Pay freeze

In a move intended to demonstrate concern over deficit spending, President Barack Obama plans to freeze pay for most federal workers (active-duty military will be exempt).

The president’s announcement last week will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise for most of the 2.1 million federal government employees in 2011.

While the actual money saved will be small enough — as a percentage of the deficit and the national debt — to drop this step into the "symbolic" category, the symbolism is good.

As usual, however, the history of Washington’s big spenders is surely adequate justification to inquire more closely whether this really marks a turning point — an acceptance by this administration of the necessity to slash spending to bring the budget into balance without tax hikes — or whether a still cynical White House is merely presenting us with some window dressing to distract us from the same old show going on inside.

Many private-sector Americans have already suffered real losses in household buying power.

Meantime, the president’s own budget for fiscal year 2011 reveals the number of executive branch civilian full-time equivalent employees grew from 1.83 million in 2007 to 2.14 million in 2010, and the number of civilian executive branch agencies in which those tax-fed operatives toil jumped from 1,173 to 1,428 over the same period.

This is belt-tightening?

It’s widely supposed that congressional Democrats declined to do their job of enacting annual spending bills before this fall’s elections because they didn’t want the public to see the extent to which they hope to balloon spending yet again.

Prove them wrong, Mr. President.

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