Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan wants to cut the federal government workforce by 10% -- some 210,000 jobs -- through a two-year hiring freeze.
It's part of his budget proposal released Tuesday. The move would save $49 billion in his broader plan to get rid of federal deficits by 2023. Ryan takes further aim at federal workers by proposing they pay more toward their pensions, saving another $132 billion in 10 years.
These proposal aren't new -- they're the same as what Ryan came up with last year. The difference now is that they aren't as far-fetched an idea, especially at a time when deep government cuts are already taking place.
Washington's forced federal budget cuts that kicked in on March 1 are forcing hundreds of thousands of workers to take a 20% pay cut for five months. Many federal agencies have instituted a hiring freeze. And the Pentagon has been laying off some 46,000 contract workers. All off this will cut $85 billion from the federal budget by September.
These come on top of 33,000 worker jobs that federal agencies have lost through attrition and layoffs since January 2012.
House Republicans have argued over the years that federal workers are one of the reasons behind the large deficit. Republicans suggest that their pay and benefits are more generous than the private sector.
A 2012 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that federal employees get 46% better benefits on average compared to the private sector.
But when it comes to pay, it isn't that simple. Federal employees, on average, make $77,414 a year in wages, about 44% more than private-sector employees' $53,463, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The difference in pay is due to higher education levels in the federal workforce, more white-collar jobs, and the concentration of jobs located in Washington, a more expensive place to live than other parts of the nation.
Ryan's proposal is likely to go the way of past budgets -- nowhere. But elements of the proposal could influence upcoming debates as lawmakers again rush to avoid a government shutdown when the current budget runs out on March 27.
Unions are up in arms protesting Ryan's budget, accusing him of a vendetta against federal workers.
"It's the same garbage he's proposed before -- slash federal employees and increase the number of contractors doing federal employees' work," said Jeffrey David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "It's because he doesn't want to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires in this country."
To federal workers, it's more of the same. Their pay has been frozen at 2010 levels, a move President Obama supported, to save $60 billion from deficits over 10 years. Workers have gone without annual cost-of-living increases and the only way their pay has increased is via promotions.
In January, President Obama ordered a 0.5% raise for federal employees when the current budget runs out.
However, federal workers seem to have fewer and fewer friends these days. Lawmakers in both parties are proposing an extension of the pay freeze, which may nix even that paltry pay raise.