Commentary

Federal Pay Freeze Side Show Ignores Real Spending Drivers

The Obama Administration’s decision to freeze federal pay is more sideshow that meaningful fiscal restraint. The probem with federal spending is that government is expanding its role in all sorts of ways–health care, regulation, banking, and many more. Expanding the government role in society and economy means adding more federal employees, not cutting the pay of the ones already has on the payroll.

The record levels of federal debt are indicative a strategic realignment in federal priorities to be more interventionist and more expansive than anytime since the 1930s. The so-called stimulus program is a case in point. Rather than trying to identify high-priority projects, the Obama Administration funneled money to the states to encourage them to expand their payrolls and increase pay in areas such as Medicaid and public education. Indeed, the most troubling part of the so-called economic recovery has been the expansion of government payrolls to cover the loss in private sector jobs.

The only real way to get a handle on federal spending is to engage in a fundamental realignment of government priorities that involves less federal involvement. Cutting the pay of doctors tending to the needs of injured and disabled veterans doesn’t accomplish this goal.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.