


Here's the thing: talking about reducing the federal deficit without talking about closing down wars (and -- while we're at it -- raising taxes) is like talking about managing climate change without talking about population control.

As much as civil servants with effective lifetime employment and generally civilized working conditions should be grateful they have jobs and realize that a pay freeze is better than pay nullification (i.e., a layoff), freezing their salaries will accomplish effectively nothing with respect to the deficit. As a result, this move was a pointless gesture, and may, in the end, cost more political capital than it gains.

And as to the idea voiced up-thread that clever civil servants will up and leave for the private sector, well, good luck with that: the end of the unemployment line is way back there.
posted by cool breeze at 1:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


2) Sick time. The disparity in sick time is even more stacked towards the feds, who accumulate sick time at the same rate they accumulate vacation time. At my employer, all employees get seven sick days a year and can carry over an additional seven. That's it. So not only does this mean federal employees can be a little more "creative" about their use of sick time, but even sticking within completely legitimate uses, that's a hell of a lot more time you can use before you have to start taking unpaid FMLA leave.

No. Your math re: vacation time is correct, but after 20 years I'm still getting 4 hours sick leave per pay period x 26 pay periods per year for a total of 104 hours per year or 13 sick days. Yes, we can carry that from year to year. But as you and hockeyfan have already pointed out, we are trading salary for security.

Telecommuting: mandated by Congress. My agency got its hand slapped for its slow implementation. It keeps people off the road, good for everyone. If you seriously begrudge me that, then lobby your elected reps.

I haven't had a step increase in two years. I'm at the upper end of my grade, so they are not annual or even every two. Every three. When that maxes out step increases are over for me anyway. Only know of very, very, very few people who have been non-competitively promoted (i.e advanced in grade). Those were due to 'desk audits' or 'accretion of duties.' More work, more pay.
posted by fixedgear at 1:28 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


And as to the idea voiced up-thread that clever civil servants will up and leave for the private sector, well, good luck with that: the end of the unemployment line is way back there.

I'm sorry, but I think maybe you're not familiar with Washington, DC. Senior civil servants in many agencies are prime targets of government consulting/defense type firms. Freeze their wages, and they'll have slightly more incentive to depart for greener pastures.

So not only will we get anti-stimulus, we'll also get a dumbing down of the federal workforce. Great.
posted by downing street memo at 1:29 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


As long as we keep devoting more attention to the question of whether Obama is sufficiently competent or virtuous than we do to the question of whether or not the thousands of others who make up the power structure in Washington (from the lowliest members of congress to the most elevated lobbyists) are competent or virtuous enough, there's no chance anything significant will change for the better.

but let's not go panicking and think that she will be the next President. If she thinks that playing the class card will win, she doesn't understand what full transparency of the press, including the intelligence of the American people.

We elected Bush II twice. Even after we knew a lot of the bad stuff his administration was doing--stuff, btw, a lot worse than anything we've seen to-date under Obama. Sorry, but I'm just not seeing this rumored canniness of the American people in practice. I'm not convinced we even know our right hand from our left.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:30 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


...Now my little pension and social security are all I have ...

Pension? What's a pension?
posted by de void at 1:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


2) Sick time. The disparity in sick time is even more stacked towards the feds, who accumulate sick time at the same rate they accumulate vacation time.

This isn't true. Sick leave is earned 4 hours per pay period (13 days per year) regardless of seniority. Leave accrual is also pro-rated based on your tour of duty: if your tour is less than 80 hours per pay period or you are in a non-pay status, you accrue less leave. Federal employees don't get short-term disability benefits which most of my friends in the private sector have the option to purchase through their employer. Vacation and sick leave is all you get--if you have a serious illness and run out of leave, you're out of income until you can come back to the office.

3) Flexible work schedules. Federal employees are broadly able to choose flextime and compressed work-weeks as well as telecommute. I'm not allowed to do any of those things, and most of my co-workers aren't either.

This varies highly within government and even between positions. The vast majority of my agency aren't allowed to telecommute at all. While most people in my office are permitted to work a daily flex schedule, all compressed schedules must be approved by management and can be terminated at management's discretion.
posted by weebil at 1:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, please spare me with the excuse that Obama is black, and that's why we have a Tea Party

No.

I completely stand by this statement regardless of how well or badly the economy is doing. The Tea Party exists because it's a streamlining of paranoid, angry, racist old people who are angry that the world is changing. Their stubbornness and the hateful, opportunistic backing the Republican Party to suckle at their votes combined with hideously inept Democratic messaging is what sustains them right now. But let there be absolutely no vagueness in the reality that it stems from months and months of dogwhistling about being "elite," being "uppity," not being "from America," and having an "angry" pastor. The level and furor of opposition to the president from the Tea Party comes from them truly, horribly, and vilely believing that it's beneath them for That One to be telling them what to do.

There have been fervent, right-wing, assholish punditry since as long as I have been alive. But the Tea Party is the Tea Party because it hates the black president.

/derail
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:33 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Job postings are frequently taken down after 24 hours because they'll get hundreds or thousands of resumes. "
I don't know which agencies do that, but ours does not (or at least HR tells us they don't). In fact, from what hiring managers have told me, most jobs have to stay posted a certain length of time to prevent this from happening:
FedBoss: Valkyryn, I'm gonna post this job at 3:18 am; it will be open for 4 minutes. Please apply by 3:22 am.
Valkyryn: Got it!
Other Potential Applicants: Hey! Where did our job go?

Federal Hiring is a completely strange animal; I think there should be some reforms or changes there. Some anecdata: I was a contractor at a Big Corporate Firm (BCF) but loved my assignment with the Fed so I applied and was eventually hired at the agency I loved. A few people at BCF have done the same. Some got small raises, some took pay cuts, and some like me were flat (within a few hundred dollars per year). Some of my benefits are better here, some perks are gone. Really the big difference is I didn't want to work holidays, weekends, and late nights. On the other hand, BCF was generous with cash awards, etc for doing those things. So it's a personal preference. Interestingly, when I was a contractor, even considereing the fed benefits I get now, I cost the government a lot more per hour - most of that went not to me but to "overhead" at BCF.
posted by pointystick at 1:33 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


After reading this thread I've decided to take a political freeze for the next two years. That's it I'm done til after the 2012 election. None of this enriches or enlarges my life in any way. I have little money so I have no impact. I will hide out and ignore things with the best of them. This doesn't mean I don't care and won't work to better the world. I just don't believe the path to betterment always leads to Washington DC. If you see me in some of these shitty threads that go nowhere, remind me of my vow. Thanks.
posted by Xurando at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


You might want to dial it back a bit, just, you know, because of the global and historical context of what "mak[ing] sure employment continues to suck just as much as humanly possible" actually means

Trending in the wrong direction is trending in the wrong direction. The rest is just a matter of time.

Yeah, I get it--we American workers are all spoiled assholes who really deserve a lot worse. We don't even know the meaning of work. (Or as my grandfather used to say when I complained about my back after yard work, "Boy, you don't even have a back." His experience growing up as a sharecropper alone gave him license to claim that particular anatomical feature in our household.)

I've heard that kind of shit enough my entire life not to need to be lectured about it here.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:38 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, "tool"? The man seems to be more or less trying to play ball, proposes a measure that strikes me as at worst a minor inconvenience to people whose job security is more or less ironclad, and you can't believe you voted for him?

Having been a (Canadian) government employee, even COL wage increases hurt, mostly because they don't keep pace with inflation. It's tough when food prices go through the roof.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:52 PM on November 29, 2010


So, please spare me with the excuse that Obama is black, and that's why we have a Tea Party

If Hillary had won we still would have had a Tea Party, they just would have been sexist assholes instead of racists.

We have a Tea Party simply because Republicans are sore losers.
posted by rfs at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


It might also be instructive to bear in mind that this move comes at a time when even the most reputedly "liberal" major media outlets in the nation are chock-a-block with content like this:

Solving Federal Debt Crisis Hinges On Compromises

That's right people: Even those Fascist-Nazi-liberals over at NPR are clamoring over the fact that we are in a scary Federal Debt Crisis right now. In that context, asking Federal employees to forgo pay-raises for two years certainly isn't going to lose the Dem's any of that increasingly important rural vote. Not that they're going to get it anyway.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:58 PM on November 29, 2010


You left out this:

...Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis...


I left out that because I thought it was clear from a few other things I otherwise quoted, including the statistic on how much less fed salaries have increased since 1969 versus other salaries - several hundred percent less. It's also a poor statistic since, as JDP mentioned, fed workers are not a representative cross-section of the population - so comparing the two segments to inflation isn't useful.

If the private industry added a lot of McDonald's jobs and the Fed added a bunch of engineers then the fed's total salaries are going to go up faster unless they pay engineers the same as they do food service folks. And if you do that you get the engineers who can't get work elsewhere. So unless the fed jobs represent an accurate microcosm of private jobs the % change vs inflation is meaningless.

The fed salary increments are already tied to inflation & private sector salaries, so freezing them means you either harm the workers because their salaries don't keep pace with inflation (which, yes, may or may not be the case in private industry) or you encourage them to leave as private salaries increase and government salaries don't increase to match.

For a pissant payoff that can be very compellingly pointed to as anti-stimulus by removing buying power from a group where 96% earn less than $150,000 - a group more likely to spend the majority of their income than folks who earn more.
posted by phearlez at 2:00 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I get it--we American workers are all spoiled assholes who really deserve a lot worse. We don't even know the meaning of work. (Or as my grandfather used to say when I complained about my back after yard work, "Boy, you don't even have a back." His experience growing up as a sharecropper alone gave him license to claim that particular anatomical feature in our household.)

And the real tragedy is that a strong work ethic, and the personal philosophies that underpin it, were manipulated by the Congressional shills that were paid off by the powers-that-be. We work harder than anyone in the so-called developed world. We bought into the "Dream" that said "work hard and spend, and your labor will bear the fruit of status, and you will be happy". The whole goddamn country bought into that, while the snake oil thieves increased their share of wealth at the top 1% from 15% of total to something like 25% of total, today (that change happening over approximately the last 2-3 decades.

This is a great country, with good people who care. We have been fed the wrong diet of consumer crap for the last 60 years. We will survive, and it's our very goodness, on balance, that will pull us through. We just need more leaders to tell us the truth - and if they don't, they're gone. The Internet has changed everything. No more hiding; it's truth, action, or out!
posted by Vibrissae at 2:01 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


In a choice between (a) clever and complicit in destroying the middle class at the behest of monied interests or (b) well meaning but politically incapable of correcting a badly derailed agenda, (b) is much more paltable, if slightly less likely to reflect reality at this point.

Corrupt or incompetent?

If we presume that Obama is about as clever as we all used to think he was, then it's probably reasonable to at least consider the possibility that these aren't "inept blunders" but exactly the policy outcomes he wants to achieve.

Truly, it's a bottomless well of amusement to read the comments - here and elsewhere - along the lines of "He's acting like a Republican! I just don't understand it."
posted by Joe Beese at 2:02 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The private sector has been shedding jobs, wages, and benefits for a decade. It's about time federal employees started sharing the pain.

This is classic Tea Party/Fox News horseshit. It's a great example of the politics of making sure people get what they deserve - government employees don't "deserve" their pay like the rest of us hard-workin' Amurrkans do. Never mind its actual effects, or lack thereof. Never mind that government employees aren't the parasites that the Randian wing of the Republican Party views them as. Never mind that they already tend to get paid less than their private sector counterparts. Never mind that this does next-to-nothing to, you know, actually reduce the deficit. It's another instance of Democrats running to occupy a center moving ever-rightward, of Barack Obama doing everything he can to kiss the asses of his opponents. The firings of Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod, the Catfood Commission, all of it - every singly clumsy and principle-less attempt that Obama makes to please Glenn Beck will fail. But that's not stopping him from trying, I suppose.

The really scary part isn't Obama's bullshit posturing, though. It's the ideology behind the contempt for government workers that's bubbling up in the newly emboldened Republican ranks. Thomas Frank wrote a wonderful book a couple of years ago called "The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule". The book was a sort of anthropological study of power in Dubya's DC, but it also included a fascinating history of the decades-long effort by the conservative establishment to actively degrade the morale and quality of the American civil service. The constant assaults on government workers - the almost sarcastic appointments of opponents of the mission of agencies to leadership positions within those agencies, the push to make life tougher for government employees, etc - has not been accidental. It's not about shrinking the government to a leaner, more competent structure - it's about weakening it. Competence in government is the enemy of conservatism. Government's "size" isn't the issue. Hell, big government is a wonderful thing for the Republican Party as long as that government is incompetent at anything except making sure their interests get inconceivable amounts of money shoveled their way.

But for the sake of argument, let's share the pain. Let's raise the taxes of the rich back to what they were during the oppressive, anti-business presidency of Ronald Reagan. Let's cut back on the legions and their shiny toys that guard our Imperial interests. Let's tax the Wall Street firms (who nearly destroyed our economy) that are paying their highest bonuses EVER.

Somehow, though, I'm doubting this is going to happen.
posted by jhandey at 2:10 PM on November 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


Whenever people offer me strictly defined choices between two made up categories like this, Joe, I'm always reminded of the old horse f$*ker joke, and I just kind of politely nod and smile and walk away...
posted by saulgoodman at 2:10 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I jumped way the heck to the bottom here without reading a lot of this so I apologize if this point has been made above more eloquently: We all know private sector jobs have been hit by pay cuts, freezes, etc. (not to mention the layoffs and staff reductions and bankruptcies). Doing this to the government workers may save pennies compared to the big-budget items that could be cut, but it does provide a level of "me too" solidarity between private sector and government employees that would not be there without such a move. It is likely more symbolic than cost-effective but it promotes the idea that we are all in this together and the government employees (save those who fight or make laws*) are just as affected as everyone else, meaning all of us are part of the solution.

*why are these groups excepted? Well the former obviously because they take the risks and cutting their bonuses would be a clusterfuck on both sides of the aisle; the latter, well, golly, there's no way it would pass otherwise, because judging by their actions a large percentage of congresspersons are apparently greedy, self-centered fucks.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:17 PM on November 29, 2010


saulgoodman I find your reasoning suspect.

During the past two years the Democrats held the House. And they sent good legislation to the Senate where it died, and people like you told us that it was because the Senate was super important and it sucked, but nothing could get done because the House just didn't have the power.

Now the Republicans hold the House, the Democrats hold (if that's the word) the Senate, and the Presidency, but none of that matters, we might as well just get used to Obama being uber-right wing because he's now the Executive of a Right Wing government, because -- as we all know -- the House is all important and now that the Republicans have it there's nothing anyone can ever do.

WTF?

Why is it that when the Democrats hold the House nothing good can be accomplished because the Senate is conservative and more important. But when the Republicans hold the House suddenly that's all that matters and we might as well just get used to the idea of a Right Wing government and Obama doing even more super Right Wing crap than he has ever done before?

It appears to be your position that **NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS** the only choice we have is to rush to the right. The Democrats have both Congress and the Presidency? We must rush to the right because the Senate dictates all. The Republicans take the House? We must now rush even further to the right because the House is all important and the Senate doesn't matter. There never appears to be any political configuration that, from your POV, would justify liberal politics.

