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Special Report

Washington Grumbles About Obama's Pay-Freeze Proposal

The president's proposed two-year freeze on federal civilian pay may seem a modest step considering what many Americans are going through. But the reaction to it among Democrats tells you all you need to know about Washington and the culture of spending.

The president himself warned that -- quote -- "We can't put the brakes on too quickly."

AFL CIO chief Rich Trumka fretted about a -- quote -- "race to the bottom in wages."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spoke of -- quote -- "the need to recruit and train a federal workforce able to provide the level of service that the American people expect."

Never mind that poll after poll going back years have found that the public would prefer a smaller government with fewer services than a larger one with more services. And never mind that current research shows that government workers on average are paid more, and in some cases a lot more, than private sector employees doing similar work.

Embedded in Hoyer's statement is an unspoken but widely held view in Washington that government workers and their work are more important than the work and workers in the private sector. That explains why so much of the so-called stimulus money was used to save government jobs even as private sector workers have endured pay freezes, pay cuts and layoffs.

And speaking of layoffs, can you imagine the reaction when the new Congress tries to actually cut government jobs.