Federal bureaucrats earning $150K up tenfold in past five years

posted at 10:12 am on November 10, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

While the rest of America has been dealing with high unemployment and stagnant wages, at least one sector of the economy can thank Barack Obama and Democrats for boom times, and no, it’s not the protest sign design industry.  USA Today reports that federal employee wages have skyrocketed over the last five years, with the number of federal workers making $150,000 or more a year has increased fivefold during that time.  The number has doubled in the 22 months since Obama took office (via The New Editor):

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

The fast-growing pay of federal employees has captured the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s elections. Already, some lawmakers are planning to use the lame-duck session that starts Monday to challenge the president’s plan to give a 1.4% across-the-board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers. ..

Government-wide raises. Top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency. The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June.

•Long-time workers thrive. The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate.

•Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.

In 2005, wage earners at the $150K level and above comprised 0.4% of the federal workforce.   They now comprise 3.9% of the workforce.

What does that mean in real numbers?  In 2005, only 7,420 federal employees make $150K.  Today, that number has grown to 82,034, roughly double what it was at the end of 2008.  Nor is that just inflationary growth across an artificial line.   In 2005, only 2,852 federal workers made more than $160,000; now it’s 44,898.  Five years ago, less than a thousand workers made over $180K, but today that number has increased by more than 20 times to 16,912 workers.

This would be problematic even if the country had experienced boom times over the last five years, and especially over the last two.  But that has obviously not been the case — or at least not the case inside of the Beltway bubble.  Given the tough labor market for workers over that period, the government should have been in a better position to negotiate wages to decrease the cost of its workforce, which gets paid by the sweat of the taxpayers’ collective brow.  Instead, they have become profligate with our money.


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They also on the taxpayer’s dime, network in order to establish a lucrative business in consulting after they retire. It’s pretty disgusting. You have the NPS flying to conferences all over the world.

Blake on November 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM

People don’t even know the half of it. I’m a government employee – I could tell you some pretty wild stuff.

Yeah – I support a cut in pay – even if mine gets cut. I only make around 60K in this job, and it’s pretty dangerous – but I have other income soooo …

HondaV65 on November 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Either you get civil service protection, or union representation. Not both. And we need to get rid of baseline budgeting, too.

Mr. D on November 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM

In 2005, wage earners at the $150K level and above comprised 0.4% of the federal workforce. They now comprise 3.9% of the workforce.

czars and staff come at a price.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:17 AM

Looters…

golfmann on November 10, 2010 at 10:17 AM

A couple of months ago when they published the salaries of the employees of the City of LA, they were outrageous.

Blake on November 10, 2010 at 10:17 AM

Jeez, I saw the picture first and I thought it was a post about weight loss.

I’m sort of kidding, but do you think these people will make it retirement?

But seriously these wages must be stopped.

Oil Can on November 10, 2010 at 10:18 AM

They don’t work for us. We work for them.

petefrt on November 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

What a shame.

Obama paid off thousands of federal employees to gain their votes, only to have his party “shellacked” in the elections.

Judging by his latest brilliant strategies he must be banking on the India and Indonesian vote in 2012.

Stick a fork in him.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Muchelle needs to buy some tredmills for those workers, good lord their bloated. I guess feeding at the trough of government largess is unhealthy.

wheelgun on November 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM

But seriously these wages must be stopped.

Oil Can on November 10, 2010 at 10:18 AM

how do you stop it when the Feds go off outside private sector job salary/pay and up it 10-25% to KEEP the employees.

COLA is being phased out, and that is where a lot of the money comes from as well.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM

“If you like your high paying, tax payer funded job…you can keep your high paying, tax payer funded job! Oh, and how about a raise?”

/Obama

search4truth on November 10, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Dear Americans:

You know I love you, right?

But you guys are really REALLY fat.

Please. Just sayin’.

fivefeetoffury on November 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM

What a shame.

Obama paid off thousands of federal employees to gain their votes, only to have his party “shellacked” in the elections.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

No sweat off his back.

Shy Guy on November 10, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Cutting these salaries, benefits and pensions including pensions for already-retired is going to be an ugly battle, but it’s coming and it has to be done.

It’s immoral to discuss cutting meager Social Security and Medicare benefits for seniors when federal employees are living this high on the hog.

slickwillie2001 on November 10, 2010 at 10:24 AM

I’m reading this while watching rioting in London by students against tuition increases. They were bussed in by guess who?––Unions!

