As hard-working Americans struggle through one of the worst recessions in U.S. history, one part of the country remains recession-proof: Washington, D.C.
Even though federal tax revenues are down 20 percent and the national debt has ballooned to $12 trillion, President Barack Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill continue to believe that we can borrow and spend our way to prosperity. As part of that plan, they’re using our hard-earned tax dollars to increase the size of government and the salary of bureaucrats.
While the private sector has lost a total of 7.7 million jobs during the past two years, the ranks of the federal bureaucracy have swelled by nearly 10 percent. Furthermore, while the average salary in the private sector is $40,331, a typical federal worker earns $71,206. Worst of all is the explosion of government salaries at a time when most taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. According to an investigative report by USA Today, the proportion of “federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14 percent to 19 percent during the recession’s first 18 months – and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.”
Since the recession began in December 2007, the U.S. economy has been shedding jobs at its worst rate since the Great Depression. But you would never know it if you worked “inside the Beltway.” When the economy turned south two years ago, the Department of Defense had 1,868 employees earning $150,000 or more. Today, there are 10,100 employees at the Pentagon taking home that salary. At the start of the economic slump, the Department of Transportation had only a single career employee earning more than $170,000. Today, there are more than 1,600 career federal workers at the DOT making that amount. Obama has recommended an additional 2 percent pay raise for 2010. That’s unconscionable.
The time has come for Washington to live within its means. If most Americans are coping with a weak economy by tightening their belts, our public servants can to do the same. That’s why I am calling for a salary freeze on all federal salaries above $120,000 until unemployment is under 7 percent, which should be in the next two or three years. Those who are earning three times as much as their peers in the private sector can make do until we reach that benchmark.
The only way we can rebuild our economy is to spur job growth in the private sector. It is the private sector – not government – that is the engine of our prosperity. After all, every single government job must be paid for through tax revenues – and those revenues come from the private sector. Increasing employment in the federal government is no solution at all. Indeed, by raising the price of government at a time when tax revenues are plunging at the fastest rate in 80 years, we are plunging our nation into its greatest debt crisis in history.
According to the president’s own budget, we will add $9 trillion in government debt over the next decade, bringing the total national debt to $21 trillion. That doesn’t even include the Democrats’ health care bill which – if passed – will cost at least hundreds of billions more. That is the economic equivalent of medical malpractice, and it must stop.
If we freeze the pay of the highest-paid federal employees – including members of Congress – it won’t eliminate our deficit overnight. But it will send a powerful message to the folks in Washington that they work for the taxpayers; not the other way around.
The bureaucrats might complain if the freeze drags on year after year. But my response is simple: If you want a raise, help the private sector start hiring people again. If you want more money, do something about unemployment.
This is an issue where conservatives will naturally take the lead, but we invite Democrats and independents to join us, as well. All Americans can rally around this common-sense issue which is about establishing fairness, accountability, and restoring fiscal sanity to the federal government.
Now is the time for action.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., was elected to Congress in 2004 to represent Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District. She is vice chairman of the Republican Congressional Conference, and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the Education and Labor Committee, and the Natural Resources Committee. Previously, she was a state legislator in the state of Washington.
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