Although the nation’s unemployment rate remains above 9 percent and 14.1 million Americans are out of work, two GOP senators think what the economy needs right now is to lay off another 300,000 workers. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation this week that takes aim at federal workers, ostensibly to save $600 billion by cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs. Their bill would also freeze federal salaries and bonuses, eliminate 15 percent of contract workers, and slash the federal travel budget by an astonishing 75 percent:
Under the bill, S. 1476, salaries and bonuses would be frozen for three years, which Hatch said amounts to $140 billion in reduced spending over 10 years.
It would also require the administration to cut the size of the federal workforce by 15 percent over 10 years, amounting to 300,000 fewer workers. “This could easily be accomplished through attrition and would save taxpayers over $225 billion over that time,” Hatch said.
Cutting 15 percent of contract workers would save another $230 billion over 10 years, he said.
A 75 percent cut to the federal travel budget would save an estimated $15 billion.
Hatch hinted at this true motive when he said, “I don’t see any way that we can restore the integrity of the nation’s fiscal position without significantly reducing the size and cost of the federal government.” Conservatives have been scapegoating government employees despite the fact that public sector workers have shouldered more than their fair share of economic pain.
As Matt Yglesias has documented, more than 500,000 government workers have lost their jobs since January 2009. Federal payrolls have been mostly flat for years, even as the population has been growing. In November, President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for 1.9 million federal workers.