And who do you think will be rioting in the streets here when we cut the Federal Gov’t back? These over-paid unionized bureaucrats!

Obama and progressive company are a bunch of incompetent boobs? Pushing us hard in the direction of social democratic Western Europe who in turn have realized that model is unsustainable and are experiencing civil unrest?
NO. This isn’t accidental, Obama’s no bumbling idiot.

cartooner on November 10, 2010 at 10:24 AM

There was no negotiations with the govt unions. They just got whatever they asked for. Not negotiating is what got the car companies in deep trouble. People do not work for unions, they work for their company. Somehow, this got turned around. Institute right to work in every state and we can change this back.

Kissmygrits on November 10, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Man, I’m in the wrong business, no COLA for 6 years and a 7+% pay cut for the next two at least. Shoulda gone into gubmint.

Stoopid me. :)

But I agree that while there no doubt are federal jobs that deserve to make that sort of money, there ought to be darned few of them, for two reasons: one gubmint agencies by DEFINITION ought to be bare-bones–people deserve a living wage and the proper working conditions and all that, but shouldn’t be spending money just to spend it. And two, there are just too many of them, which means the gubmint is too big.

Bob's Kid on November 10, 2010 at 10:26 AM

cartooner on November 10, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:27 AM

Muchelle needs to buy some tredmills for those workers, good lord their bloated. I guess feeding at the trough of government largess is unhealthy.

wheelgun on November 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM

No raises or bonuses unless there is a fruit and a vegetable in their diet; the San Fransisco treat.

Electrongod on November 10, 2010 at 10:28 AM

We can check USA Today’s numbers using this tool, which models the distribution of federal employee salaries, which is based on a sample of the actual salaries paid to federal employees named “Smith“.

What we get when we set $150,000 as the floor in the tool and $1,000,000 as the ceiling (which is way above the highest actual annual pay or salary for a federal government employee), we find there are roughly 76,157 federal employees making more than $150,000.

For a federal workforce of an estimated 2.15 million people, that works out to be 3.5% – pretty close to the 3.9% that USA Today found! (Not bad for tool we created last January!)

Of course, the real problem is that the automatic pay raises that federal employees get is becoming a major contributor to rising income inequality in the U.S. (and that’s not counting their extraordinarily generous benefits, which really need to be brought into alignment with levels typically found in the private sector.)

ironman on November 10, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Bunch of fatties..

dangitt on November 10, 2010 at 10:29 AM

A picture’s worth a thousand words. I’d love to have bigger copy of that screen cap–”Have you seen the little piggies, crawling in the dirt?”

smellthecoffee on November 10, 2010 at 10:29 AM

When confronted by fiscons,progressives always ask,”What programs are you willing to cut?”,as if there is no dead wood floating around DC.

DDT on November 10, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Ed,

You put a picture of AFSCME in a thread about federal salaries. http://www.afscme.org/ describes their AFL-CIO connection and the fact they represent the State, County and Municipal employees.

I think this is misleading considering the subject. Not all federal workers are in a union and the ones who are cannot strike.

Bradky on November 10, 2010 at 10:31 AM

There is no reason why government employees should be allowed to collude (unionize). We don’t need to negotiate with unions for cuts here and there. The unions need to be eliminated and employee/government need to negotiate compensation on an individual basis.

forest on November 10, 2010 at 10:32 AM

And who do you think will be rioting in the streets here when we cut the Federal Gov’t back? These over-paid unionized bureaucrats!

Tough cookies for them. I find it hard to believe that rioting federal workers, being constantly broadcast on the 24 hr news cycle , will play well in Peoria.
Now we can see 2012 from our windows.

humdinger on November 10, 2010 at 10:34 AM

Government jobs are now social justice.

rickyricardo on November 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM

ironman on November 10, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Can you elaborate on the “extraordinary” benefits? Health care plan which people pay for, match to 401K up to 5% of base pay, and a retirement based on years of service are the normal benefits I am aware of.

Bradky on November 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM

how do you stop it when the Feds go off outside private sector job salary/pay and up it 10-25% to KEEP the employees.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM

I don’t think that’s what’s happening, at least not in the legal sector. A first year associate at a top firm will make 160k, a first year attorney in the DOJ Honors program makes somewhere between 60-70k. You need excellent qualifications to do either. Frankly I think they should raise salaries to attract more talent.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM

The Dems ultimate money laundering scheme. Give taxpayer monies to the people who vote you into office and they will donate it to your political campaigns and causes.

