The Federal Pay Freeze Is Bizarre, Self-Defeating, and Pointless.

To jump off from Tim's post, it's worth pointing out just how underpaid federal workers are compared to their private-sector counterparts, especially after President Obama's decision to adopt and reinforce the conservative idea that government workers are way overpaid. As noted by Mike Konczal a few weeks ago, government workers are underpaid compared to their private-sector counterparts, "even when you include benefits and control for everything imaginable." For instance, here is what the gap looks like when you control for education:

epi_comp_gov_1.jpg

When you control for experience, gender, race, and total work hours -- along with education -- then government employees are paid 3.74 percent less than their private sector counterparts. Simply put, federal employees aren't making a mint off of their association with the government, and freezing their pay does nothing more than take money out of their pockets and out of the economy.

This would be a little more palatable if it came with a policy benefit -- for instance, if Republicans backed off on the Bush tax cuts, or "allowed" Democrats to extend unemployment benefits -- but this was a preemptive duck (though from what, I'm not sure). Instead of using a pay freeze as leverage for another policy, Obama gave it away in a bizarre and self-defeating bid for "bipartisanship." It won't work, of course. Republicans will continue to demand everything from Democrats, and in a desperate effort to find GOP support for a doomed-anyway initiative, Democrats will give it to them.

The most annoying part, as Tim sardonically notes, is how much this won't matter for Obama's approval ratings; as long as the economy is sluggish, "independents" and other voters will ignore Obama's willingness to extend the olive branch to Republicans, and disparage him -- rightly -- for his failure to alleviate their economic pain.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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