Also, what would be wrong with simply blocking all Republican evil proposals for the next two years? They're the ones who started this nonsense, let them suffer the same thing we have been. Besides, I'd rather have the government doing nothing for two years than spending two years enacting Boehner's wish list. Why would it be so bad to block their evil?
posted by sotonohito at 2:18 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why is it that when the Democrats hold the House nothing good can be accomplished because the Senate is conservative and more important. But when the Republicans hold the House suddenly that's all that matters

Because in order to get anything done, you need the consent of both the House and the Senate. If the Republicans can stop you in anything, that's it, tough noogies for you.
posted by mightygodking at 2:19 PM on November 29, 2010


Yeah, I get it--we American workers are all spoiled assholes who really deserve a lot worse. We don't even know the meaning of work.

This, a thousand times.

Again, Thomas Frank (this time from "What's the Matter with Kansas?"):

For decades, Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting.... The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawoof toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. 'We are here,' they scream, 'to cut your taxes."
posted by jhandey at 2:20 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


...I left out that because I thought it was clear from a few other things I otherwise quoted, including the statistic on how much less fed salaries have increased since 1969 versus other salaries - several hundred percent less....

The quote from the article (circa 2008) you linked:

...Average wages among all workers in the economy have risen by 618% since 1969. Salaries for civilian federal employees have increased by 398% since 1969, and the salaries of Members of Congress have increased by 298%. ...

Apples and oranges - the above doesn't specifically break out federal vs. private, just federal vs. *all*. It's hard to make a direct comparison between this quote and the one from USA today because of that, but we can generalize that from '69 to '08, fed increases are 2/3rds of overall increases (398/618, or put, another way, "several hundred percent less").

That doesn't take into account the benefit "mix" either, strictly wages. I wonder what it would look like if benefits/vacation were assigned a dollar value and factored in.

More data needed and welcomed!
posted by de void at 2:21 PM on November 29, 2010


I also look forward to the justifications from Whimpocrats as to why it would have been bad for the Democratic Congress back in 2008 to have investigated Bush's genuine war crimes, but it's somehow fine and dandy for the Republicans to spend the next two years doing Whitewater Part 2.

mightygodking wrote Because in order to get anything done, you need the consent of both the House and the Senate. If the Republicans can stop you in anything, that's it, tough noogies for you.

Ok, fine, so why the heck does saulgoodman now tell us that it is incumbent on Obama and the Democratic Senate to enact Boehner's wish list? Where the heck did that come from?

I get that saulgoodman is an ardent Obama supporter and that he feels that it is necessary to defend Obama's actions regardless of what those actions are. I don't get how he feels that somehow he can make up crap and simply declare, ex cathedra as it were, that since the Republicans have the House it is now Obama's obligation to go along with everything they could ever want to do. He certainly didn't believe that it was Obama's obligation to go along with what the more liberal House wanted to do back in 2008, no, then we got stern lectures about how the Senate was really all that mattered. Now that it's a Republican House though, he gives us stern lectures to the effect that *of course* Obama has to do what the Republicans want because the House is all that matters.
posted by sotonohito at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


we might as well just get used to Obama being uber-right wing

That sort of hyperbole doesn't help at all, you know. Or do you not know what "uber-right wing" actually means?
posted by The World Famous at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Doing this to the government workers may save pennies compared to the big-budget items that could be cut, but it does provide a level of "me too" solidarity between private sector and government employees that would not be there without such a move.

Nice, misery loves company, right?
posted by fixedgear at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


More data needed and welcomed!


I'm going to start a website called "Let me seach a panoply of government websites for you"

Google is your friend. I don't know what the answer is, but usually the BLS will have it for you with a bit a digging - you can even call them if you want - they are seriously very helpful (probably shouldn't tell them you are trying to prove they are overpaid). If they don't have what you are looking for try the BEA. If that fails call someone whose name you get off of census.gov and beg for help.
posted by JPD at 2:31 PM on November 29, 2010


LMBLSFTY

http://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm
posted by JPD at 2:33 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The World Famous I'll quote the relevant portion of what saulgoodman wrote:
In effect, the US government is now officially a right wing government, whether you like it or not. Obama's job now is to be the executive of that right wing government. And whether you like it or not, unless you want his role to be doing nothing other than vetoing legislation from now until the next presidential election, that is effectively all he can do
This, you may note, is the exact polar opposite of what he was saying back when a somewhat more liberal brand of Democrats held the House. Then he told us, sternly, that it was the Senate that mattered so all of our foolish and childish requests for liberal legislation were impossible.

Now, however, he tells us that it is Obama's job to the executive of a Right Wing government, an executive (in theory anyway) is one who executes the policies enacted by another body. So, yeah, it would appear to be saulgoodman's position that it is now Obama's job to rush as far to the right as he can in order to appease our new Republican majority in the House.

And, this particular bit of insanity from Obama, would appear to be uber-right wing. It won't do jack shit to fix the budget, it matches every bit of crazy right wing narrative I can think of about evil overpaid big government bureaucrats, it gains him nothing because he didn't even use it as a bargaining chip but rather just tossed it out as if in hopes that somehow it would make FOX like him, etc.

Soon we'll be getting the report from the cat food commission and that will recommend (at an absolute minimum) raising the retirement age, and is extremely likely to recommend slashing Social Security deeply and may even include (you can just see Rush and Coulter getting sexually excited at the prospect) a recommendation for privatizing Social Security.

It is quite possible that Obama will manage to accomplish the single, solitary, ultra right wing goal that Bush couldn't: destroying Social Security by privatizing it.

So, yeah, it looks damn ultra right wing to me.
posted by sotonohito at 2:36 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or do you not know what "uber-right wing" actually means?

Indefinite detention without trial?

Torture?

Murder?

Let me know if I'm getting warm.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let me know if I'm getting warm.

Sadly, indefinite detention without trial, torture, and murder are not uniquely characteristic of right-wing or left-wing governments.
posted by The World Famous at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, thanks to Obama that's no longer the case.
posted by sotonohito at 2:40 PM on November 29, 2010


Er, I mean "is now the case". Bugger.
posted by sotonohito at 2:41 PM on November 29, 2010


I'm going to start a website called "Let me seach a panoply of government websites for you"

I think I love you. Which is going to seriously freak out my wife.
posted by phearlez at 2:42 PM on November 29, 2010


The USSR was so right wing.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:45 PM on November 29, 2010


sotonohito, I'm pretty sure there have been regimes both on the left and the right before Obama that have engaged in detention without trial, torture, and murder.
posted by The World Famous at 2:45 PM on November 29, 2010


TWF: "sotonohito, I'm pretty sure there have been regimes both on the left and the right before Obama that have engaged in detention without trial, torture, and murder."

This is true. For us to assign a 'right-wing' label on the US we'd have to have evidence that the country is run by people obsessed with religious purity and bent on blaming our problems on minorities. Good luck finding any evidence of that.
posted by mullingitover at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]




For us to assign a 'right-wing' label on the US we'd have to have evidence that the country is run by people obsessed with religious purity and bent on blaming our problems on minorities.

Under what definition of "right-wing?"
posted by The World Famous at 3:02 PM on November 29, 2010


it does provide a level of "me too" solidarity between private sector and government employees that would not be there without such a move.

There's a sizeable chunk of the American public that won't be happy until public workers' sole compensation is a bed of straw and a gruel of wood shavings garnished with plastic nodules: "They're public servants, herpderp!"
posted by entropicamericana at 3:23 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, as a non-American, I have to say this thread is liberally peppered with the corollary of an attitude that US Mefites often deride: Got mine, Fuck you.

The corollary in this case being, 'Got yours? Fuck you'. Who gives a shit if you feel some nebulous class of employees has better working conditions than you? Fuck man, the problem - correct me if I'm wrong here - would be that your working conditions are crap, not that someone else has a skerrick of stability and the freedom to enjoy their underpaid office job.

This divide-and-conquer/politics of envy shit is so old hat - the cotton millers and miners were hip to it in bloody Victorian times, and yet a plethora of mefites are gleefully jumping on the persecution bandwagon to send their fellow workers into what they perceive as deserved poverty.

Never mind that - even if you agreed with these simple-minded and reactionary politics - as a policy it's a joke. Fixedgear, JPD and others have already pointed out that cutting domestic wages FFS is a terrible macroeconomic policy, especially in a recession.

But lots of mefites don't mind about that. Policy and actual outcomes play second fiddle to some kind of spiritual retribution/accounting. Morality, especially reactionary morality, makes for terrible policy in general, and I have to say I find it kind of revealing how many people here are happy to deride the tea-party yet are essentially replicating their logical errors and ignorance when it comes to an Other they perceive as better off than they are.
posted by smoke at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2010 [38 favorites]


Far better that public workers lose wages, than the wealthiest 1% pay an extra 2% taxes. Hamburgers.

I honestly do not understand why the singular voice of the not-wealthy is not "tax the exceptionally wealthy!". For fucks' sake, billionaires do not need to have more than X dollars, where X << in dollars wealth.

Whatever it is the wealthy are measuring, they shouldn't be doing it with our public dollars.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:51 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously congressional staffers are only a small part of the federal workforce, but the dirty little secret of Washington is that the country is run by poorly paid 25 year olds.

Just as a side note, congressional staffers are not on the federal pay scale. Their pay, bonuses, and raises are at the Member's discretion (which really means that the Member's Chief of Staff is deciding) (but within the limits of the office budget, obviously).
posted by naoko at 3:52 PM on November 29, 2010


Pretty cynical political ploy by Obama. "Look! I care about the deficit,really!" too bad all the hand wringing about the deficit is ginned up. If we were running a surplus there would be another ginned up issue to bludgeon Obama with.

The "fuck federal workers, they are rolling in it" also applies to teachers, MTA workers. It's almost like people think these people provide no service at all and are simply leeches living off the government teat. People still wouldn't be happy even if they made minimum wage, had no vacation time, and could be fired at will. You know what? It seems to apply to any unionized job. We are all The Man now.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:58 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


and could be fired at will

I agree with you on the rest of your list, but I don't understand the problem with at-will employment for government employees. Can you explain?
posted by The World Famous at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2010


The current situation is this: the top 1% of US citizens hold 40%!! of the USA's wealth.

The inevitable end goal is this: one person will have almost all the nation's wealth.

Which leaves essentially all of you as poorer than dirt. Just barely enough middle-wealth people to hold together a civilized nation.

Why go there? Willingly?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:03 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The inevitable end goal of whom, exactly? And what do you mean by "inevitable?"
posted by The World Famous at 4:05 PM on November 29, 2010


BC's current government voided union contracts. There was no public strike. Utterly amazed me. And subsequently sold out our public utilities. And was found guilty of illegal activities years after the fact. And these goddamn crooks got re-elected. Found criminal, and yet come out on top.

We are all fucked. The wealthy control of our once-public institutions. You hear that Harper is talking up private prisons? Look how well it turned out for the USA!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:12 PM on November 29, 2010


Standard established in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 US 444 (1969), to determine when inflammatory speech intending to advocate illegal action can be restricted. The standard developed determined that speech advocating the use of force or crime could only be proscribed where two conditions were satisfied: (1) the advocacy is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” and (2) the advocacy is also “likely to incite or produce such action.”,
posted by Shit Parade at 4:14 PM on November 29, 2010


Who gives a shit if you feel some nebulous class of employees has better working conditions than you? Fuck man, the problem - correct me if I'm wrong here - would be that your working conditions are crap, not that someone else has a skerrick of stability and the freedom to enjoy their underpaid office job.

I made this point a while back, smoke, and it bears repeating because it's a major point that explains, tragically, the bulk of the problems with this country's politics right now:
Americans have a pathological fear of what they perceive as someone having it off better than you. This is why we hate unions, health care, and illegal immigrants, and blindly support regressive taxes because we dream of ourselves magically becoming multi-millionaires someday. The entire history of opposition to progressive change in America is based on thinking that someone who isn't you is having their life improved, and that is infuriating for some reason.
I remember shortly after I wrote that that I forgot to throw in Affirmative Action among the other examples but the same principle applies. We are, to co-opt a great line Molly Ivins made about George W. Bush, a nation of players born on third base who think anyone who just hit a double cheated.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:14 PM on November 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


I don't understand the problem with at-will employment for government employees. Can you explain?

Do you really want every single person in every agency of every department in the federal government, from high-level engineers to letter carriers, fired every time the White House changes partisan hands? Because that is what at-will employment for government employees means: a return to the spoils system that civil-service laws were meant to wipe out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


There is a legitimate reason to prevent turning over 100 percent of government jobs every time the executive changes parties.these positions are to provide a service to the public, not for political patronage.

I have no problems with government workers, or any worker, being fired for cause. But no workers, including government workers, should be subjected to management whims when it comes to firing.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:29 PM on November 29, 2010


Do you really think any politician or political party would be stupid enough to fire 100 percent of government employees every time the executive changes parties?
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2010


Doesn't that happen with all or most of the US Attorneys?
posted by mullingitover at 4:37 PM on November 29, 2010


Doesn't that happen with all or most of the US Attorneys?

I hasn't happened to the U.S. Attorneys that I know.
posted by The World Famous at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2010


I have to say this thread is liberally peppered with the corollary of an attitude that US Mefites often deride: Got mine, Fuck you.

Welcome to the modern American tradition. Which is why this:

This is a great country, with good people who care. We have been fed the wrong diet of consumer crap for the last 60 years. We will survive, and it's our very goodness, on balance, that will pull us through. We just need more leaders to tell us the truth - and if they don't, they're gone. The Internet has changed everything. No more hiding; it's truth, action, or out!

Just isn't the case. Not even close. America is long past working to solve real problems at all, much less working together for a common goal, unless that goal is tax cuts and catfood for ever and ever, amen.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:49 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you really think any politician or political party would be stupid enough to fire 100 percent of government employees every time the executive changes parties?

How many federal employees do you think should be fired for no reason and have their jobs given to someone whose primary qualification is belonging to the right political party?

Right now the number is quite low; in the ballpark of a thousand, concentrated heavily in positions where their job is to bring a President's policies to bear on a particular agency. Presumably you think the number should be higher. How many adminstrators in the Social Security Administration who acquired their jobs under Republicans or are Republican themselves should Obama be allowed to fire for no reason and replace with loyal Democrats? How many engineers at NASA or DOT?

If not them, then who exactly do you want an incoming President to be allowed to fire for no reason whatosever and replace with a loyal partisan or a family member or a friend of a donor or a Grade A dipshit like FEMA's Brown?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many federal employees do you think should be fired for no reason and have their jobs given to someone whose primary qualification is belonging to the right political party?

No reason?
posted by The World Famous at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2010


No, I don't think the president would come in and fire all postal carriers. I meant that 100 percent of jobs would be up for grabs. I think it would create fiefdoms at a lower level and postal carrier jobs would get passed to loyalists, or donor's cousins, or some guys brother in law.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:54 PM on November 29, 2010


The World Famous wrote: "Do you really think any politician or political party would be stupid enough to fire 100 percent of government employees every time the executive changes parties?"

Not a student of history, I take it? ;)
posted by wierdo at 4:59 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


No reason?

Like sex, race, and religion, "because you're a [political affiliation]" is almost always not a legitimate reason.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2010


America is long past working to solve real problems at all, much less working together for a common goal, unless that goal is tax cuts and catfood for ever and ever, amen.