Most liberal education degrees are geared up for govt work, social work & teaching. That USED to mean that you would not make a lot of money, but you had job security.

canditaylor68 on November 10, 2010 at 10:39 AM

If anyone is interested or knows someone who works for the Fed you can look up their salary here. FYI, the search algorithm is name sensitive. In most cases you only need the first initial of the person’s first name and their last name name to find them.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 10:40 AM

……and what happens when these overpaid leeches retire?

“Retirement” benefits are tied to salary, you know.

Cloward and Piven(sp?) anyone?!?

FOWG1 on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

I don’t think that’s what’s happening, at least not in the legal sector. A first year associate at a top firm will make 160k, a first year attorney in the DOJ Honors program makes somewhere between 60-70k. You need excellent qualifications to do either. Frankly I think they should raise salaries to attract more talent.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM

The Federal Government has had to raise many of the salaries to keep employees. Like Engineers, Geologists, Mechanical Engineers, DOCTORS etc. Why? Because in most cases they can get more in the private sector. DO you know what a normal engineer makes in the private sector… I will tell you that the Feds can’t match it in most cases. Doctors? Most of us have a good idea of what a doctor makes.

Lawyers aren’t as valuable as engineers and doctors and other who have had to do a science degree, are worth more in the eyes of the Government but do not usually make as much as the expendable lawyer.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM

With Big Law shedding jobs for the last two years, you really don’t. They have more applications than positions. Sorry…

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

With Big Law shedding jobs for the last two years, you really don’t. They have more applications than positions. Sorry…

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

lol. I already have a job for a “Big Law” firm. Thanks for your concern though.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Here’s the Leftist argument since no one has made it yet:

These government salaries, benefits, and pensions are at the appropriate, fair rates.

The evil, hate-filled, racist, hateful private sector is keeping wages below what our government superior-elites know what they should be.

visions on November 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

I say don’t cut their salaries. I think no pay raises for the next 15 years ought to bring them in line.

BruceB on November 10, 2010 at 10:44 AM

lol. I already have a job for a “Big Law” firm. Thanks for your concern though.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Security guard?

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM

I’d say there ought to be a pay freeze or a pay reduction, but there’s no better way to address this problem than a workforce reduction of 25-50% and attempting to address it in either of the former manners will just take the heat off making government smaller.

[crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM]

I think you mean better talent, not more talent. A workforce reduction, commensurate with a reduction in scope of duties will allow for some better pay. Of course, tort reform, among other things, would go a long way towards bringing private legal compensation back in line with the real world, too.

Dusty on November 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM

•Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.

I certainly won’t begrudge that for a Doctor. In fact, $111k is awful low for someone who worked their @$$ off for 10 years of school/internship. This is not the fight to pick.

The fight to pick is the Poly Sci types, only employable in such agencies that exist to hassle other people. Fair Housing Agencies that hassle women, due to their choice/non-choice of room mates. Education College types that bring down the full arm of the law on kids who ride a horse to school. Employees of Human Rights Agencies that exist only to police the cubes of other government workers for displaying Easter Bunnies.

There are plenty of fights to pick, on bloated salaries of people who do nothing other than make work. Doctors isn’t the fight.

MNHawk on November 10, 2010 at 10:55 AM

The Federal Government has had to raise many of the salaries to keep employees. Like Engineers, Geologists, Mechanical Engineers, DOCTORS etc. Why? Because in most cases they can get more in the private sector. DO you know what a normal engineer makes in the private sector… I will tell you that the Feds can’t match it in most cases.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

The same is true of attorneys. That’s the entire point of my post.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM

With Big Law shedding jobs for the last two years, you really don’t. They have more applications than positions. Sorry…

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Surely you’re not suggesting that the free market should decide salaries? Outrageous!

slickwillie2001 on November 10, 2010 at 10:59 AM

The same is true of attorneys. That’s the entire point of my post.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM

umm no.

For everyone one engineer… or doctor… or geologist. You do realize there are 2 attorney/lawyers coming out of college.

Statistics was not your strong suit it seems.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:59 AM

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 10:49 AM

HA!

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

What? As a staff attorney? Cause that is the only way you would have time to come Hot Air preach to us how much better you are then everyone else.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:00 AM

The simple answer: AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS

When Ronald Reagan (rightfully) fired 10,000 Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 for going on strike, the FAA failed to plan ahead for the replacement of the mass concurrent retirement of all the Controllers who were hired after the strike between 1981-1985.

