Yesterday, with sequestration cuts taking their toll on several hundred thousand Defense Department employees, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he would return a share of his salary for the same number of days that employees are docked because of furloughs. The Pentagon’s deputy secretary, Ashton Carter, said he would do the same.
Today, in another instance of administration solidarity, President Obama took the same voluntary step.
President Obama plans to return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury in solidarity with federal workers who are going to be furloughed as part of the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, an administration official said Wednesday.
The voluntary move would be retroactive to March 1, the official said, and apply through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. The White House came up with the 5 percent figure to approximate the level of spending cuts to nondefense federal agencies that took effect that day.
“The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,” the official said.
The significance, of course, is symbolic – Obama writing a check back to the Treasury will not stop the furlough notices, but it’s a gesture that at least symbolizes solidarity to those affected by this deeply stupid policy.
There’s also a related side benefit: much of the political world seems to have forgotten about the awful sequestration cuts and the toll they are taking on the lives of real people. If Obama’s gesture reminds the establishment about the sequester, I’m delighted.
Incidentally, Fox News’ White House correspondent argued with presidential press secretary Jay Carney yesterday over whether the impact of sequestration was as bad as the administration warned before the deadline. How typical – even now, some would prefer to pretend these cuts just aren’t that bad, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.