Don't give me the fucking red pill if i ask for the blue. OK man? Damn.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:02 PM on November 29, 2010


Not a student of history, I take it? ;)

Are you referencing some actual history?
posted by The World Famous at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2010


The outrage that some federal employees seem to feel upthread is evidence of the disconnect between the public sector - where employees don't seem to realize the value, the hard cash value, of a job that is pretty well guaranteed for life - and the private sector, where there are no such guarantees, and people are fed up with public sector unions who act like sharing the pain of a recession is a crime against humanity.

The traditional bargain, that public-sector jobs were secure but paid less, has broken down. Public-sector jobs are both more secure and better-paying than those in the private sector, on average.

Is this freeze going to save a lot? No. But how can you ask for deep, wide cuts across government and tax increases for the public if you're not willing to show that the public sector is willing to share the pain. Plainly some of them aren't. To which I would say, if you feel so hard done by in the public sector, go find a job outside it.
posted by Dasein at 5:07 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


When the executive branch changes hands it's standard practice to clean out the US Attorneys:
By tradition, U.S. Attorneys are replaced only at the start of a new White House administration. U.S. Attorneys hold a "political" office, and therefore they are considered to "serve at the pleasure of the President." At the beginning of a new presidential administration, it is traditional for all 93 U.S. Attorneys to submit a letter of resignation. When a new President is from a different political party, almost all of the resignations will be eventually accepted.[175] The attorneys are then replaced by new political appointees, typically from the new President's party.[176][176][177]
posted by mullingitover at 5:10 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, mullingitover.
posted by The World Famous at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2010


...sharing the pain of a recession is a crime against humanity.

As has been pointed out repeatedly in this thread, this doesn't "share" pain -- it multiplies pain. Freezing the pay of public sector employees won't give a single private sector employee back a lost raise, or return to them a lost job. It just makes a bunch of extra people miserable for no good reason, "saving" a miniscule fraction of the annual federal shortfall but doing nothing substantive to address the long-term deficit problem. Its only economic consequences will be anti-stimulative, in a time of historic unemployment. It's a pointless, utterly reprehensible gimmick that will be forgotten in a week and which is only effective politically insofar as you bypass the rational part of your brain that actually wants to see problems solved and go straight to the other part that just wants to see the other guy suffer too.

It's bad policy, bad politics, bad for literally everyone in the country. Insofar as it has any consequences at all, it make this country incrementally worse.

(Obama '08 voter; not a public sector employee)
posted by gerryblog at 5:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Are you referencing some actual history?

Yes the spoils system that was referenced unthread. It was ended in 1883 with the creation of the civil service commission by the Pendleton Act

There is a reason the laws are this way, it's not just to protect deadbeats.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I get that saulgoodman is an ardent Obama supporter and that he feels that it is necessary to defend Obama's actions regardless of what those actions are.

Why don't we stop this peering into the minds of fellow posters right now. It is coming out in an egregious way in political threads. I'd start a meta about it, but I can't because the combination of firefox and my apple mouse have left me unknowing how to link to things.
posted by angrycat at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


ah, see, I thought you were asserting that there was some precedent for every single engineer at NASA and every single postal employee being fired, along with every single other federal employee, every four years. I'm sure you can understand my confusion, given the quote that you pasted as if you were responding to it.
posted by The World Famous at 5:26 PM on November 29, 2010


From UCB economist Brad DeLong:

Nietzsche talked about the losers -- or rather, about those who thought they were the losers. He looked at those who saw themselves as weak and poor -- rather than strong and rich -- and saw trouble. "[N]othing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment," he wrote. It drives us to madness.

Think of that when you consider this: The U.S. unemployment rate is stubbornly high, yet aid from a federal government that can borrow at unbelievably good terms could allow states to maintain their levels of public employment, and those public workers would then spend their incomes and so boost the number of private-sector jobs as well. But the voters are against that. No, they say. We have lost our jobs. It is only fair that those who work for the government lose their jobs as well -- never mind that each public-sector job lost triggers the destruction of yet another private-sector job. It's the underlying logic that has led to a wave of austerity across Europe that is now headed for America's shores. And it's the same logic that says, "It is only fair that homeowners lose their money" -- never mind that everyone's home prices will suffer. What does not kill me makes me stronger.

Because some are unemployed, unemployment is good -- we need more of it. Because some have lost their wealth, wealth destruction is good -- we need more of it. That is a psychology that Friedrich Nietzsche would have understood all too well. For, as he put it, "If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into you."
posted by ogallalaknowhow at 5:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


As has been pointed out repeatedly in this thread, this doesn't "share" pain -- it multiplies pain.

There's a deficit. That means cuts have to be made and taxes have to be raised. If public-sector pay isn't cut, then people's taxes have to go up more, and their services need to be cut back even farther. It's a zero-sum game, unfortunately. So, yes, it is about sharing the pain.
posted by Dasein at 5:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The traditional bargain, that public-sector jobs were secure but paid less, has broken down. Public-sector jobs are both more secure and better-paying than those in the private sector, on average.

No this isn't true. They are not better paying - why is this so hard for people to understand. There is data that supports this.

But beyond this the important thing to note is that EVEN IF THEY WERE PAID MORE A RECESSION IS NOT THE TIME FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO CUT WAGES. What has happened in the private sector is irrelevant. No actually its not irrelevant - it makes the need for Government payments to increase even more acute. The flip side of this is that when times are good the government employees should get the shit sandwich that the private sector employees are eating now.

If you want to argue that this doesn't happen, then sure that's a fair point, but wrt to today, right fucking now, with a huge output gap and unemployment at 10%, then this is terrible policy. Someone who disagrees with me make an argument based on some reality for how cutting government spending in a downturn is a good thing. And yes I also think increasing taxes RIGHT NOW is a bad idea.
posted by JPD at 5:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because you are comparing like vs like.

Hmmm, maybe.
It'd be better to compare job to job, but I suppose there are quite a few government jobs don't really have a private sector counterpart.

I would love to see an actual non-partisan study on this, but I suppose that probably won't happen anytime soon.

The point remains however, as a general class, federal workers are compensated better than the average private sector worker.
posted by madajb at 5:34 PM on November 29, 2010


There's a deficit. That means cuts have to be made and taxes have to be raised.

no. no it doesn't. It means cuts have to made and taxes have to be raised at some point look at where bond yields are - keep printing dollars until they start to approach something approaching normal. Who cares if the USD depreciates - the side effects of that are almost entirely positive for the US long-term. The only Americans that screws are coastal elitists aka "not real americans" like myself who travel to Europe for pleasure.
posted by JPD at 5:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point remains however, as a general class, federal workers are compensated better than the average private sector worker.

Public-sector jobs are both more secure and better-paying than those in the private sector, on average.

Folks, no matter how many times you say it or how you rephrase it, this is simply just not true. The fallacy has been pointed out several times in this thread with the appropriate links to back it up. Keep on posting it, though. You've hears about the statistician that drowned in a lake where the average depth was six inches, right? That's about 15cm, btw.
posted by fixedgear at 5:42 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a deficit. That means cuts have to be made and taxes have to be raised. If public-sector pay isn't cut, then people's taxes have to go up more, and their services need to be cut back even farther. It's a zero-sum game, unfortunately. So, yes, it is about sharing the pain.

(1) You don't deal with that during a recession for the reasons ogallalaknowhow just explained. In a recession you want stimulative spending coming from the government, not cutbacks.

(2) $2 billion dollars, the amount "saved" in FY2011 by the freeze, is approximately 0.1% of the total 2009 government shortfall; with the anti-stimulative effect on future tax revenue taken into account, it's even less than that. It's not even a drop in the bucket. If you want to solve the deficit you raise taxes on the rich and stop the wars; you aren't going to get there by going to one-ply toilet paper and reusing paperclips, and you aren't going to get there with a one-year pay freeze for federal employees.

(3) The whole point of capitalist economics is that it's not a zero-sum game. Growing the economy grows total money (and tax revenue) without anybody else having to take a pay cut. Shrinking the economy -- as this does, however incrementally -- has the opposite effect, shrinking total revenue and making the situation that much worse.
posted by gerryblog at 5:44 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am a government employee, and I'm happy to have a job, thanks, and I'll survive this pay freeze. However, it makes me sad to hear people talk about my 9-to-5 job and great vacation. I work 11-hr days and since I work them every single day, I always lose my comp time. Next time you start to talk about lazy government workers, I ask that you think of me.

I'll bear this happily if we also pull out of Afghanistan.
posted by acrasis at 5:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


The point remains however, as a general species, Gorillas weigh more than the average ape.
posted by JPD at 5:46 PM on November 29, 2010


Fixedgear, JPD and others have already pointed out that cutting domestic wages FFS is a terrible macroeconomic policy, especially in a recession.

As near as I can tell, no one is talking about cutting domestic wages.
If you don't get a raise for year or two, I don't think it's going to put anyone in the poor house.
posted by madajb at 5:49 PM on November 29, 2010


No, but that's money you won't spend, which means it's money that won't grow the economy.
posted by gerryblog at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2010


It's a zero-sum game, unfortunately.

No offense dude, but this is really, really ignorant about economics in general. The idea of zero-sum, of no growth - whilst an interesting thought experiment, certainly - is so, far away from current economic theory and practice.

There is a false dichotomy you've built here, with public sector wages on one end, and taxes and public services on the other. The bad news for you is that in addition removing more money from the already wounded economy, cutting public servant taxes is going to do nothing for the deficit problem, and the government - if they look to europe and like what they see - will almost certainly raise taxes and cut public services anyway. These two things are unconnected.

My own country, Australia arguably weathered the GFC better than any other developed country in the world. There were a few reasons for this, but the govt response to GFC undoubedly played a role.

What did our government do? Several things. They gave every Australian citizen a one-off $1000 cash payment, the injected a huge amount of cash into grants for schools for immediate deployment on infrastructure projects, and they extended and augmented a series of grants for first home buyers across the money, especially on new buildings. The reserve bank also dropped interest rates to some of the lowest in forty years.

Broadly speaking, these all were aimed at the same thing: Spurring demand and encouraging people to spend their money in the local economy. And it worked, terrifically. FYI our budget went into deficit for this. And our unemployment rate is currently less than half the US's.

Now, if our govt had taken the opposite route; scaling back on spending, cutting programs and firing public servants, it would have taken more money out of the local economy, forcing other employers to cut staff and/or lose revenue. People would have been more risk and debt-averse, and thus avoided buying things and putting more money into the local economy and started saving instead of spending, reducing the cash available even more etc etc.

This isn't super hard to understand. Cutting govt spending in a way that will affect GDP is a bad idea right now.
posted by smoke at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


First off - I'm not a government employee nor are any of my direct family. One of my wife's cousin's husband is a cop. That's literally as self-interested in absolute government pay levels as I get.

Secondly - if inflation is >0 then not getting an increase is a pay cut.
posted by JPD at 5:55 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


cutting public servant taxes wages


across the money country

Ahem. Serves me right for not proofreading wholeheartedly.
posted by smoke at 6:01 PM on November 29, 2010


There's a deficit. That means cuts have to be made and taxes have to be raised. If public-sector pay isn't cut, then people's taxes have to go up more, and their services need to be cut back even farther. It's a zero-sum game, unfortunately. So, yes, it is about sharing the pain.

I really, really, really recommend this interview with former Wall St trader and University of Kansas-Missouri economist Warren Mosler.

He ran as the Independent Party candidate in the November 2nd Connecticut senate election. And does an excellent job in explaining to laymen such as ourselves what a deficit actually is. And crucially: that at the Federal level taxes are not revenue generating, they exist solely to regulate the economy.

Federal taxes are simply a bookkeeping exercise in which money is deducted from an individual's bank account - there is no transfer of wealth to government 'coffers' which can later be spent. Purpose is to regulate economic growth not revenue. Neither does the Federal Reserve have to borrow money to finance government spending...
posted by ogallalaknowhow at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Folks, no matter how many times you say it or how you rephrase it, this is simply just not true.

Whatever helps you sleep at night.
posted by madajb at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2010


> Policy and actual outcomes play second fiddle to some kind of spiritual retribution/accounting.

Thomas Frank: What's the Matter with Metafilter?
posted by jfuller at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would make sense if one's beliefs were fundamentally Republican, but one's skin color was objectionable to Republican voters.

Speaking purely hypothetically, of course.


I'm a formerly enthusiastic Obama supporter who's pretty damn disappointed in the guy right now. I still think he's the best president I can imagine us getting; I just find that thought a lot more depressing than I used to. But still. Come the fuck on.
posted by EarBucket at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The idea of zero-sum, of no growth

That's not what I said. The economy is not a zero-sum game, but deficit reduction certainly is, at some level.
posted by Dasein at 6:07 PM on November 29, 2010


No, but that's money you won't spend, which means it's money that won't grow the economy.

I'm not sure a 3 percent raise[1] is going to put the economy over the top, especially when that 3 percent is being borrowed from somewhere else.

[1] What google news tells me is the average COLA increase.
posted by madajb at 6:07 PM on November 29, 2010


especially when that 3 percent is being borrowed from somewhere else.

no the fact its borrowed actually makes it more stimulative.
posted by JPD at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2010


The economy is not a zero-sum game, but deficit reduction certainly is, at some level.

No, it isn't. Read what everyone just wrote! It's not.

I'm not sure a 3 percent raise[1] is going to put the economy over the top, especially when that 3 percent is being borrowed from somewhere else.

Nobody said it would. But why do it at all? There's no reason to institute a pay freeze at this moment; its ONLY possible effects are the opposite of what we need.
posted by gerryblog at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2010


My own country, Australia arguably weathered the GFC better than any other developed country in the world.

GFC = Global Financial Crisis?
posted by madajb at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2010


Whatever helps you sleep at night.

But... it's true. The fallacy has been pointed out. Just making a blanket assertion about federal workers "as a class" and repeating it doesn't make it so.
posted by jhandey at 6:12 PM on November 29, 2010


Nobody said it would. But why do it at all? There's no reason to institute a pay freeze at this moment; its ONLY possible effects are the opposite of what we need.

To save 60 billion dollars we don't have?
Granted it's a drop in the bucket, but we have to start somewhere.

Personally, were I President, I'd have started on with our overseas adventure, but then, one could make the argument that putting a few hundred thousand soldiers out of work isn't really the best thing for the country either.
posted by madajb at 6:13 PM on November 29, 2010


one could make the argument that putting a few hundred thousand soldiers out of work isn't really the best thing for the country either.

"Not being shot at in Afghanistan" does not equal "Out of work" when it comes to the military, actually.
posted by EarBucket at 6:14 PM on November 29, 2010


GFC = Global Financial Crisis?

Sorry, yes, gfc= global financial crisis.
posted by smoke at 6:16 PM on November 29, 2010


But... it's true. The fallacy has been pointed out. Just making a blanket assertion about federal workers "as a class" and repeating it doesn't make it so.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009, and that the private sector worker’s average was $61,051.

That sure seems higher to me.

As I said, I'm perfectly willing to accept that on a job to job basis, some federal workers are paid less than their counterparts[1].
But that doesn't change the hard fact that the average federal paycheck is higher than the average private sector paycheck.
That's all I'm saying.

