Millions of long-suffering Americans who have lost their jobs, seen their pay reduced or workweeks shortened, face mortgage foreclosures or lost unemployment benefits have been waiting for President Obama to freeze the pay of federal employees, an action he finally imposed Monday as one of many ways to trim federal spending.
Freezing salaries for two years at present levels will trigger rolling savings of up to $28 billion over five years. Though that seems small compared to the cost of Afghanistan war operations of about $60 billion per year—10 times the annual pay freeze savings—the decision is necessary. Savings of any size, sacrifice on any front and selflessness throughout the nation are urgently required.
By failing to head off the Wall Street-triggered economic meltdown and by continuing a costly, unpopular war, the government already has forced involuntary sacrifice on those who've lost jobs, lost savings or lost homes.
If the nation is to stabilize its economy, it must balance budget savings with economic stimulus and beware of relying solely on one method or the other.
Americans around during World War II remember the harsh inconveniences of those days—rationing of meat, gasoline and sugar; price and wage controls; shortages of all consumer goods; nighttime blackouts and backyard victory gardens for family vegetables.
Congress must do its part now. How insulting if during this crisis lawmakers extend lavish tax cuts for the wealthy, costing the nation $70 billion a year and according special comforts to those least in need.