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Obama proposes federal wage freeze to reduce deficit

by Adam Russett on November 30, 2010

President Barack Obama announced his plans on Monday to freeze 2.1 million federal workers' pay for the next two years, a move that would aim to reduce the U.S. budget deficit and quell criticism of his big spending habits.

The pay freeze, which the White House estimates would save anywhere from $2 billion per year to $28 billion over five years, is awaiting Congress' approval. If passed, it would be the first of its kind "in modern history," with the last federal freeze lasting one year in 1986, according to the Washington Post. The current U.S. budget deficit is at about $1.3 trillion.

During his announcement, which came before the national Deficit Commission's Wednesday deadline to draft ideas for tackling the debt, Obama pointed out the bi-partisan imperative "to get federal spending under control and bring down the deficits that have been growing for most of the last decade." He also asked federal workers to make sacrifices for their country as "they've always done."

Some speculate that the move is a concession made largely to Republicans, who are set to take over the House majority and gain influence in the Senate in January.

About 60 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of conservatives think federal workers are overpaid, according to a recent Washington Post poll. In total, 52 percent of Americans agree.

The Deficit Commission recommended a three-year pay freeze during its panel meeting.

Commerce Department statistics say the average government employee received a salary of over $81,000 and more than $40,000 in benefits last year, while USA Today found that there are 10 times more workers earning over $150,000 than there were five years ago, reports the New York Daily News.

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