Though, I should apologize to fixedgear for my flippant response. It was uncalled for.


[1] Not sure that would work out when you take benefits into account, but I've not been able to find anything remotely non-partisan that compares total compensation.
posted by madajb at 6:26 PM on November 29, 2010


"Not being shot at in Afghanistan" does not equal "Out of work" when it comes to the military, actually.

No doubt, but keeping and paying for a large military you aren't actually using seems to fly in the face of deficit reduction.
posted by madajb at 6:30 PM on November 29, 2010


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009, and that the private sector worker’s average was $61,051.

Which Federal government employees should be paid the equivalent of a retail cashier?
posted by dirigibleman at 6:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009, and that the private sector worker’s average was $61,051.

I keep seeing this cite, never with a link to the source. I'm poking around at the Bureau of Economic Analysis site now and not finding anything useful. Reliable link, anyone? USAToday has their own numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; those don't match up to that $123,049, either.

'Cause right now it sounds a lot like I'm seriously getting underpaid, along with just about everyone in my office and in my agency. Actually, now that I look at the USAToday article, it still looks like I'm underpaid (and by quite a bit for my profession), and so are most of my co-workers, if you just use flat total salary for the numbers.
posted by dilettante at 6:37 PM on November 29, 2010


No doubt, but keeping and paying for a large military you aren't actually using seems to fly in the face of deficit reduction.

Certainly does.
posted by EarBucket at 6:37 PM on November 29, 2010


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009, and that the private sector worker’s average was $61,051.

That's interesting. Can you provide a link? It doesn't seem to jibe with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' numbers for May 2009.
posted by weebil at 6:38 PM on November 29, 2010


No doubt, but keeping and paying for a large military you aren't actually using seems to fly in the face of deficit reduction.

Not if it's way, way cheaper than keeping and paying for a large military that is fighting a pointless, losing, endless war. Moreover, fighting a war in Afghanistan isn't the only way to "use" a military.

Which Federal government employees should be paid the equivalent of a retail cashier?

The ones who do jobs that are equivalent of that of a retail cashier.
posted by The World Famous at 6:53 PM on November 29, 2010


Why is it that when the Democrats hold the House nothing good can be accomplished because the Senate is conservative and more important. But when the Republicans hold the House suddenly that's all that matters and we might as well just get used to the idea of a Right Wing government and Obama doing even more super Right Wing crap than he has ever done before?

Don't misunderstand me. I don't agree with Obama on this one. Not in the slightest. But at the same time, what difference does it make? At least this makes it a little harder for the GOP to paint him as nothing but a big government socialist.

Why is it that when the Democrats hold the House nothing good can be accomplished because the Senate is conservative and more important. But when the Republicans hold the House suddenly that's all that matters and we might as well just get used to the idea of a Right Wing government and Obama doing even more super Right Wing crap than he has ever done before?

Not politically conservative in the partisan sense--conservative in the traditional meaning: risk averse and unlikely to ram through broad or sweeping reform without a lot of deliberation and horse trading. The senate was designed to be the deliberative body of the legislature, to act as a check on the house's populist impulses. But the house is where legislation usually starts life.

I've never blamed the senate for doing the wrong things--at least, that's never been the central thrust of any of my arguments. I've only pointed out that the Senate is effectively designed to obstruct legislation (and that's true, and it was by design, because the senate was intended to be a check on the legislative power of the traditionally and structurally more populist house; the senate plays house of lords to the house's house of commons). The house, crucially, is the body of the legislature traditionally charged with creating legislation--the senate can introduce legislation, but that's not it's usual role, and even so, it's an institution whose rules were designed to promote slow deliberation--basically, the senate was designed to be able to obstruct whatever cockamamie ideas the fiery populist radicals in the House might come up with to deprive the wealthy of their property. The house, on the other hand, is by design meant to be the hatchery for new legislation, and the rules there make it easier for the majority party in that body to get its legislation in process.

As a practical matter, in our winner-take-all system, that means the majority in the house basically runs the show when it comes to proposing new legislation. True, any representative can introduce a bill, but it's up to the majority leadership to put a bill on the various agendas that allow it to move through the committee and other legislative processes.

Either way, both the Senate and the House have to pass laws and the President has to sign them into law. Since the body that originates legislation is under Republican control, and the Republicans have demonstrated that their political motives and party loyalty (not to mention, patronage) trump all concern for public interest and fair play, it stands to reason they aren't going to suddenly decide to start putting the interest of the nation first now. And as the last election demonstrated, they stand to gain huge political dividends from actively obstructing any positive legislative agenda.

In other words, the current congress will not introduce and move any legislation that Obama--or anybody else even slightly to the left of Imaginary Super Reagan--wants to see through the legislative process, and that is perfectly within their right in our current political system. So in short, no matter how much you or anybody else might wish it weren't the case, the game is already over (only it's not a game).

I'm not trying to persuade you or anyone else of these facts, and I'm not counseling you to get used to right wing government to defend the Dems or Obama. I'm just trying to faithfully describe the situation we're in now, whether you get used to it (or even care) or not. For my own part, I've basically given up hope in America's future (at least for the next few years). I'm noting these circumstances in passing because it hurts me physically to be so acutely aware of them, and because like everyone else, I'm spiteful, and I want my misery to be shared. If things unfold the way I expect between now and the next presidential election, I suspect we'll be looking at an even more precipitous decline in America's general prosperity in the immediate future. For many reasons, I hope I'm wrong, but my record on calling this kind of thing is pretty good. And the facts are with me. The rest is up to popular opinion and the strange admixture of raw emotion, impatience and ignorance that shapes and reshapes it.

The simple fact is this: Post mid-term, the Democrats haven't got any real chance of advancing a positive agenda that doesn't give Republicans what they want, because its basically up to the Republicans now to actually create and advance legislation. They will not let anything good happen on their watch. Period. End of story. Anybody who still thinks there's even the slightest chance of accomplishing anything more constructive than obstructing or slowing down the Republican agenda is kidding themselves--and sadly, even obstructing that agenda is a losing political proposition, because the Republicans are primed and ready to turn obstructionism against the Dems when it comes to popular opinion, even if what's being obstructed is disastrously bad policy. So there it is. It's the future and everything sucks.

(Also: I am not an ardent Obama supporter. I just hate seeing how effectively the American public is being played by those who currently make up the power establishment. And I always feel compelled to stick up for the kid on the playground who finds himself on the bad side of an angry mob of kids spoiling for a fight. A big factor in all of it is how the right exploits the public's ignorance of our political systems and processes to place all the emphasis on the office of the president. To be fair, I bashed Bush, too, at least partly for the same cynical reasons: People are more easily rallied against enemies they can easily personify, as military strategists well know and understand. And also, in that particular case, Bush personally authorized torture and actively led us into the intractable military conflicts in the Mideast. He didn't just fail to prevent these policies--he planned and promoted them with the full support of the power establishment. And worse. But whatever. It's all the same. Same as it ever was.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:56 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't agree with Obama on this one. Not in the slightest. But at the same time, what difference does it make? At least this makes it a little harder for the GOP to paint him as nothing but a big government socialist.

Hahaha. That's what you think.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:28 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009

The Bureau of Economic Analysis says no such thing. Made-up sources don't make something true either.
posted by grouse at 7:47 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I keep seeing this cite, never with a link to the source.
I got it from here.

It seemed like they would be unlikely to fudge it too much, as they are trying to make the point that it isn't too much.

I did look through the BEA site as well, but quickly ran into a wall of .pdfs...
posted by madajb at 7:52 PM on November 29, 2010


Can none of you "google"?

This took 20 seconds:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/income/2010-08-10-1Afedpay10_ST_N.htm

It is "a USA TODAY analysis"
posted by etherist at 7:53 PM on November 29, 2010


Not if it's way, way cheaper than keeping and paying for a large military that is fighting a pointless, losing, endless war.

I'm sure I followed that...
posted by madajb at 7:53 PM on November 29, 2010


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average government salary was $123,049 in 2009, and that the private sector worker’s average was $61,051.

That sure seems higher to me.


There are comparatively few government jobs that can be fulfilled by unskilled labor. So, yes, if you look at the raw figures you may see government employees are paid more per person than private sector employees. But that's not a very useful comparison. Compare lawyers to lawyers, clerks to clerks, IT people to IT people, etc. In my experience with those three fields specifically, government employees get paid less than their private sector counterparts. My partner is a government lawyer, and he definitely gets less than he would in the private sector. I'm a private sector IT guy who works with several government agencies, and I make significantly more than the government IT guys I work with.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:58 PM on November 29, 2010


> The fallacy has been pointed out. Just making a blanket assertion about federal workers
> "as a class" and repeating it doesn't make it so.

Nor does just denying it make it false.

Actually it's not an easy thing to determine, and both federal employees and private-sector workers have an obvious vested interest in believing they are underpaid relative to the other group. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual Survey of Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay reliably finds that federal workers are paid less than private sector workers performing comparable jobs. Independent and academic studies have found the opposite. Here are two very recent studies from the Heritage Foundation that find federal workers to be paid more than private workers, even after controlling for skill level. "Oh, the Heritage Foundation," I'm sure many of you cry. All right, here's an older study (warning, pdf link) by Alan Krueger (who is the present Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Obama Administration) also reporting that federal workers are paid more than their private-sector counterparts. Feel free to dig up your own data source(s) if you want to go to the trouble, but there's no point in just linking to the PATC survey; doing so assumes that the BLS is the final and indeed only word, which is the very point in dispute.
posted by jfuller at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Inflation is at historic lows. Might have been -0.4% for 2009, and 1.2 % for 2010.

http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/

So how much pain is being inflicted? If inflation is near-zero, then a pay freeze is just a pay freeze, not a cut. Get over it.
posted by etherist at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2010


Etherist: Not only can I Google, I can read! So for example, I also read the following part of your cite:
Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.

"The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison," says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
And, even more revealingly, the part below that immediately follows:
Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks otherwise. "Can't we now all agree that federal workers are overpaid and do something about it?" he asks.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:02 PM on November 29, 2010


Saul, mefites were claiming that the $123k figure was made up because they couldn't find it. So I found it.

What it represents, that's subject to debate.
posted by etherist at 8:11 PM on November 29, 2010


America is long past working to solve real problems at all, much less working together for a common goal, unless that goal is tax cuts and catfood for ever and ever, amen.

Americans in crisis, once they realize that they have been clusterfucked by both sides (this will take 5-10 years, minimum, for cognitive neuroscience-based reasons I don't have time to get into at the moment - suffice it to say that human beings are wired to remember "wins" - individual and societal, even in the face of mounting loses [similar principles are at play in Las Vegas]). Anyway, what we have here is something that *nobody* else on earth has - diversity of intellectual and social and racial culture. That's what makes us adaptable.

Look at it this way: if you've had your way for 5 decades, and the people who were making that happen kept promising you - over those last 50 years - that they would continue to make it happen, you would be inclined to believe them, even against overt evidence to the contrary. That's the way human beings work - most of them. That's the way Americans work, too.

We will have common goals again (we do now, in a very real way, but they're all masked by consumerism-at-a-gallop-gone-bad). We're gonna be fine, but it's gonna hurt while we're healing. And, it's gonna hurt like it does when the orthopedic surgeon says - "no sweat, just a day or two on Vicodin and you'll be fine", followed by 30 days of agonizing hell. Metaphorically, hat's what it's going to be like. Even though I know this to be a probable near-term outcome, I don't even think that yours truly is really prepared. I gotta go practice wearing my hair shirt, now. :-)

Everyone's gonna be alright, really.
posted by Vibrissae at 8:13 PM on November 29, 2010


Anyway, what we have here is something that *nobody* else on earth has - diversity of intellectual and social and racial culture.

Are you shitting me? No other country on earth has this? Lordy.
posted by smoke at 8:19 PM on November 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


madajb wrote: "To save 60 billion dollars we don't have?
Granted it's a drop in the bucket, but we have to start somewhere.
"

What problem will spending this $60 billion create? Do you think that some disaster will befall us should we spend it?

I can't help but think you're channeling one of Krugman's Invisible Bond Vigilantes.
posted by wierdo at 8:24 PM on November 29, 2010


Now now JFuller it is sort of disingenuous to present a paper based on 30 year old + data written by a guy most famous for his anti-minimum wage work as some unimpeachable source - which is what you are trying to do with this:

"Oh, the Heritage Foundation," I'm sure many of you cry. All right, here's an older study (warning, pdf link) by Alan Krueger (who is the present Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Obama Administration) also reporting that federal workers are paid more than their private-sector counterparts.

I don't have a problem with Heritage Foundation links - I actually posted a Cato link myself on farm subsidies - I think as long as we all know the biases then everything should be out there. But trying to present something as coming from a purely neutral political viewpoint when it isn't is lame.
posted by JPD at 8:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Criticism of Kruger

http://www.jstor.org/pss/2535099 Paywalled unfortunately but the abstract is there at least. If you read the Kruger paper its pretty obvious what the criticisms will be. Also he reruns the old data and shows the differentials have narrowed even if you do buy into the original methodology.
posted by JPD at 8:39 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]




So how much pain is being inflicted? If inflation is near-zero, then a pay freeze is just a pay freeze, not a cut.

If people open up your link, they will see that the "near-zero" (negative) inflation rate for 2009 is what statisticians like to call an "outlier". Outliers are rarely a strong foundation on which to build predictions or make decisions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2010


Funny, the one time Obama becomes a douche the Republicans love him.
posted by jeremy b at 9:40 PM on November 29, 2010


What exactly is the rationale behind never cutting defense spending? Is it that the US has made so many enemies that the slightest decrease in spending would result in the country being overrun by angry foreign armies?
posted by tehloki at 9:43 PM on November 29, 2010


What problem will spending this $60 billion create?

I do not believe we should be borrowing against, hell at this point, my grand-children's productivity, just so federal employees can get a 3% raise.
posted by madajb at 9:44 PM on November 29, 2010


How many of us woke up this morning prepared to talk intelligently about COLA?

This pile on Obama before his third year begins is troubling. If this sentiment holds, then the voting public might pull a win for the Repblicans in '12. Not cool, especially when plenty of folks vote on a trend or marketing strategies rather than being able to speak intelligently about specifics. Palin, Gingritch, Bolton, Romney, and the rest of the GOP and the strategists are licking their chops to polarize us further.
posted by captainsohler at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joe Beese.Sorry I'm late. I was busy arguing with clavdivs in the Wikileaks thread about Hillary ordering her diplomats to collect biometric information on members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries.

And you have not answered. Do not play "Pundit Umduficus" in another thread (this one) sir.
posted by clavdivs at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not believe we should be borrowing against, hell at this point, my grand-children's productivity, just so federal employees can get a 3% raise.

Okay so let's let the bush tax cuts elapse and cut military spending so it is not greater than the rest of the world's combined military spending. That might be a start.
posted by mek at 10:29 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Joe Beese wrote:

'Corrupt or incompetent?

If we presume that The President* is about as clever as we all used to think he was, then it's probably reasonable to at least consider the possibility that these aren't "inept blunders" but exactly the policy outcomes he wants to achieve.
Truly, it's a bottomless well of amusement to read the comments - here and elsewhere - along the lines of "He's acting like a Republican! I just don't understand it."'
posted by Joe Beese at 5:02 PM on November 29.


