Instead, we have a Right Wing party that exploded the deficit and wrecked our economy teaming up with the "centrists" who have made it more and more unfair and deregulated over the last twenty years to call on the most vulnerable members of our society to "Sacrifice." And indeed, the fetishization of "sacrifice," as some kind of inherently Good and Noble thing is in the air (et tu, Culturefuture? A GS-1 federal government employee makes under $20,000 a year unless they live in one of a handful of cities.)
Let's see what I said. Do I think that it's a good thing that people are being asked to make this sacrifice?
I was not hugely happy to hear about the federal pay freeze this week, because I'm not convinced that it would have much of an impact, nor do I think that it's particularly just. After all, the people who made the poor decisions are voters, and the people who are losing out are federal employees.
Yup, it's a bad idea to freeze their pay. GS-1 government employees and many of their higher-paid colleagues should not have their pay frozen. It's a bad idea, and a disservice to them.
However, I went on to say:
If we can't get those who should make sacrifices to make them, let's start by having those who are willing. Hopefully shame is contagious.
Let's take a trip in the wayback machine to 2008, when the crisis was going on. The banks were in trouble. They needed money. We decided to give them money in a huge way, through the TARP Bail-out.
I think we all knew at the time that it wouldn't be the Banks who would pay for the bail-out, nor would it be the Fortune 500 or America's crop of billionaires. It was going to be precisely those people who were least culpable. And there was a damn lot of anger, and we did it anyway, and it saved our country.
Now, the budget is an important thing. I think I may be in the over-emphasizing-the-budget crowd because I come from California, where I saw that if you don't make steps to trim the budget, not only are those GS-1 employees not making $20,000 a year, they're getting IOU's from the government, or having needed services slashed. We went from one of the strongest economies in the world to having rolling black-outs, like Kabul.
That's a bit of a doomsday scenario. But as Ireland as shown, the only thing that prevents doomsday scenarios is that people don't let them happen. They balance the budget. They either do that by punting the problem ahead a generation, or they make sacrifices now.
Maybe I've got a fetish for sacrifice. Or maybe it turns out sacrifice means doing things that are unfair or painful because they're the only thing that will happen. Like Isaac, I think there are plenty of progressive approaches to handling the deficit. And Isaac is skeptical about Simpson-Bowles, as I am.
But you know what? Nobody is talking about Simpson-Bowles. It's not going to happen. Certainly I have little faith in any of those progressive approaches getting through. The most significant budget-balancing measure was already put into place: Pay-Go.
So to return to my point: if the right people aren't going to make the sacrifice, we're going to have to start with the willing. Because really, if someone forces you to sacrifice, it's not a sacrifice: it's just a punishment.
In fact, what would be more to my taste is that instead of making a mandatory pay freeze, there should be a voluntary pay freeze. Say, "We're not going to make you sacrifice. We're going to ask those of you who can to help the country."
For instance: we're in two wars. We need soldiers. We don't have a draft, because forcing people to go to war isn't a sacrifice, it's just senseless. Instead, we ask. And those people who rise to the challenge: we honor them and respect them.
So let's start creating the invitation and the space for people to contribute to solving the country's problems. And if some Federal Workers think that's embracing onerous pay freezes, then I respect them for that.