As if federal workers were not already facing paycheck worries because of the partial government shutdown, President Trump has also issued an executive order freezing federal workers’ pay for 2019, stopping a planned 2.1% pay increase as well as localized additional increases. Trump issued the executive order yesterday, following through on a proposal his administration made in August.
The executive order certainly comes at a difficult moment for federal workers’ pay, as the shutdown has left some 800,000 of the more than 2 million federal workers without pay during the closure, with 380,000 of those on furlough and the remaining 420,000 deemed so essential that they are continuing to work, but without pay. The freeze does not effect military personnel, however, whose 2.6% pay increase for 2019 was including in a defense spending bill which Trump signed in August. According to CNN:
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday freezing federal workers’ pay for 2019, following through on a proposal he announced earlier in the year. The move, which nixes a 2.1% across-the-board pay raise that was set to take effect in January, comes as hundreds of thousands of federal employees are expecting to begin the new year furloughed or working without pay because of a partial government shutdown. Trump told lawmakers he planned to scrap the 2019 pay bump for federal workers in August, saying the federal budget couldn’t support it. In addition to the 2.1% pay increase, the executive order also cancels a yearly adjustment of paychecks based on the region of the country where workers are posted, called the “locality pay increase,” that was due to take effect in January. The move does not affect a 2.6% pay increase for US troops next year that was passed as part of the massive defense spending bill Trump signed in August.
In freezing federal workers’ pay at the 2018 level for 2019, Trump cited the need to put the nation “on a fiscally sustainable course”, according to CNN, in an August letter to House and Senate leaders in which he also asserted his authority to make such adjustments to federal workers’ pay in the case of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” It certainly is true that the country has a massive deficit and is in a tremendous amount of debt. However, if looking for a way to curb that trend in an impactful way, economists might point Trump in the direction of the massive tax cuts his tax plan gave to corporations and the wealthy. Trump and the congressional Republicans who supported his tax plan claimed that the tax cuts would stimulate the economy to the point that it would more than make up for the revenue lost in the tax cuts, but, as economists expected, that has not turned out to be the case.