Golly sir, people are actually thinking here and you resort to this.
clever is politics you mr. joe you. clever gets you elected and gets you re-elected. What I do believe you have are deep-seated political inferences that cannot be broached. I could be wrong I like Ruth Buzzy... You laugh, as I laugh, as{} laugh. But I have learned one thing, you not cleaver
you insert data that is at times skewed to fit your beliefs without much regard. (takes one to know one)
I'm not sorry I broke/derailed this discourse.

*redacted for tact.
AH OUUUUUGAhhhhhhhhhhhh...TIA.
posted by clavdivs at 10:52 PM on November 29, 2010


Okay so let's let the bush tax cuts elapse and cut military spending so it is not greater than the rest of the world's combined military spending. That might be a start.

Sounds good to me.
posted by madajb at 11:03 PM on November 29, 2010


Americans in crisis, once they realize that they have been clusterfucked by both sides...

... will probably take just as long to realize that the unrestrained corporate interests that compromised both sides can and will just as easily do so with a third, fourth, and fifth side.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:53 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


But for the sake of argument, let's share the pain. Let's raise the taxes of the rich back to what they were during the oppressive, anti-business presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Don't be unambitious. Raise them to what they were under Eisenhower.

(that would be 91%).
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:34 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyway, what we have here is something that *nobody* else on earth has - diversity of intellectual and social and racial culture. That's what makes us adaptable.

Just spotted this. Oh dear lord! American exceptionalism strikes again!
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:36 AM on November 30, 2010


Anyway, what we have here is something that *nobody* else on earth has - diversity of intellectual and social and racial culture. That's what makes us adaptable.

As a foreigner living in the US, I would like to point out that the above is a) wrong and b) rather insulting. But that's OK, because it's also c) amusing.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:39 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the results of some more googling about those overpaid Federal employees:

http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/debunking_the_myth_of_the_overcompensated_public_employee/ (hey, if we can use the Cato Institute as a source, why not the Economic Policy Institute?)

http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/are-government-employees-overpaid-still-no/ (the comments are pretty interesting, too, although both the comments and the post are on a different level than HURFDURF LAZEE GUVMINT WORKURZ MAKES TOO MUCH MONEE)

Here's a couple of links from the St. Petersburg Times' Politifact website:

http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/nov/11/are-federal-employees-overpaid/

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/feb/03/scott-brown/politifact-debut-brown-says-federal-jobs-pay-twice/

And from GovExec:

http://www.govexec.com/features/0410-01/0410-01na1.htm

The funny thing is that while the USA Today/Cato findings came up on top while googling, it took a couple of minutes to track down the at least as credible (in my mind at least) paper from the EPI.

I'm not an economist (and the world breathes a collective sigh of relief) and I can't get down into what these links are saying in the way that a lot of people here can. But at the very least, I think they call the USA Today report's position into serious question - as well as Obama's announcement yesterday.
posted by jhandey at 3:25 AM on November 30, 2010


And here's another one:

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20101107/BENEFITS01/11070306

Yeah, it's a publication for those lazy government parasites, but again, if we're going to base public policy on what partisan think tanks produce, we should at least get opinions from the other side, right?
posted by jhandey at 3:37 AM on November 30, 2010


Where were all you critics of military spending last August, when Robert Gates announced cutsto all sorts of programs? Not one word about that here on the blue, possibly because it would have required admitting Obama is not in fact an agent of Satan.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:33 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Obama tried to cut military spending right now I'd object for the same reason I object to this proposal. I also object to letting the bush tax cuts expire
posted by JPD at 6:37 AM on November 30, 2010


If Obama tried to cut military spending right now I'd object for the same reason I object to this proposal. I also object to letting the bush tax cuts expire

Everything is falling apart, clearly the only solution is to change nothing.
posted by Bonzai at 6:57 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Talking about "average salary" is useless. It's a meaningless figure. Bill Gates and I make an "average salary" of several hundred million dollars a year.

If someone's trying to talk about how they feel salaries are too high or too low and are using "average" instead of "median" numbers, or including a huge swath of job fields and not noting that context, then they're not making a fair argument.

Case in point, any source with the words "Paul" or "Cato" in it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:25 AM on November 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Where were all you critics of military spending last August, when Robert Gates announced cutsto all sorts of programs? Not one word about that here on the blue, possibly because it would have required admitting Obama is not in fact an agent of Satan.

1. The specific example you posted notes that Gates has proposed, and not yet received Congressional approval, for about $10 billion in cuts to the military per year. Cuts in the defense budget are always great, but that's even less economically significant than anything discussed in this thread.

2. This took ten seconds on Google.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:30 AM on November 30, 2010


Everything is falling apart, clearly the only solution is to change nothing.


That's a highly nuanced position you have there. I'll tell you mine ok, then you can be snarky. I believe that all the emprirical evidence points to a keynesian approach to stimulating an economy - what does that mean - in a nutshell the government borrows and spends money when the private sector won't. That means in the current environment government spending should not be cut, but rather increased. Now in a perfect world Obama and his advisors could sit back and freely allocate money in the ways that are most stimulative. This would absolutely exclude things like tax cuts and military adventures. Those just aren't very productive ways to stimulate the economy compared to other choices. In a perfect world.
Unfortunately there is a degree of path dependency in how budgeting works and how the political game gets played. Obama isn't going to be able to say "let's take the money from the tax cuts and instead redistribute those new revenues back out in a way that is fairer" I wish he could, but the reality is he can't. Its the same thing with cutting defense spending in the short term- that money he cuts isn't going to be used to make transfer payments to the middle class, it's going to be used to reduce the deficit - which I think is the worst possible outcome. So now snark away.
posted by JPD at 7:36 AM on November 30, 2010


madajb wrote: "I do not believe we should be borrowing against, hell at this point, my grand-children's productivity, just so federal employees can get a 3% raise."

What makes you think that your grandchildren will pay it back? Further, what makes you think that inflation won't eat away at the real value of those payments? The federal government's finances do not work like your personal finances.

To whom do we owe most of this debt? Ourselves. Are you next going to tell me that that loan you took out of your 401(k) is a debt crisis? But even if we consider the foreign-held debt, let's think about that for a second. What currency are our obligations due in? Euros? No. Rubles? No. Dollars. There is no crisis. There is no spoon.

Even if you believe there is a spoon, there still is no crisis. People are willing to lend us money at essentially zero interest. Why not take advantage of that?
posted by wierdo at 7:47 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Republicans have been successfully flogging the OMGZ! out-of-control deficit hobby horse of theirs for as long as I can remember. Can it really be a coincidence that their administrations keep enacting policies that seem ready-made to exacerbate the problem? Or is it all part of a broader, long-term strategy to force limits on the potential expansion or development of social programs? Hmmm.

When you consider that Greenspan admitted on the record that one of the Bush admin's primary goals in draining Clinton's Federal budget surplus was to ensure the Federal government wouldn't have enough capital on hand to have a larger influence over the markets, it's almost as if he was on-board with some kind of coordinated conservative strategy to weaken the Federal government. Almost.

Funny how the Republicans, who deliberately increased the deficit under the previous administration, have now slipped so easily into the role of deficit watchdogs. It's almost like some third party who should be calling their obvious transparent bullshit isn't doing their job.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:58 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


If Obama tried to cut military spending right now I'd object for the same reason I object to this proposal. I also object to letting the bush tax cuts expire

Could you explain what you mean by this?
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 AM on November 30, 2010


Could you explain what you mean by this?


look three posts up.
posted by JPD at 8:23 AM on November 30, 2010


JPD: "

That's a highly nuanced position you have there. I'll tell you mine ok, then you can be snarky. I believe that all the emprirical evidence points to a keynesian approach to stimulating an economy - what does that mean - in a nutshell the government borrows and spends money when the private sector won't. That means in the current environment government spending should not be cut, but rather increased. Now in a perfect world Obama and his advisors could sit back and freely allocate money in the ways that are most stimulative. This would absolutely exclude things like tax cuts and military adventures. Those just aren't very productive ways to stimulate the economy compared to other choices. In a perfect world.
Unfortunately there is a degree of path dependency in how budgeting works and how the political game gets played. Obama isn't going to be able to say "let's take the money from the tax cuts and instead redistribute those new revenues back out in a way that is fairer" I wish he could, but the reality is he can't. Its the same thing with cutting defense spending in the short term- that money he cuts isn't going to be used to make transfer payments to the middle class, it's going to be used to reduce the deficit - which I think is the worst possible outcome. So now snark away.
"


But as has been pointed out, it's a drop in the bucket compared to our entire budget. It's value as a symbolic gesture far outweighs its cost. The American people don't think the government feels their pain. This is Obama snatching away the Republican position.

This plan requires congressional approval.

The current headlines for Obama are all about how weak he is. The Senate Republicans have tried to block everything Obama put through and basically campaigned on "stopping Obama". The Tea Party Republicans on the other hand have pledged to cut the size of the government, so they will be for this.

The Republicans are caught between a rock and a hard place.

It was a smart move.
posted by Bonzai at 8:34 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I genuinely missed that comment. I understand your position better, but I still don't understand the position you've mentioned on defense spending. Why are long-term defense spending cuts not a good idea? Short-term might not make much economic sense, but long-term definitely seems like the most obvious way to save money. Our defense spending is astronomically absurd when compared to the rest of the world, or to percent of GDP.
posted by odinsdream at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2010


If I didn't say it, I meant to say short-term defense cuts.
posted by JPD at 8:40 AM on November 30, 2010


Are you next going to tell me that that loan you took out of your 401(k) is a debt crisis? But even if we consider the foreign-held debt, let's think about that for a second. What currency are our obligations due in? Euros? No. Rubles? No. Dollars. There is no crisis. There is no spoon.


Who said anything about a debt crisis?
I'm merely suggesting the government should pay its own way, not sure when that became controversial, but there ya go.
posted by madajb at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2010


Bonzai - that actually is a more interesting position. I don't agree with it, in that getting something done that is part of your opponents list of demands hardly seems like a victory. If you are right and this does give Obama a political victory that permits him to create another round of stimulus, then yes it was smart. I just don't see that happening.
posted by JPD at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2010


> But trying to present something as coming from a purely neutral political viewpoint when it isn't
> is lame.
> posted by JPD at 11:31 PM on November 29 [1 favorite +] [!]

Considering what's gone down in this thread so far, anyway, I see now I should have added "Oh, the Obama Administration (rolls eyes)" to the Krueger link to match that "Oh, the Heritage Foundation (rolls eyes)" I appended to the other one.
posted by jfuller at 8:44 AM on November 30, 2010


madajb wrote: "I'm merely suggesting the government should pay its own way, not sure when that became controversial, but there ya go."

That entire idea is meaningless. Government is either completely incapable of paying its own way or pays its own way by definition, regardless of what we call "debt" and what we call "tax."

That is to say that in the usual economic understanding, government doesn't produce money, so it's all paid for in the form of taxes and/or debt. Either way, it's not paying its own way. To others, since government is the ultimate source of money, it can't not pay its own way. Thus, the idea of government paying its own way is meaningless in either world view.
posted by wierdo at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2010


JPD is there ever a correct time to stop spending?

Honestly I'm one of the disaffected. Anybody in the government that doesn't like there job anymore, I'll take it.

What if they cut the taxes of the middle class even more? Use the expiring high income tax-cut to pay for it.

Same amount of stimulus.

Tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no rich no more. (<- not my actual position)
posted by Bonzai at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2010


XQUZYPHYR, only the procurement parts require Congressional approval. Follow up on the links in the editorial I posted. That MeFi thread from October is not a good guide to policies anniunced in August,nor does the FPP really address Gates' management of the DOD (which management deserves far more credit than it has received).
posted by anigbrowl at 9:14 AM on November 30, 2010


Woohoo! 300th comment! (Nice, round and even numbers are just better).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:27 AM on November 30, 2010


Bonzai wrote: "JPD is there ever a correct time to stop spending? "

There is indeed a time to stop spending. That would be when spending threatens to cause inflation.
posted by wierdo at 10:01 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


re: "at least it's not a pay cut" - I'd assume that it's like my years as a state employee, where every year my health insurance premiums went up, independent of whether I got a raise/COLA. so no raise = paycut, even if inflation is 0% or less.

anecdata: 6 yrs as state employee (community college, non-union job) - IIRC, one COLA, one actual raise when all the admin exempt employees got job description reviews. good times, that, realizing that my actual job duties were double what was listed on my job description.

went private sector 4 yrs ago: 15% pay increase (IIRC), WAY less vacation, reduced health insurance cost for me but MAJOR increase in cost for covering spouse. (actually, I negotiated a bit more pay because of less vacation, greater insurance cost.) in my new job, I've gotten at least a token raise AND bonus every year.

also, I saw my old job posted on craigslist about 6 months after I left, and they were offering less than I'd made when I left.

posted by epersonae at 10:08 AM on November 30, 2010


Apologies if I missed this upthread, but could Obama's move be related to the vote to extend unemployment benefits this week?
posted by angrycat at 10:08 AM on November 30, 2010


Not Valkryn, but as a former fed employee, I can attest that yes, the hours are fixed and largely cushy by comparison to other similarly situated in the private sector -- one reason for the pay trade off. And yes, to many people, flextime is a HUGE benefit, one worth giving up extra $$ for.

Thanks for making my point. I've already made concessions.


Concessions? Reduced hours and flexible time are BENEFITS to most people. If you consider them concessions, then government work is not for you. Sell yourself to the highest bidder in the private sector, if you can, and give up your government spot to someone who will appreciate the true perks that go with it.
posted by hockeyfan at 10:27 AM on November 30, 2010


Salary being lower in private sector vs. public sector is one of the concessions that I made in exchange for flex time and telework. I don't know what reduced hours are. Sorry if that wasn't clear to you, hockeyfan.
posted by fixedgear at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2010


err, salaries lower in public sector than private sector.
posted by fixedgear at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2010


I don't agree with it, in that getting something done that is part of your opponents list of demands hardly seems like a victory.

When the bipartisan commission you've appointed is going to recommend a 3-year pay freeze, it seems a bit ridiculous not to put this on the table and say, "Here. I've given you a piece of what you want; now it's your turn to act in good faith and offer something up." From an economic standpoint it's too small an issue to matter one way or another, but I think it puts him at an advantage in negotiating.

The vocal complaints about the proposal are coming from the unions and, quite frankly, only a small portion of federal employees care what the unions think. The majority of employees in my ultra-liberal agency in an ultra-blue state seem to be taking the position that, "We're all in this together; if the economy is that bad, we need to tighten our belts. At least it isn't a Reduction in Force."
posted by weebil at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


That entire idea is meaningless. Government is either completely incapable of paying its own way or pays its own way by definition, regardless of what we call "debt" and what we call "tax."

Well, all right then, I suppose we're just going to have to disagree on that.
posted by madajb at 11:05 AM on November 30, 2010


The vocal complaints about the proposal are coming from the unions and, quite frankly, only a small portion of federal employees care what the unions think. The majority of employees in my ultra-liberal agency in an ultra-blue state seem to be taking the position that, "We're all in this together; if the economy is that bad, we need to tighten our belts. At least it isn't a Reduction in Force."