In fact, the FAA had a hiring FREEZE in place for almost all of the 1990′s which caused a vacuum in the training pipeline and prevented sufficient replacement for the aging staff many of whom were eligible or nearing eligibility for retirement.

Top that off with the FAA Administration activvely seeking to piss off the ATC union by withholding negotiating a new contract at its expiration in 2006, thereby causing most all ATC’ers who were eligible to retire, to do exactly that.

These two FAILURES by the FAA Aadministration caused (an is still causing) a massive understaffing of qualified, trained Air Traffic Controllers, many of whom now work 6 days a week due to forced overtime, and to make matters worse there are not enough trainers to train the new trainees which generally takes afrom 1-3 years depending on the airport where you work.

The cost of these failures by the FAA management is that when Obama took office he quickly had Ray LaHood (by proxy of Jane Garvey the former FAA Administrator under Clinton)negotiate a new contract with the ATC Unions (because naturally they had backed Obama’s campaign so he owed them). And, since the FAA had backed itself into a corner by causing a staffing shortage, it had little choice but to cave to the unions demands.

A new pay structure was implimented which included a three year gradual increase of something like 10% the 1st year, 8% the 2nd years, etc. and almost ALL Air Traffic Controllers (15K of them? Maybe more) now easily break the $150K mark.

All that being said however, clearly these wokers figure into the numbers shown here by Ed. But,I cannot say for sure if Ed’s numbers are the base salary of these employees or if it reflects the substantial mandatory overtime compensation, which is the main reason mmany of them broke the $150K mark for the last several years.

Full disclosure, I work for the FAA but I no longer work as an Air Traffic Controller and I am NOT a union member.

jstjoan on November 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

What? As a staff attorney? Cause that is the only way you would have time to come Hot Air preach to us how much better you are then everyone else.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:00 AM

No. I’m a 2L. I was hired to be a summer associate at a V100 firm this summer. If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot less of me then.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Full disclosure, I work for the FAA but I no longer work as an Air Traffic Controller and I am NOT a union member.

jstjoan on November 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM

I didn’t think working for thr FAA you were in a union unless you were a ATC?

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Because in most cases they can get more in the private sector. DO you know what a normal engineer makes in the private sector… I will tell you that the Feds can’t match it in most cases.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Ehhh- sure. Right. The private sector hasn’t been on a hiring binge for the past 5 years. You can only take a high-paying private sector job when that job exists. With a few notable exceptions, engineering and tech jobs have been stagnant.

Your argument might also imply that government employes are more talented than their private-sector counterparts. There’s no evidence of that.

hawksruleva on November 10, 2010 at 11:11 AM

This is bad.. And it needs to be fixed.
We can either reduce salaries or reduce the number of employees.

These costs have to be reduced to less than half of their present value.

We need to start publicly posted performance measurement for EVERY part of government.

CrazyGene on November 10, 2010 at 11:14 AM

The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office and 994 in June.

So he has hired roughly 700 people for the Pentagon?? I guess they’re all his leftist supporters undermining us from within.

PattyJ on November 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Your argument might also imply that government employes are more talented than their private-sector counterparts. There’s no evidence of that.

hawksruleva on November 10, 2010 at 11:11 AM

No, I never stated that. They just go off what they see in the private sector. Like what Admin’s make… and lets be honest, they make crap in both private and government sectors.
Engineers I know in the private sector in my state can make anywhere from 80K (out of college) to 200K depending on the type. Geologists 60-120K. Doctors 100 – ??? depending on speciality. Government jobs can’t afford that, but they try to go as high as they can.
Like all businesses, the higher the pay, the better they person and experience you hope to bring in.

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 11:19 AM

No. I’m a 2L. I was hired to be a summer associate at a V100 firm this summer. If it makes you feel any better, I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot less of me then.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:04 AM

So your job with a “Big Law Firm” is a summer temp job as a second year law student who hasn’t passed the bar yet.

Embellish much?

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Unfortunately, we will probably be seeing a lot more of you in the upcoming year, with a lot more whining.

http://firsttiertoilet.blogspot.com/
http://butidideverythingrightorsoithought.blogspot.com/

Et cetera….

