President Obama's five percent pay cut

The Associated Press brings us news of the dumbest, emptiest gesture of a tedious presidency:

President Obama will return 5 percent of his salary each month to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers smarting from government-wide spending cuts, the White House said Wednesday.

Obama’s decision grew out of a desire to share in the sacrifice that government employees are making, said a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Hundreds of thousands of workers could be forced to take unpaid leave — known as furloughs — if Congress does not reach an agreement to undo the cuts.

The president is demonstrating that he will be paying a price, too, as the White House warns of dire economic consequences from the $85 billion in cuts that started to hit federal programs last month after Congress failed to stop them. In the weeks since, the administration has faced repeated questions about how the White House itself will be affected. The cancellation of White House tours has drawn mixed reactions.

This works out to $1,667 cut from the President’s $400,000 annual salary, retroactive to March 1.  But it’s only supposed to remain in effect for the rest of 2013, so it’s not even a permanent reduction.

There is so much stupid packed into this gesture that it’s tough to know where to start.  But let’s begin with the arbitrary figure of 5 percent.  The actual value of sequestration amounts to somewhere between 1 and 2 percent, reduced from future increases – it’s nowhere near 5 percent of total spending, and it’s not a “cut” at all.  The commonly cited $85 billion value of sequestration is not accurate for 2012-2013; it’s more like $43 billion the first year.  Obama wanted to spend $68 billion more next year, but thanks to sequestration, he’ll “only” get to spend $25 billion more, piled on top of $3.53 trillion in 2012 spending – which, you’ll recall, the Democrat Party did not bother to “budget” at all.

So a more accurate symbolic gesture would be for Obama to give himself a 2 percent raise, then take back 1 percent of it to show his “solidarity” with those poor austerity-ravaged federal workers.  But of course, that would provoke howls of outrage, and make his sequestration whining look appropriately pathetic.

No matter what percentage of his pay Obama refunds, how is that supposed to “share the sacrifice” of people forced to take unpaid leave, or lose their jobs completely?  And where are Obama’s gestures of shared sacrifice for the people who lost their private-sector jobs due to his policies?  The people blown out of the labor force by the ObamaCare disaster aren’t just taking “furloughs.”

Also, while the federal workforce began to trim back a bit in 2012, its growth before that – under both Obama, and in the latter years of the Bush presidency – was nothing short of “explosive,” as USA Today described it in a June 2012 story: “Federal employment grew 13 percent ??? 250,000 jobs ??? from the recession’s start in December 2007 to a peak last September. During that time, private employment fell 5 percent, and state and local governments cut staffs by 2 percent.”  It’s never easy for any individual to deal with unemployment, a pay cut, or an unpaid furlough, but as a whole, why should private-sector Americans be sobbing over tiny sequestration trims to a federal workforce that grew so extravagantly, even as the private workforce shrank to a 30-year low?  Once again, it’s clear that your job doesn’t matter a hill of beans to Barack Obama, unless you’re a government employee.

A refund of $1,667 per month is not going to affect Obama’s lifestyle in the slightest.  You’ll notice he’s made a point of living like a latter-day French king despite the fiscal crisis and weak economy he dropped on the country.  His political trips, leisurely jaunts, and vacations cost taxpayers millions of dollars apiece.  Any single one of the lavish vacations taken by the Royal Family likely cost more than eight years of his $400k salary.  He’d save the American taxpayer far more than a measly $16k or $17k by simply promising to take his vacations at Camp David for the remainder of his presidency.

The other perks of his office would make most billionaires envious, and he’ll enjoy benefits for the rest of his life.  The moment he departs the Oval Office, his lifetime in politics will bring him compensation far beyond his Presidential salary; he won’t have trouble raking in more than four hundred grand from a single speaking engagement.  Former President Bill Clinton pulled in $13.4 million in speaking fees in 2011 alone, bring his post-presidential total to over $89 million… and that’s just the money he earned from giving speeches.  Obama is not making any meaningful personal “sacrifice” with his dopey “pay cut.”

And what’s the point of throwing that $1,667 per month back into the howling black hole of the Treasury, where it will vanish into bureaucratic overhead, or leak out through one of the federal government’s titanic fraud-riddled programs?  Why not make a truly meaningful gesture by giving that money to a well-run, low-overhead private charity?  Yesterday, the Associated Press was bizarrely attempting to link the successful turnaround of a drug-addicted man’s life, effected by Catholic Charities using $18,000 of privately donated funds, to the horrors of sequestration.  Obama’s “pay cut” would add up to just about enough for Catholic Charities to turn another life around, so why not give it to them, instead of pouring it down the Treasury’s gullet?

Ah, but that would be politically counter-productive, wouldn’t it?  Barack Obama doesn’t want you thinking about how private charity uses money so much more effectively than the welfare state, any more than he wants you to dwell upon private industry running rings around his bankrupt government “investments,” or make a phony gesture of solidarity with private-sector workers who lose their jobs.