Damn unions! It's depressing how many Americans* always side with the employer, whether it's the federal government or GM or your local school board. "Why should they get x, when I don't even get y?" is a widespread reaction whenever an American hears about someone getting a better deal. Rather than band together and support higher wages and better benefits, working people would rather tear each other down in a race to the bottom.

Here's a question: if you** support other employers' efforts to nickel and dime their workers to death, why do you think you'll ever get better than what you have? It all contributes to the decimation of the American middle and working classes. Blame the corporations and blame the politicians, but people who complain about union wages or federal vacation time or whatever else are helping put money in the pockets of the rich while the rest of us are getting fucked.

*I'm an American and I'm in a union.

**General "you" directed at everyone who see this and says, "Screw you, federal employees. I haven't gotten a raise/taken a vacation/had health insurance."
posted by Mavri at 11:17 AM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just got back from the health benefits fair, and you know what they said? Blue Cross/Blue Shield said 'we heard you guys are having a pay freeze, so we decided not to raise rates and co-pays for the next two years.' Not really, I made that up.
posted by fixedgear at 11:30 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"We're all in this together; if the economy is that bad, we need to tighten our belts. At least it isn't a Reduction in Force."

Taxes on the extraordinarily wealthy are not being raised to appropriate levels. We are obviously not in this together.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:36 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taxes on the extraordinarily wealthy are not being raised to appropriate levels.

Two questions:

1. How do you define "the extraordinarily wealthy?" (Is it an annual income cut-off? A total personal net worth thing? What about capital assets? What's the amount?)

2. What is the appropriate level of taxation?
posted by The World Famous at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2010


When the bipartisan commission you've appointed is going to recommend a 3-year pay freeze, it seems a bit ridiculous not to put this on the table and say, "Here. I've given you a piece of what you want; now it's your turn to act in good faith and offer something up."

Except, of course, for the fact that you've got two years of examples of the other side NEVER acting in good faith in these types of scenarios. Instead, they'll take what's being offered and then push for more -- something that we're already seeing happen.

That's what has me pissed about this; not the fact that I won't be getting a raise for (at least) two years, not the fact that this is going to be completely ineffective and is lousy economic policy at this point in time, but that it's so incredibly inept on a political level. Again.
posted by genehack at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


TWF: 100%.

Otherwise we necessarily end up in a situation where one person has essentially all the wealth. That's mathematically how exponential growth works.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:26 PM on November 30, 2010


"We're all in this together; if the economy is that bad, we need to tighten our belts. At least it isn't a Reduction in Force."

Actually regarding this and to correct hockeyfan's statement upthread "[federal employees] won't be laid off unless they commit a felony, and maybe not even then unless the press gets wind of it;" not exactly true. Obama's announcement came at the same time as federal departments (or at least the one where I used to work as a trust employee and the other where I am now a contract employee) were already making cuts, including RIFs. I know 2 people (from a relatively small department) who got word that they were being laid off (or RIF'd) last week. Neither had any problems with their work or behavior and one had been there for almost 20 years. That same week I heard people from another section/department discussing people in their area who had also been RIF'd.

I recall early in 2009 hearing that there would more likely than not be a RIF in 2011, and it looks like that is what is coming to pass. It may not be en masse, but there will most likely be a hiring freeze at a lot of agencies and things start to look mighty grim in DC. I think for a lot of people, when they think federal employees, they think of some fat cat on capital hill. Guess what? 90% of the people that I know who work for the government make between $37-$60K, with the bulk hovering around $52K. No one's going hungry, but no one's getting rich either. Granted I work in the cultural sector which isn't well-compensated anywhere, but I think when you think of "federal employees" there are far more that are in that range than in the "fat cats now it's your turn to suffer" range. I won't argue that there are benefits to working for the federal government, but they're hardly as gold-plated as some people here seem to think and they certainly don't include guarantee of life-time employment.
posted by kaybdc at 12:30 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


TWF 2: Something less than one-half the nation's wealth. When one individual has >50% of the nation's wealth, there is no longer a public dollar. Or, I suspect, much of a nation.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:33 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


2. What is the appropriate level of taxation?

Progressive brackets from $250k income to infinity topping out at 90% +. No reason that a "middle class" doctor at $250k should be taxed at the exact same rate as an oil magnate or Wall Street trader. 'Middle class' is not the same as 'upper middle class' is not the same as 'kind of rich' is not the same as 'pretty rich' is not the same as 'really rich' is not the same as 'really fucking rich' is not the same as 'I forgot how many houses I own' is not the same as 'master of the universe' is not the same as 'John Galt'.

Why are they all taxed at the exact same level?
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


there will most likely be a hiring freeze at a lot of agencies

My agency has been in an overall hiring freeze since mid-summer and my office hasn't been allowed to hire for 2 years despite some substantial losses. I'm sure there will be small RIFs in lots of places and large-scale furloughs next year, but I don't think we're going to see the huge RIFs we saw during the Reagan years.
posted by weebil at 12:52 PM on November 30, 2010


We are hearing rumors of VERA/VSIP, so $25,000 as an incentive to retire. It's always extremely limited, offered to a narrow range of pay grades/series. We haven't filled any open positions in about four months. I have been through a RIF once before, with bumping and retreating and all the attendant chaos, something I am not eager to repeat.
posted by fixedgear at 1:05 PM on November 30, 2010


five fresh fish, I asked:

1. How do you define "the extraordinarily wealthy?" (Is it an annual income cut-off? A total personal net worth thing? What about capital assets? What's the amount?)

2. What is the appropriate level of taxation?


You responded:

TWF: 100%.

and

Something less than one-half the nation's wealth. When one individual has >50% of the nation's wealth, there is no longer a public dollar.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how what you wrote was a response to either of my questions. 100% of what? From whom? 100% of income above some annual income threshold? If so, what is the correct threshold above which a person should not be allowed to keep any of the money they make? What about wealth that is not part of annual income?

T.D. Strange raises what I think is a very important point: If the tax scheme is a) based on annual income and b) progressive, it makes no sense to draw the top line at $250k a year (regardless of where one lives) and tax Steve Jobs at the same rate as a law firm associate in New York.

So, when you say 100%, are you saying that the government should take 100% of income over $250k? That doesn't really fix many inequities, given that people with massive investment portfolios and other assets could just hold onto their vast wealth and live off of interest, being careful to only make $250k in income in any given year, while others would have to work their fingers to the bone to make anywhere near that maximum income cap.

And what about the deflation that would be caused by capping annual income at $250k (or at any specific number)? Wouldn't an income cap would result in restructuring of the entire income scale and economic system, such that prices and wages would be redistributed across that fixed income scale?

Moreover, your comment about "the nation's wealth" has me confused, since income and wealth are completely different things.

Anyway, I'm not really looking for answers to all of those questions. But I would like to know how you would answer the two that I asked previously and quoted at the top of this comment.
posted by The World Famous at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2010


All the folks upset that this doesn't apply to Congress should be aware of the following:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

That's also known as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution :)
posted by ubernostrum at 1:55 PM on November 30, 2010


What's been really annoying to me about the whole Bush tax cuts debate is the fact that most people don't understand how it actually works out:

Under the Bush cuts, those who earn over $250,000 got a tax break already, just like the rest of us did, on any income they earned up to the $250,000 threshold. But Bush's cuts went further and cut the tax rate on the additional income those earners made over and above the tax cuts that they already got on their income up to the threshold right along with the rest of us.

So basically, Bush gave the wealthy two tax cuts, while everyone whose earnings fell below the highest bracket only got one.

If more people understood this aspect of those tax cuts, I think there'd be a lot less debate about "fleecing the rich."
posted by saulgoodman at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, reverse the answers. Something below 50% of the nation's collective wealth, and 100% tax rate.

Regardless the numbers I toss put, the fact is that even Reagan's tax rates seem positively progressive these days.

The country's problems are not from overpaid public servants, but under-taxed gazillionaires.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:58 PM on November 30, 2010


Regardless the numbers I toss put, the fact is that even Reagan's tax rates seem positively progressive these days.

I don't understand. Under Reagan, the top income tax brackets were removed. How is that more progressive than now?

The country's problems are not from overpaid public servants, but under-taxed gazillionaires.

I agree that the country's problems are not the result of overpaid public servants. But aside from that, your statement doesn't make sense unless you define what you mean by "under-taxed" and what you mean by "gazillionaires."

If you taxed income above any given level at 100% (as you seem to be proposing), there would be no reason for anyone to make more than that amount, they would very quickly (like, in a matter of a month or so) re-adjust their annual income stream so that it was exactly that threshold and not a penny more, and that entire source of revenue for the government would disappear. It seems to me (and this is just from-the-hip analysis, so maybe I'm missing something) that it would result in massive restructuring of the value of the currency and massive across-the-board income cuts to those anywhere near the threshold to adjust so that the richest could still be richest, thereby causing massive deflation and shoving the poor right back down again, while simultaneously eliminating the government's revenue stream.

To put some real numbers on it just for the sake of illustration: If the government took 100% of income over $1 million, there would be no reason for anyone to make more than $1 million a year, so everyone would restructure their incomes accordingly and the government wouldn't get a dime. And everyone who had previously made something less than $1 million a year would see their income drop like a rock.

But I still don't see how you've answered either of my questions. What is the proper threshold for the top tax bracket (or multiple brackets, as it were - and should it be based on annual income or actual wealth)? And what is the appropriate level of taxation for that bracket (or brackets)?

Are you saying that the only people whose taxes should be increased beyond what they are now are those with an annual income of approximately 50% of GDP? How many people have such an income? Anyone? 2009 U.S. GDP was over $14 trillion. Is there any individual or household in the world with a 2009 taxable income of anywhere near $7 trillion? If there is, I'm all for taking 100% of their income as tax above that threshold. But in the real world, where I currently live, the people talking about raising taxes on the "rich" are saying that the taxes of those making $250k in taxable annual income are not currently high enough. All the talk about the "super rich" is backed up with exactly nothing in the way of policy proposals. So when I see you proposing 100% tax on the rich, I have to wonder if you're saying that everything over $250k annual income should be taxed at a rate of 100%.

So maybe I should ask my question differently: What, in your opinion, is the appropriate level of taxation - in the current real world - for a household in, say, Los Angeles with an annual taxable income of $251k? Is that "appropriate" level the same as for a household with the same annual taxable income living in the suburbs of Kansas City? Is that "appropriate" level the same as for a household with an annual taxable income of $1 million? $10 million? What about a household with an annual taxable income of $220k?

And are you actually proposing a hard cap on income? If so, do you actually think that such a cap would do anything to resolve inequalities in wealth? Do you think it would actually result in increased government revenue?
posted by The World Famous at 2:33 PM on November 30, 2010


Also, I guess one benefit of a hard income cap would be that the resulting hyperdeflation would make pennies useful again.
posted by The World Famous at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2010


If more people understood this aspect of those tax cuts

An astonishing quantity of otherwise intelligent people do not understand progressive taxation. College educated people talk about earning enough to move into the next bracket and thereby earning less in total, which is an impossibility.

I hate to be all media-conspiracy blah blah blah but I cannot help but wonder why I never hear the 250k+ level expressed as asking folks to pay an extra 4.6 cents of every dollar they earn after the first third of a million.

As far as this zero-sum nonsense, that was pretty well debunked above but unmentioned in the fact that the single most significant thing that impacts the deficit is the strength of the economy. Cutting spending in a time of shitty growth has nowhere near the impact of increasing economic growth... unless you really slash to the bone and do it in a way that doesn't reduce spending, thereby slowing growth and making the cuts less effective. Klein explains it well.
posted by phearlez at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


An astonishing quantity of otherwise intelligent people do not understand progressive taxation. College educated people talk about earning enough to move into the next bracket and thereby earning less in total, which is an impossibility.

In theory, but not always in practice. You'd be astonished what perversities emerge from accounting; I've spent weekends looking at pay stubs that prove your theorem false (in Europe, at that). People understand it just fine; it's just that implementation frequently falls short of intention.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:26 AM on December 1, 2010


Pay stubs are irrelevant, look at tax returns. There's a line, I forget which number, labeled "total tax." In no case (except suddenly being hit with AMT) will an increase in pay increase that "total tax" number even dollar-for-dollar, much less increase it more than the AGI went up!

At least here in the US. I don't know how the tax system works in various European countries.

Note that it's entirely possible for one's apparent take-home to drop, but that's because too much is being withheld, and it will be returned at the end of the year. It's the taxpayer's responsibility to figure out how much tax needs to be withheld from each check and get it set up correctly.
posted by wierdo at 6:23 AM on December 1, 2010


saulgoodman wrote But at the same time, what difference does it make?

I'd consider giving the coveted stamp of bipartisanship to the right wing notion that evil big government bureaucrats are a bloated parasite class and not part of Real America is pretty significant from a narrative standpoint. Further it seems to be yet another step in Obama's program to piss off everyone to the left of Darth Vader while gaining nothing in exchange.

At least this makes it a little harder for the GOP to paint him as nothing but a big government socialist.

No, it doesn't. They will call him that, and worse, no matter what he says or does. FOX will parrot it, and the other networks will report on the "controversy". "Is Obama a socialist? Some Democrats say no!" Obama could abolish Social Security and they'd still be calling him a socialist and FOX would still be trumpeting it, and the voters would still believe it because not one single news agency would call out the stupidity of calling a corporate tool like Obama a socialist.

As a practical matter, in our winner-take-all system, that means the majority in the house basically runs the show when it comes to proposing new legislation.

Which is why we now have a health care bill that includes a public option, right? No? Then don't tell me that the House is the big player. The Senate killed any chance of the health care bill being worth supporting, but now you want to claim they can't or shouldn't kill Republican bills? Why not?

In other words, the current congress will not introduce and move any legislation that Obama--or anybody else even slightly to the left of Imaginary Super Reagan--wants to see through the legislative process, and that is perfectly within their right in our current political system. So in short, no matter how much you or anybody else might wish it weren't the case, the game is already over (only it's not a game).

No argument at all. Not that we've been successful in passing anything to the left of Imaginary Super Reagan during Obama's first two years (yay Seante!), but I certainly agree that it has just become completely impossible now, and I have no doubt that the Senate Republicans will filibuster literally everything between now and the seating of the new Congress, why should they do anything else?

I'm not trying to persuade you or anyone else of these facts, and I'm not counseling you to get used to right wing government to defend the Dems or Obama.

When you wrote "In effect, the US government is now officially a right wing government, whether you like it or not. Obama's job now is to be the executive of that right wing government. And whether you like it or not, unless you want his role to be doing nothing other than vetoing legislation from now until the next presidential election, that is effectively all he can do" it looked very much like you were doing exactly that.

"Obama's job now is to be the executive of that right wing government." To me that looks exactly like telling us to get used to right wing government. If you say that isn't what you meant that's fine, but I'd hope you can see how I'd get the other impression.

And then you appeared to dismiss entirely the idea of simply shutting down the Republican agenda. Why shouldn't he spend his time vetoing Republican legislation (not that any should reach his desk, if the Senate Democrats do their jobs nothing the Republicans want will ever get to his desk).

