But there’s a persuasive counter-argument going around in conservative circles these days: You can start cutting government spending without cutting anyone’s services or subsidies or monthly checks. Just bring the pay of federal workers into line with pay in the private sector. . . .
In the meantime, the problem is getting worse, not better. While the private sector has shed millions of jobs in the recession, the federal government has added nearly 200,000 employees to its rolls. That’s more salaries, more benefits and more pensions. And the pay problem is replicated in states across the country; most of them have similar public-private disparities, and many of them are facing calamitous budget deficits.