Speaking at the Cato Institute Wednesday on the subject of reducing the size of government, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called for a freeze of public employee salaries and benefits until they were on the same level as the private sector.
To illustrate his point, Pawlenty offered this piece of wisdom to his audience: “All you really need to know about much of government reform,” he said, “is to go to two weddings.”
“Go to one wedding where there’s a cash bar,” he said, expanding on the metaphor. “And then go to another wedding where there’s an open bar. And you’ll see two very different sets of behavior. And If people have the impression that things are free, and they get to consume it endlessly, and the provider has the only incentive to provide on volume, and the myth or the lie is created that the bill goes somewhere else and that a third party pays for it, that is a system that I can tell you is doomed to failure and inefficiency. And that’s much of our government, unfortunately.”
Pawlenty, continuing his ‘telling the hard truth’ tour that began Monday in Iowa when he announced his candidacy for president and called for the phasing out of ethanol subsidies, said it was necessary to freeze salaries and benefits for public employees, excepting military, in order to reduce the deficit.
“We can’t have the people who are getting paid by the taxpayers getting paid better than the taxpayers themselves,” he said.
He said that the government should continue the pay freeze that President Obama instituted, but stressed that public employee compensation couldn’t just be measured in salary. “We have to look at the total package – both salary and benefits added together,” he said.
That freeze should stay in effect, he said, until public sector employee salaries and benefits were more on par with the compensation of private sector employees in comparable positions.
He was adamant, however, that deficit reduction would not come at the expense of one area: defense.
“I’m not one who’s going to stand before you and say we should cut the defense budget,” he said.
“I’m not for shrinking America’s presence in the world. I’m for making sure America remains the world leader.”
He said he would address entitlement reform – including health care, Medicare, and Social Security. Though he commended Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan for his leadership in putting forward a plan to deal with some of these issues, he said that he planned to write his own blueprint for reform.
“I’m going to have my own plan. Some things will be the same, some things will be different,” he said. For instance, he said, his plan “will address Social Security.”
He also used his forum Wednesday to take a jab at President Barack Obama. He commended Paul Ryan for taking leadership when, he said, leadership from “the president was missing.”
In a press gaggle after the presentation, Pawlenty said that he planned to release a budget plan soon, and that in that budget plan he would look into cutting unnecessary federal agencies, something he did on the state level during his tenure as governor of Minnesota. To begin with, he said, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the chopping block. Though not federal agencies, Pawlenty said that since they basically subsisted on federal funds, they would need to be “phased out” and “privatized.”