The past two years have been a perfect storm of partisan obstruction from the Republicans. Why should we now grant them any victories just because they took 1/3 of the government (and, I'll point out, we still have 2/3 theoretically in our possession)? Why should we let them get away with jerking us around the past two years? over 200 of Obama's executive branch appointments, not judges just people to staff the various executive offices, have not yet been approved due to Republican obstructionism, now we should let that gang of thugs pass legislation, now there should be no retiliation at all for their obstructionism? WTF?

The simple fact is this: Post mid-term, the Democrats haven't got any real chance of advancing a positive agenda that doesn't give Republicans what they want, because its basically up to the Republicans now to actually create and advance legislation. They will not let anything good happen on their watch. Period. End of story. Anybody who still thinks there's even the slightest chance of accomplishing anything more constructive than obstructing or slowing down the Republican agenda is kidding themselves

100% agreement. Things look extremely grim.

and sadly, even obstructing that agenda is a losing political proposition, because the Republicans are primed and ready to turn obstructionism against the Dems when it comes to popular opinion, even if what's being obstructed is disastrously bad policy.

Complete and utter bafflement. You just outlined why the Democrats should stop the Republican agenda. Now you tell me that it is your opinion that it would be bad for them politically if they don't let the Republicans run the whole show? I mean no compliment when I say that you sound like an ideal candidate to act as a Presidential advisor, as what you just said seems to be perfectly in line with the stupid, stupid, thinking that Obama seems to have embraced.

Why should America ever vote Democrat if they don't do anything? Why should America ever waste its time giving the Democrats power if all they do is enact Republican agendas? After all, the Republicans also want to enact Republican agendas, and they don't look like total frakking loser wimps while doing so.

I'd be perfectly content if exactly zero new legislation passed between now and 2012. I'd like to get good things passed, but if the choice is between passing nothing and passing Bohener's wish list, I'll take nothing.

The Budget battles should be interesting, but they won't be. I'm sure that Obama will take your advice and simply roll over and give Bohener everything he wants. What I don't understand is why you think it would be bad for the Democrats to fight back. Why you think people will vote Democrat in 2012, but only if the Democrats enact the Republican wish list? Can you explain that to me, I know Obama thinks its true, I know the entire Democratic leadership thinks its true, but apparently I'm unbelievably dense.

Humiliation is one of the most powerful emotions that exists, and no one wants either to be personally humiliated or to be associated with a humiliated group. What you propose, Obama and the Senate Democrats passing Republican legislation following two years of solid Republican obstructionism, sounds like a recipe for humiliation. Why would anyone vote for a humiliated and defeated political party?
posted by sotonohito at 9:22 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now you tell me that it is your opinion that it would be bad for them politically if they don't let the Republicans run the whole show? I mean no compliment when I say that you sound like an ideal candidate to act as a Presidential advisor, as what you just said seems to be perfectly in line with the stupid, stupid, thinking that Obama seems to have embraced.

I'm not advising anybody about anything. I just don't hold out any hope that Americans won't fall for the next set of plays in the Republican playbook.

We have a lot of doublestandards, culturally, when it comes to how we view Republicans and Democrats in this country. We expect Dems to do things legislatively, and if they don't, we howl. Republicans, on the other hand, since their goal is to undermine the power of the Federal government in many areas have it a lot easier. All they have to do is obstruct the legislative process to deliver to their base. Since the system was designed to make obstructing easier than advancing a positive legislative agenda, the Republicans literally win by doing nothing, while the Dems lose consistently in failing to push the rock far enough up the hill when they try. The legislative process is biased toward legislative inaction by design, and the Republicans--who pointedly reject the entire idea of the government having a role to play in improving things--consistently exploit that fact to hamstring and erode support for the Dems.

Even so, who cares about blame at this point: It's past the point of mattering. I predict the outcome of these midterms are going to turn out to look utterly disastrous in the rearview mirror. Already, the Republicans are pushing for a constitutional convention to allow state legislatures to repeal Federal law. Among their other primary stated legislative priorities right now? Repealing birth-right citizenship, and extending the extra tax cuts that the rich got under Bush even if it means letting the tax cuts we all enjoy--that is, the Bush cuts on income up to the highest bracket--lapse. Most people still don't even realize that debate is actually about the fact that richer Americans effectively got two tax cuts under Bush while the rest of us only got one.

Which is not to say they'll get all the things they want, but just to point out it's absolutely absurd to think they're going to take a break from doing those things to propose any kind of progressive legislation, like repealing DOMA. Honestly, ask yourself: Is there any chance whatsoever the Republicans would introduce and allow a piece of legislation to repeal DOMA or any similarly progressive legislation to advance? Of course not. And if such bills can't even get into the process, how the hell are they supposed to make it to the President's desk? The Dems literally have no leverage to get legislation in process now. So blame them all you want, but it doesn't matter. There's nothing they could do even if you credited them with wanting to and/or being competent enough to.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2010


What I mean to say is this: Take off the "Dem" v. "Republican" blinders for a minute, and pretend we replaced every spineless Dem in the house with truly principled, intelligent and committed independent legislators. Even so, they couldn't hope to do anything other than obstruct the Republican agenda now, for the same reasons that the Republicans did that when they were in the minority: Unless you are willing to work in good faith with the majority, and they're willing to work in good faith with you, you are powerless to advance an agenda as the minority in the house because the system is designed to basically give that power to the majority alone. Where the Dems failed when they had the majority was in not overcoming the obstructive tactics of the Republicans (and if you ask me, it was never a fair fight to begin with). That's definitely not an issue anymore, because the Dems don't have the ball anymore.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on December 1, 2010


In my opinion, the problem in the US is due to a pretty simple equation: our population keeps getting bigger, and businesses keep getting more efficient. Basically, the amount of actual work is decreasing, and it will continue to decrease.

Pretty much everywhere in the world other than the developing world is experience negative growth, or close to it, when you compare it with population growth. The insane thing is that everybody's model depends on an infinitely growing economy when it's just not possible.

In that case, rich people should get their heads out of the sand and think about whether they want the world to have any kind of future. If they do, then they should let the estate tax stand (go ahead and give it an over-$5 million cutoff if you want) and let their tax cuts expire. That at least will allow the country to have some money in its pocket.

Then, think about ways that we can actually reduce efficiency. Honestly. As ridiculous as it sounds, either we get comfortable with using human labor in a less efficient manner, or we pay people not to work in the same way we pay farmers not to plant.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:56 AM on December 1, 2010


Deathalicious: reducing efficiency is a terrible idea. More efficient methods of doing, well, everything is how we got the technologically advanced society we have today. You don't figure out how to build (much less actually do so) microprocessor fabs if a quarter of your population is toiling in the fields to grow your crops. Efficiency means there are people to do new things.

The problem we have is not efficiency, it is the lack of investment in infrastructure and basic research. Solving the problem by reducing efficiency is like deciding the best way to address your broken leg is to never stand up again.
posted by Justinian at 11:06 AM on December 1, 2010


Justinian, if this "efficiency" you speak of is the reason that I now effectively have to live with a day-to-day workload that would have been the responsibility of at least three developers about five years ago, with hardly any significant growth in my salary in the meantime (in fact, a slight decrease once annual inflation and larger health plan contributions are factored in), then you can hang your efficiency, whether it's the theoretically right thing to do or not.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:20 AM on December 1, 2010


GOP to Obama: Thanks for the wage freeze, now FOAD.
posted by PenDevil at 11:57 AM on December 1, 2010


saulgoodman, I agree completely that there is no chance of getting anything remotely liberal passed. What I don't agree with is the idea that there is a necessity of getting **something** passed, so the Democrats ought to pass Republican stuff. Let two years go by without new laws, we've got enough already. There's certainly things I'd like to see get done, but better nothing get done than Republican things get done.

And, yeah, there is a double standard, and it's vigerously enforced by the Beltway crowd. But that has to stop sometime, why not start now? If the Dems were serious, if Obama were serious, they'd be out there talking about the double standard, talking about the fact that they tried finding middle ground and it didn't work.

They'd be pulling out this Tom Tomorrow cartoon and pointing out that it is 100% true.

And I agree that they won't. But I don't agree that their failure to stand up and show spine is politically necessary.

The simple fact is that if the economy turns around (fat chance) by 2012 Obama will win and the Democrats will retake some seats. That, right there, is the core factor in all 2012 political equations. FOX and the Republicans will always, no matter what, say that Obama is an evil partisan socialist. The other networks will always, no matter what, echo that. The only possibility of change is in the actions of the Democrats themselves. If they show spine things could change. But if they don't, there's no possibility of change.

Deathalicious wrote As ridiculous as it sounds, either we get comfortable with using human labor in a less efficient manner, or we pay people not to work in the same way we pay farmers not to plant.

I'll take option two please.

Less flippantly, why should we buy into the idiocy of the "work ethic" so thoroughly that we deliberately do things less efficiently simply in order to keep people laboring?

I'll also point out that while efficiency has improved, much of our unemployment problem is due to outsourcing. We import around $300 billion in goods from China every year, that's $300 billion in goods that aren't being made here. Not that we can blame everything on outsourcing of course, but it isn't something we can ignore either.

Much of the "efficiency" found has simply been pseudo-slave labor. Export jobs that in America pay a decent wage and benefits to a nation with no worker protection laws and no child labor laws, and you can make Nike shoes for $0.02 in labor cost. That isn't efficiency so much as it is corporate evil.
posted by sotonohito at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


If I didn't say it, I meant to say short-term defense cuts.

Would you like to discuss long-term defense cuts? I agree with you that short-term defense cuts would be inconsequential to reducing the debt.

It seems abundantly clear that if you're looking to reduce fiscal spending in any significant way, you address, in order:

Defense - 23%
Social Security - 20%
Medicare/caid - 19%

How is this not immediately obvious to everyone?
posted by odinsdream at 12:10 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I don't agree with is the idea that there is a necessity of getting **something** passed, so the Democrats ought to pass Republican stuff. Let two years go by without new laws, we've got enough already. There's certainly things I'd like to see get done, but better nothing get done than Republican things get done.

It's not that simple, sotonhito, because the legislature also has to do routine bookkeeping stuff, like passing unemployment benefits extensions and renewing existing legislation that sunsets. Or for example, routine oversight matters like filling judicial benches and cabinet positions, many of which the Republicans still haven't allowed to be filled. Not doing anything cripples the government, which is hardly a winning way to make the case that the government does have a role to play in alleviating social problems and other aspects of public life.

In fact, what you're basically saying is that the Dems have to give the Republicans what they want in order to not give them what they want, because all the Republicans really, really want is a slack regulatory environment so they and their cronies are free to run their business scams and a government that's too tied up over trivial matters and busy fending off criticism to make progress on reigning in the disproportionate income gains and abuses of the wealthy and the big industrial lobbies.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2010


Yeah, part of what I'm talking about is a constant pressure on pretty much every organization to do the same amount of work (or more!) with fewer human resources. Even if it has led to technological advancement, in the long run it's basically a mathematical equation:

output = workers * efficiency

which means

efficiency = output/workers

or

workers = output/efficiency

In a healthy economy, output should be more or less equal to consumption, otherwise if output is greater than consumption, you end up with excess output, which drives prices down and reduces total demand for output. Since efficiency is not going to go down by much (companies rarely abandon former efficient practices just because demand has fallen) those companies will have to get rid of some of their workers.

As efficiency goes up, either we need to convince people to consume even more than they are consuming now (or, more accurately, more than they consumed back before the recession made everyone cut back), or we need to become comfortable with a increasingly larger unemployed (and indefinitely unemployable) population. So far the economy has been somewhat lifted by the emergence of trends which create a sudden surge in employment in a new industry but this isn't sustainable (think dot-com bubble).

I think the solution might be to become way more flexible on the idea of how much each person should have to work in order to live comfortably. I'd welcome things like 25-30 work weeks instead of 40+ work weeks (a lot of "efficiency" comes from expecting salaried workers to put in way more than 40 hours on a regular basis). Ultimately, that means more workers rather than fewer. In my opinion, 4 households making $60k/year are going to have a more positive impact on an economy than 3 households making $80k/year and 1 household making nothing.

The current model -- a surplus of people, a scarcity of work -- drives everyone who works towards the bottom, while preserving a hefty corporate profit that is held largely in the hands of the very wealthy. Consider this: the GDP is something like $14 trillion. That's more than $90k/household in the US if divided out evenly. I think that 150 million households earning $90k/year would have a remarkable effect on the economy. So we should always be trying to nudging wealth distribution towards the center if we can.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll also point out that while efficiency has improved, much of our unemployment problem is due to outsourcing. We import around $300 billion in goods from China every year, that's $300 billion in goods that aren't being made here. Not that we can blame everything on outsourcing of course, but it isn't something we can ignore either.

Indeed. I remember reading a stat in International Economics by R. Dunn (can't remember the edition) that the Chinese production was about 10% as efficient as the U.S. That shows just how costly it is to employ someone in the U.S. vs. someone in China. As developing countries grow their skill set, increasingly skilled jobs will go overseas.

Incidentally, that's why if you have a child who isn't particularly sure about their academic goals, tell them to go to a technical institute and learn how to be an electrician, plumber, or mechanic. These are jobs that can't be outsourced and that can't be done by cookie-cutter unskilled workers. These workers are still in fairly high demand and their pay is looking better and better compared other lines of work.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:29 PM on December 1, 2010


saulgoodman But the point is that the good stuff won't go through anyway.

Unemployment extensions? Those will never happen again for exactly the reason you said: nothing to the left of Darth Vadar will be passed by the Republicans.

I'm sure we could get some butts in chairs for various judgeships and so forth, all we'd have to do is nominate Tea Party Republicans for those positions and they'd be filled. Better an empty judge's chair than that.

Given that, for the very reasons you pointed out, absolutely nothing good will be passed for the next two years, where is the benefit in passing bad stuff?

Do you really think the Republicans will let us pass unemployment extensions no matter what concessions Obama makes? I don't. They will let the unemployed starve before they do something that would offend Imaginary Super Reagan (an excellent phrase, BTW, and I thank you for it). If we offered them their fondest desires, say a total federal ban on abortion, or Ann Coulter a seat on the Supreme Court, they'd take that and then refuse to vote for an unemployment extension anyway.

So, given that your prediction of exactly nothing good getting through for the next two years, why give the Republicans any victories? They aren't going to do any give and take.

Given the reality you so depressingly laid out, what benefit is there in passing Republican stuff? How do you see anything good, like unemployment extensions, getting passed even if the Democrats do go along with the Republican demands?

And, I should add, I'm sure the Democrats will not hesitate to be "pragmatic" and go along with the Republican agenda and pass every single thing on Boehner's wish list. Obama will make a pretty speech about how politics is the art of the possible, and scold the "professional Left" for daring to suggest that maybe putting Coulter on the Supreme Court wasn't the best possible idea.
posted by sotonohito at 1:05 PM on December 1, 2010


It is really, really difficult to tell where your hyperbole stops and where your actual point begins.
posted by The World Famous at 1:14 PM on December 1, 2010


Unemployment extensions? Those will never happen again for exactly the reason you said: nothing to the left of Darth Vadar will be passed by the Republicans.

