On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that he had canceled a scheduled two percent pay raise for millions of federal employees, initially due to take effect at the start of 2019.
Calling the pay increase “inappropriate,” Trump cited a statute in the U.S. Code which allowed him to cancel the raises in cases of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”
In a letter to both the Speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, Trump wrote:
Under current law, locality pay increases averaging 25.70 percent, costing $25 billion, would go into effect in January 2019, in addition to a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase for the base General Schedule. We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases. Accordingly, I have determined that it is appropriate to exercise my authority to set alternative across-the-board and locality pay adjustments for 2019 pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 5303(b) and 5304a.
Specifically, I have determined that for 2019, both across‑the‑board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero. These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce.
Of course, the idea that Trump could cite fiscal sustainability and “serious economic conditions” to justify his Scrooge-y decision is all the more ridiculous considering last year’s Republican tax plan—which he strongly backed—is expected to explode the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, according to an estimate from his own government, to say nothing of the tens of millions of dollars it costs for him to go golfing while in office.
Interestingly, the $25 billion Trump claims the pay stoppage would save is nearly the exact same amount he had previously demanded to cover the initial costs of his oft-promised border wall between the United States and Mexico—one he has continued to insist that Mexico itself will pay for.
Trump noted in his announcement that only civilian federal employees would see their paychecks plateau—weeks earlier he’d signed a defense spending bill which included a 2.6 percent pay raise for armed service members. According to data collected from the Federal Office of Personnel Management by Governing magazine, there were more than two million civilian federal workers employed by the government as of last September.
But hey, I’m sure denying two million federal employees their expected pay raise won’t have any negative consequences (like, say, a deluge of leaks in an administration that already leaks like a sieve, or one more reason to vote against Republicans in the fall) for this president. He’s definitely got things all figured out.