Shared Sacrifice, Leadership by Example Missing

Drew Alexander | Jul 9, 2012, 6 a.m.

“If everybody took an attitude of shared sacrifice, we could solve our deficit and debt problem next week.” So said President Barack Obama.

This statement is stunning in its hypocrisy, underscored by an abysmal lack of leadership by example on the part of the president and the entire federal government.

At a time when 15 million Americans are unemployed and millions more have wages and benefits scaled back, at a time when home foreclosures are at a historic high, at a time when the national debt is an unprecedented $16 trillion, at a time when entire neighborhoods look like ghost towns and countless small businesses disappear, the president and Congress comfortably collect their sizable paychecks and a multitude of perks as some generously paid federal employees with major benefits enjoy taxpayer-funded million-dollar parties.

We are an overspent, overtaxed, overregulated nation in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet, while our fiscal house is burning down, the growing federal government fiddles merrily along in its self-serving, let-them-eat-cake smugness.

If we had a president and a Congress with an ounce of sincerity and courage, they would shelve their meaningless rhetoric and take some action by actually demonstrating some “shared sacrifice” by implementing an austerity program, beginning by trimming all federal salaries, except for military, medical and security personnel, by at least 20 percent and imposing a hiring freeze.

Members of Congress receive an annual salary of $174,000, plus another $110,000 in fringe benefits, bringing their total income package to $284.000. I’m asking that they sacrifice 20 percent, a mere $57,000 — which is more than the average American earns in a year.

Federal employees are paid on average $79,000, on top of medical, retirement and other munificent benefits. Their 20 percent of shared sacrifice would amount to $15,800 of their yearly pay.

The president lives expense-free in the White House and has a salary of $400,000. Adjusted for shared sacrifice, his gross salary would be $320,000.

There are 1,300 federal agencies within all three branches of government with over 2.7 million employees and a combined annual operating budget of $1.2 trillion. Less already reduced salaries, the budgets of every department not critical to national defense and security should be sliced by a minimum of ten percent, with no increases over the next fiscal year.

Let’s also have some sacrificing by countries receiving American foreign aid — 52.7 billion in fiscal year 2010. And all this overseas largesse buys us what? For example, what do we have to show for our $20.7 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan between 2002-2010?

Estimating that at least half of all foreign aid is misspent, let’s slash this program by 50 percent.

There are those who say that such cuts as I propose would barely make a dent in our debt-ridden government, and they would be right. But it would be a start toward some fiscal sanity and put Washington on notice that we the people demand leadership by example.

And we want it now.

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