Yes, but if the Republicans force the Dems to be the ones who block the extensions, by making them part of some deal that would also, for example, triple the deficit by giving the rich a third tax cut on top of the two they already got to our one, who do you think most voters are going to blame? Not to mention the fact that not passing such extensions (for example) will actually cause real people to be worse off right now, political triangulations be damned.

Fuck it. I quit. It's already too late now anyway. Enjoy the future you've created. It's gonna be one hell of a ride, I promise you that.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:18 PM on December 1, 2010


The World Famous That's easy, in my post there was no hyperbole, just an honest and straightforward expression of my viewpoint. Per the statements of elected Republicans their top legislative goal is the defeat of Obama. Per the statement released today and signed by all 42 current Senate Republicans they will block any and all legislation until the Democrats utterly surrender and make the Bush tax cuts for the ultra wealthy permanent.

It is not hyperbole, therefore, to state that the Republicans intend to block any and all even faintly liberal legislation no matter what the Democrats do. They have demonstrated that they are bad faith actors, that deals with them cannot be trusted. We have only to look at the negotiations over health care to see that, remember how Snowe kept moving the goalposts? Snowe would declare that if the Democrats did X she'd vote for the bill, the Democrats did X and Snow would then declare that she now couldn't vote for the bill unless they also did Y. This repeated and was the cause of many very bad things in the bill. In the end, despite giving Snowe essentially everything she ever asked for, she still voted against the bill.

When I say that the Democrats could offer to put Ann Coulter on the Supreme Court in exchange for Republicans voting for an unemployment extension and, following Coulter's appointment the Republicans would then refuse to vote for an unemployment extension, I mean literally that. From my POV there is no point in trying to negotiate with the Republicans, their demands are unreasonable, they act in bad faith, and they are without honor and will not keep promises. No hyperbole is present in any of those statements.

I also meant no hyperbole whatsoever when I predicted that the Democrats would almost certainly pass bills in a pathetic and despicable attempt to curry Republican favor. Past behavior has shown that there is nothing too right wing for Democrats to embrace when the Republicans start throwing temper tantrums.

saulgoodman ??? I created? Since I've been 18 I've voted almost entirely Democrat, and since I live in the Texas panhandle, and have since I was 18, that means my vote counted for exactly nothing. My sole input into the future has been donations to Democratic candidates (including Obama), phone banking, and the occasional bitching online. Don't blame me for this mess.

As for unemployment extensions, I don't think the Democrats will have a chance to vote on extensions encumbered by Republican poison pills, why would the Republicans bother (and risk the ire of the Tea Party) when they can just block them.

Given a choice between no unemployment extensions and extensions encumbered by evil crap, I couldn't really blame the Democrats for going with the latter. Real lives would be at stake and I agree with you that political triangulation would be wrong in that circumstance.

But I don't see that choice coming up. No Republican is going to risk Tea Party attacks by allowing any extensions to unemployment, or any other good bills, to pass at all.

Poison pill type legislation is nasty, and that I'm sure would appeal to elected Republicans, but it is somewhat risky (if the Dems elect to take the poison along with the bait the Republicans would be attacked by the Tea Party for offering the bait), and there's no need for them to take the risk. As you point out, they can simply block all legislation and offer up an endless stream of demands for tax cuts and social spending cuts. That alone will get them all the FOX and idiot support they need.

"If only the Democrats had agreed to our program of aggressive pro-employment tax cuts the economy would have recovered by now, but their radical class warfare agenda wouldn't allow them to agree to our simple, commonsense, pro-American policies!"

There's no need for them to cloud the matter with poison pills and other complex plans.
posted by sotonohito at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2010


Those last words were meant to be spoken in an apocalyptic tone to America at large, Bernie Mac-style, not specifically to you sotonhito. You're not personally to blame for anything other than not having the God-like powers anyone would need to stand a chance of setting this ugly mess straight at this point.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:19 PM on December 1, 2010


I couldn't really blame the Democrats for going with the latter

You couldn't. But most of the guys and gals actually depending on those checks to feed their families could and almost certainly would. And right now, that means potentially millions of people. Never mind the follow-on effects for the economy as spending gets pinched even more. And that's only one small example of the kind of havoc that deliberately crippling the legislative process can do.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2010


That's easy, in my post there was no hyperbole, just an honest and straightforward expression of my viewpoint.

Ah. So you really think that having Ann Coulter on the Supreme Court is one of the Republican party's fondest desires? Sorry. That looked like hyperbole to me.


And you really think that the only way that Obama will now be able to get any judicial nominations confirmed is if they are all Tea Party members? Again, I apologize. That looked like hyperbole to me.
posted by The World Famous at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2010


saulgoodman I believe you misunderstood me. I was saying that I wouldn't object if the Democrats accepted a Republican poison pill along with an unemployment extension if that was the only way to get it.

My larger point was that the Republicans won't offer even that. They just won't allow an extension to pass no matter what. They don't need to pull tricks like poison pills.
posted by sotonohito at 3:03 PM on December 1, 2010


The World Famous Why either seem like hyperbole? We already know that the Republicans place ideology above competence (see: Sarah Palin who is essentially a better looking Ann Coulter and was you may recall their nominee for Vice President), and that they believe in obstructionism at all costs (see: the fact that there are still over 200 vacancies in Obama's executive offices due to obstructionism, plus the newest declaration of obstruction from the Senate Republicans).

What, exactly, would the Republican party gain by voting for any Democratic nominee or bill? More to the point, what would any individual elected Republican stand to lose if they broke ranks (especially on a filibuster) and voted with Democrats? The Tea Party has demonstrated that they have the ability and willingness to take down candidates who are insufficiently pure, and largely they define "purity" not in terms of ideology, but in terms of how strongly a politician opposes and demonizes the Democrats.

I don't think either Sotomayor or Kagan would be approved in the current climate, in fact I'm sure they'd both have been filibustered and no Republican would dare to break the filibuster out of fear of being punished by the Tea Party.

I firmly expect that only one sort of bill will be passed for the next two years: hard right Republican bills. I don't think they will even bother with trickery like poison pills attached to bills the Democrats want, too much chance that the Tea Party will punish them for offering bait, especially if the Democrats take the bait. To the Tea Party that would look like giving in to the evil socialist agenda.

The budget battles will be pure kabuki. The Republicans will tantrum and after sternly declaring that they won't give in, the Democrats will quickly give in. To an extent they won't have a choice, as saulgoodman notes there are real world consequences to shutting down the government. The Tea Party is convinced that the mistake in 1995 was in eventually caving and letting Clinton pass a budget, that won't happen this time around. The only caving will be from Democrats, they've had 12 years of practice so they're quite good at it now; worse there are justifications for caving if it gets a budget passed even if it is a terrible budget.

May I ask why you view these positions as hyperbole? They seem, to me, to be perfectly in line with recent Republican behavior.
posted by sotonohito at 3:15 PM on December 1, 2010


Why either seem like hyperbole?

Well, as far as your assertion that one of the Republican party's fondest desires is to have Ann Coulter on the Supreme Court, that one seems like hyperbole because, as far as I can tell, the Republican party doesn't even particularly like Ann Coulter, let alone like her enough to try to get her into some judicial position. She's a media figure, not a jurist or even a political figure. Republicans and Democrats alike pull for nominees all the time based on who they want to put on the bench, and I have never, ever heard of anyone even whispering any desire to see Coulter on the bench. Don't you think that maybe, if the Republicans really wanted so badly to put Ann Coulter on the Supreme Court they would, I don't know, try to get her on some lower court first, encourage her to do the things that put someone on a track to be on the Supreme Court, or something like that? She's not a legal scholar, she's not in academia, she's not a judge, she's not a policymaker, and she's not even a practicing lawyer. What on earth would you say that the Republicans' fondest desire is to put her on the Supreme Court unless your statement was hyperbole?

As to your assertion that, from here on out, not a single one of Obama's judicial nominees will be confirmed unless they are Tea Party members: That assertion, like your claim that the Republican party's fondest desire is to put an ultra right-wing pundit who is not a jurist or even a practicing lawyer on the Supreme Court, indicates either a high level of hyperbole or a complete lack of understanding of reality. There is always - always - give and take with regard to judicial nominations. No matter how evil you think the Republicans are, they never, ever block 100% of judicial nominations and they never, ever insist that all nominees meet certain ideological requirements. The political ramifications of blocking 100% of a president's judicial nominations would be disastrous and the Judiciary Committee members will not do anything even approaching that. There will be negotiations - as there always are. There will be quid pro quo - a nominee for a nominee - as there always is. And, at the end of the day, the nominees will have to be generally qualified to sit as federal judges. Do you actually think that there is any significant number of Tea Partiers who are even minimally qualified to be federal judges? Do you think the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as a whole, care one bit about whether Tea Partiers are made federal judges?
posted by The World Famous at 3:39 PM on December 1, 2010


The World Famous I was being figurative with Coulter specifically. I was using her as a stand in for any far right loon. Insert Sarah Palin, or Christine O'Donnell, or Pat Robertson or whoever for Ann Coulter if you'd like, the point is the same.

As for Coulter specifically, why not? Again, they nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President, they self evidently don't care one bit about qualifications, or even sanity.

There is always - always - give and take with regard to judicial nominations. No matter how evil you think the Republicans are, they never, ever block 100% of judicial nominations and they never, ever insist that all nominees meet certain ideological requirements.

You are using the wrong tense here. They have not, yet, done that. But the Tea Party didn't exist as a major force in the past. Right now the default Senate Republican position on anything proposed by Democrats is to filibuster. Given the existence of the Tea Party and its demonstrated willingness and ability to punish Congresspeople who displease it, tell me which Republican Senator you think will be willing to break the filibuster and be branded as a socialist loving traitor by the Tea Party?

The game has changed, the old rules no longer apply. The Republicans, earlier, introduced Parliamentary style bloc politics to the US Congress. Today they have a vicious and not particularly ineffective ideological enforcement division (even if some don't care for it, they all fear it). The happy days of even the minimal and grudging cooperation and bipartisanship we saw during 2008 and early 2009 are over and won't be coming back anytime soon.

The political ramifications of blocking 100% of a president's judicial nominations would be disastrous and the Judiciary Committee members will not do anything even approaching that. There will be negotiations - as there always are.

Again, wrong tense. There **were** negotiations once, but that time has passed. It isn't a matter of Republican evil, but rather Republican pragmatism. Breaking ranks is punished by the Party apparatus, and breaking ranks is now also punished by the Tea Party and it's constant threat of primary challenges. The game is changed.

Those 200 vacant seats in Obama's administration? They won't be filled, not unless Obama pulls recess appointments, or appoints Tea Party approved people.

Any upcoming judicial vacancy? If the nominee isn't Tea Party approved that nominee is DOA. The rules have been changed, even grudging and unwilling bipartisanship is out.

And, from a purely practical matter, that sort of thing can be spun very successfully by Republicans. All they need to do is keep FOX putting out stories about how ineffective the Democrats are, about how the Democrats are evil hyperpartisan monsters and they can shift the blame for the government failure to the Democrats. The Democrats have never shown any awareness of narrative manipulation and have expressed an extreme unwillingness to directly engage the Republicans. Obama being the worst offender there.

And from a certain POV you could even claim that the Republcians are honest when they claim that they and they alone make bipartisan proposals. There is almost always at least one sucker or traitor among the Democrats who will vote for any crazy and/or evil thing the Republicans propose. Meanwhile the Republicans, with their superior party discipline, can easily prevent their membership from voting for any Democratic proposals regardless of whether the proposals include Republican desires or not. Result? Every Republican propsal gets a Democrat signing on, and no Democratic proposals get any Republicans signing on. By refusing to be bipartisan the Republicans can paint themselves as victims of horrible partisanship from the Democrats.

Then they go on FOX news and say: "The problem is that the Democrats just won't meet us halfway, none of their proposals can muster even a single Republican vote, while despite the demonstrated Democratic partisanship we go out of our way to try to reach across the aisle and often we can include provisions that will allow our Democratic colleagues to vote for our proposals."

And people believe it. The people who don't follow politics closely (that is, almost all of them) hear about Republican bills getting Democratic support, they hear that Democratic bills are "shoved through" without any Republican support, and they hear on FOX and all the other cable news Republican talking heads with a never ending litany bewailing the evil and horrible hyperpartisanship of the Democrats. And it works, observe the 2010 election results.

Do you actually think that there is any significant number of Tea Partiers who are even minimally qualified to be federal judges?

Of course not. But when in the past two years has a total lack of qualification or even basic intelligence or sanity prevented Republicans from nominating someone?

Do you think the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as a whole, care one bit about whether Tea Partiers are made federal judges?

Nope. But I think they care about getting reelected, and right now that means never, ever, becoming a target of the Tea Party. That means they must reject 100% of Obama's candidates regardless of qualification unless Obama completely caves and nominates someone Tea Party approved.
posted by sotonohito at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was being figurative with Coulter specifically. I was using her as a stand in for any far right loon. Insert Sarah Palin, or Christine O'Donnell, or Pat Robertson or whoever for Ann Coulter if you'd like, the point is the same.

Yes, that's called hyperbole. The Republican party doesn't want Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell, or Pat Robertson to be Supreme Court justices, either. And you know that.

The game has changed, the old rules no longer apply.

I can't think of a single example of someone saying that about anything and not being proved embarassingly wrong in fairly short order.

Any upcoming judicial vacancy? If the nominee isn't Tea Party approved that nominee is DOA. The rules have been changed, even grudging and unwilling bipartisanship is out.

Yes, you keep saying that, but it's ridiculous. But I'll grant you that if you really do believe that nonsense then it's not hyperbole.

That means they must reject 100% of Obama's candidates regardless of qualification unless Obama completely caves and nominates someone Tea Party approved.

Again, you keep repeating this point and I simply don't understand where you get it. Can you offer me some cite somewhere to support the idea that the Tea Party will target any Republican member of the Judiciary Committee who does not vote down even the most radically conservative judicial nominee who is not "Tea Party approved?" What does "Tea Party approved" even mean, in practical terms that a senator could use in carrying out a plan to block 100% of judicial nominations for at least two years?
posted by The World Famous at 9:00 AM on December 2, 2010


But when in the past two years has a total lack of qualification or even basic intelligence or sanity prevented Republicans from nominating someone?

Judicial nominees come from the President. For the past two years, the President has been Barack Obama. What has "prevented Republicans from nominating someone" "in the past two years" has been the fact that the Republicans are not in the White House and, therefore, have no power to nominate anyone.

But, since you seem to think you know what you're talking about and I'm curious, I'll bite: What specific nominee or nominees for the federal bench in the last two years do you contend lack any qualifications whatsoever to be federal judges? Which of them do you think lack basic intelligence or sanity? I want you to name specific nominees. If you'd like to go back six years, so that you're actually looking at people nominated by Republicans, that would be fine, too. But no hyperbole allowed. Give me the names of actual federal judicial nominees who you contend, as a factual and not a figurative or political matter, totally lack qualification or even basic intelligence or sanity.
posted by The World Famous at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2010


Did I say "tool"?

Yes, and that's what I meant.

I never expected Obama to be a truly liberal President but my God I expected better than this. Shame on me I guess.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:28 AM on December 2, 2010


There is a cat in my television! Get out of my television you cat!
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2010


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