President Obama gave the first State of the Union address of his second term last night. In it, he made specific references to the role of government, as did Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican response. Tom Shoop, Editor-in-Chief at Government Executive spoke with Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey to talk about what it all could mean for the federal workforce.
On how the size of government will play in budget talks this year: "The way the President's introduced this last night is in the context that's been set since the days of Ronald Reagan. And that is that you're not really supposed to say, 'I don't want bigger government, I want to do things smarter and more effectively.' And what President Obama didn't really explain is how he can do all those things he layed out in the speech without making the government bigger."
On how great of a load the President thinks the federal workforce should bear in lowering the deficit: "I think at this point it's becoming a little clearer that federal employees have paid the price that they should pay. He was willing to go along with a pay freeze for a couple of years, but this year he proposed a small increase, and next year he's going to propose a slightly larger 1 percent increase for federal employers. So in essence, I think he's saying 'enough is enough' in terms of sacrifice."
On what we can gather from the president's address about his willingness to prevent government shutdowns: "It was a little hard to tell from last night's address what he might be interested in doing, but he has made it clear that he'd like Congress to enact short-term solutions if necessary to keep the sequester from going into effect and all the ill effects that it has while they work on a longer-term budget."
On where were we stand on averting the sequester: "All sides now are continuing to say that they think it's going to happen. And that there's an increasing likelihood that it will happen, and agencies across the government are preparing for it to happen. I still think we're in something of the posturing stage. All the talk about how they're willing to let it go into effect if necessary may just be an indication that they're not in fact willing to let it go into effect, and we're just not at a point where they have crafted a solution."
Sen. Marco Rubio's direct response to the size and role of government: "The Republicans plan to continue to make this the major dividing point between the two parties in the years to come. This is a core belief that not only should the government not get bigger and should there be more spending, but that philosophically that the government is not the answer to the problems facing the country. The solution is really less federal involvement, not more.
The shape of the Republican strategy for the coming years: "I think it indicates that they're likely to remain focused on this issue of spending, especially domestic discretionary spending, and how that should be reined in before anything else is considered. They've clearly taken a position in revenues, that President Obama got what he was looking for towards the end of last year, and that should be off the table at this point."
Pentagon officials weighing in on the consequences of sequestration: "The Pentagon is clearly leading the way in sounding the call about the dangers of sequestration. They took the unusual step of having all the Joint Chiefs go to the Hill to talk about things, specifically in the area of training, maintenance and facilities, health care, and civilian furloughs as being areas where they will have to make steep cuts that will have a dramatic and direct impact on military readiness."