Freezing the pay of federal workers

President Obama is proposing a two-year freeze on the salaries of all civilian federal employees. This is a purely symbolic gesture that will do little to address the deficit, although it will hurt the people at the receiving end of the freeze. He of course panders to the military by exempting them from the freeze. When this move is coupled with Obama’s inevitable capitulation on extending the tax breaks for the wealthy (which actually does impact the deficit considerably) it will just add to the overwhelming evidence that both parties exist to serve the oligarchy.

It looks like Obama has given up even pretending that he cares about anyone other than the rich.


  1. Jared A says

    For some reason people are absolutely ferocious towards low-level government employees. I can only assume it is for a subconscious feeling of payback for having wait in line at the DMV.

  2. says

    I think the freeze on government workers will be, if it happens (and allow me a little skepticism on the point), a beneficial and well overdue thing. At a time when the government is making such a huge mess of the economy, and people in the private sector are forced to take reduced wages and work longer hours, federal government workers’ salaries have been rising to the point that their compensation is about twice what comparable workers in the private sector are getting. There is something seriously wrong with that. It’s what people are paid because they are serving the oligarchy. Maybe if they don’t get paid quite so much they won’t serve it quite as eagerly.

    I agree with you about Obama in the more general sense, though.

  3. Jared A says


    Why do you think that people who work for the government earn twice what a comparable worker in the private sector gets? What jobs are you specifically referring to?

    State jobs that I have personal knowledge about make no more than 33% less than an equivalent private sector job. Frequently the pay is much less than half.

  4. says

    Jared A,

    Google “government pay compared to private sector” for a more thorough sourcing, but check out:

    I will note that my comment came from hearing these type stories in general and reading several of them, but I didn’t have any particular source in mind when I made my statement. My observation has been that while most non-Wall Street private enterprises have been reducing wages and employees, government has expanded and workers have consistently gotten raises every year. This took a situation of rough equivalence ten years ago and has resulted today’s gross inequality.

    In general, my experience of government workers is that they treat the people they’re helping as subservient. Although some of them do a very good job even coming from that attitude.

  5. Jared A says

    Thanks, Ken, for the link.

    I asked my wife about this because she works in the work-force development field and knows more of the ins and outs on this issue than I do. I can’t martial as much information as she did, but it seems the statistic is quite flawed. Media matters talks about it a little:

    The most important point, though, is simply this. The statistic compares the entire population of private sector versus the entire population of federal employees. A much larger proportion of federal employees have an advanced degree (usually at least a master’s degree but often a law degree or PhD)

    The best way to compare wages is to looks at statistics for average compensation for a JD, MPP, MPA, MPF, etc. holders. A real study would look at the make up of government jobs and do a weighted average. Anecdotally I can tell you that people I know who go to work for the government take pay cuts when they enter and pay bumps when they leave.

    I understand your point about the power-tripping government workers. This was really my original point (albeit put obliquely) -- I think the main (subconscious) factor for people wanting to see pay freezes is in response to government workers being rude to them. FOX News and USA Today misrepresenting statistics just provides a nice justification.


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