You might have heard how Obama has called for a three year salary freeze for all non-military federal employees. Let’s leave aside the notion that we need every drop of fiscal stimulus we can get our hands on. Instead, I would like to know how this will not make things worse for research in the U.S.
As it is, program officers are overworked and understaffed with support personnel. I can’t see morale increasing with this move. This won’t make retaining people any easier–and probably will make it harder, since the good people will have other options (despite many academics’ dislike of program officers, it’s a difficult and demanding job). Let’s not forget that the public sector currently lags behind the private sector, conservative propaganda notwithstanding. Likewise, on the administrative side, my experience has been that the contracts and the budgetary groups are already overstretched. Now, if you need something approved, it will take even longer–and, in fields where a couple of months matters, it already takes too long.
I would be ok with this if the money were going to Head Start or to increase Pell Grants. Feeding the needy would be a good thing too. Even building some SUPERTRAINS. But it’s not. The money is going to pay for wars we should not be fighting, and keep taxes low on the wealthy*, especially those in the rent extraction businesses (the ones who nail you with every kind of fee they can think of).
This is bad policy in that it is pennywise and pound-foolish.
And before anyone raises the issue of the White House freezing its salaries, well, their salaries should be frozen: they suck at their jobs.
Not hopey. Not at all.
*We have a massive demand problem due to stagnant wages and unemployment. Salaries rise and unemployment drops only when businesses perceive demand. Nobody is perceiving demand right now, and this cut won’t help.