Federal Workers to Get a Raise, GOP to Get Mad

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2010 Getty Images

President Obama will put a modest 0.5 percent pay raise for federal civilian workers in his 2013 budget, according to the Washington Post.

The move will surely rankle Republicans in Congress and come up during the general election. Republicans want the pay freeze — which Obama called for in 2010 — to be extended, not ended. To trim the federal deficit, some members of the GOP even want to keep pay from rising for government employees who get promoted to new jobs —  a plan unlikely to incentivize higher productivity from federal workers.

But pay raise or no pay raise, the cost of federal employees has been going down under Obama. 

The 200,000 jobs added to the economy in December came from the addition of 212,000 private-sector jobs and the elimination of 12,000 government workers. In fact, government employment has decreased by 2.6 percent during Obama's first three years — a record decrease for a president. (Public sector jobs decreased by 2.2 percent during Reagan's first three years.)

Of course, the decrease in government jobs was probably unintentional, and Obama may be trying to turn the trend around. Adding public sector jobs instead of losing them would help the modest gains in employment of late look a bit less modest — and could be more helpful to his reelection prospects than trimming the size of government.

A pay raise of 0.5 percent for a government job isn't much money, but in a sluggish economy the only federal employees likely to complain about it are the ones in Congress who already have plenty.