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:26 AM

upinak on November 10, 2010 at 11:07 AM

The FAA technicians are also unionized. Professional Airway System Specialists or “PASS”.

jstjoan on November 10, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Embellish much?

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Not really, no. My firm gives offers for permanent employment as associates to over 95% of their summer associates. That’s generally how the Big Law hiring model works, at least with the top firms.

Anyway, you’re debbie downer today. Why are you so cranky about other people’s successes? Rather than trying to knock others down, perhaps you should go out there and accomplish something yourself.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:26 AM

I’m pretty sure those sites are for people who go to cr*p schools and who don’t have jobs. Neither of those things apply to me. Again, thanks for you concern though.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Man, have an occasional salad!

Akzed on November 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Keep on telling yourself that…heh.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM

In the words of Jon Stewart, “BOOM!”

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Keep on telling yourself that…heh.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM

lol. In order to feel better, failures like you need to tell themselves that everyone else will fail too. That’s not the case. Sorry.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

In the words of Jon Stewart, “BOOM!”

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

LOL. You keep ignoring the fact that I already have a summer associate position. Again, sorry for your own personal failures.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:42 AM

They should all get together and throw a party for Nancy Pelosi.

zmdavid on November 10, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Not really, no. My firm gives offers for permanent employment as associates to over 95% of their summer associates. That’s generally how the Big Law hiring model works, at least with the top firms.

Still embellishing I see. Unless “your firm” is 45% higher than the national average, or the offer is for a salary of $60,000, not the old expected norm of $150,000.

Anyway, you’re debbie downer today. Why are you so cranky about other people’s successes? Rather than trying to knock others down, perhaps you should go out there and accomplish something yourself.

Been there, done that. Now I’m comfortably retired. And FTR, a summer temp job is not my idea of success. Try running your own company for 25-30 years.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 11:47 AM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Did you even read the article, no of course not, b/c you a smug SOB.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Still embellishing I see. Unless “your firm” is 45% higher than the national average, or the offer is for a salary of $60,000, not the old expected norm of $150,000.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 11:47 AM

I’ll be working for a V100 firm in a major market. The market-rate for such firms is 160k. You can search NALP yourself if you don’t believe me. You really have no idea what you’re talking about, which is fine (how many laypeople can be expected to know the intricacies of big firm starting-salaries?), but you should really quit acting as if you do.

Been there, done that. Now I’m comfortably retired. And FTR, a summer temp job is not my idea of success.
fogw on November 10, 2010 at 11:47 AM

As I said above, it’s not a summer temp job. In any event, I’d say going to a top law school, finishing near the top of the class, and getting a job with a top firm would fit within most people’s definition of “success.” Have you achieved something similar?

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Did you even read the article, no of course not, b/c you a smug SOB.

Lance Murdock on November 10, 2010 at 11:50 AM

The AbovetheLaw link? Yeah, I read it this morning. Like I said, I’m not particularly worried about it since I already have an SA position.

And look, I’m sorry to make fun of your failures, but, well….”you started it.” Responding to your prodding with factual statements about my school and job isn’t being “smug.”

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 12:00 PM

As I said above, it’s not a summer temp job. In any event, I’d say going to a top law school, finishing near the top of the class, and getting a job with a top firm would fit within most people’s definition of “success.” Have you achieved something similar?

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Anyone can sit in the basement of their aunt’s house and type what you just typed.
I have seen your legal analysis, and it is at best, the very best, a legal assistant.
The odds of you writing what you write, the words you use, the vernacular and being in a tier 1 (the proper nomenclature to identify a law school ranking) law school, let alone finishing at the top your class, identifies you as a person living in an alternate world…at best a “Walter Mitty”.
But you are entertaining as you try to convince people…

right2bright on November 10, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Ok everyone, calm down. Let’s look at this rationally.

First, let me state that I am a federal employee. Let’s get that out of the way. However, many of you don’t understand what’s behind the “outrageous” salaries some federal employees receive. Additionally, many of you don’t understand that it’s not about pay, it’s about the workforce you employ.

First the inconvenient truths:

1. Federal employees are generally better educated than your average civilian employee. I see this every year up close when civilians from across the country come for a little one week visit where I work. Many won’t want to hear this “better educated” point, but try applying for a position at the CIA/DIA as an analyst without holding a PhD, or at the very least, a MA.
2. Most of the federal employees making these “outrageous” salaries live in places like D.C., Northern Virginia, NYC, etc. Ever try to raise a family of four in a place where old WWII ranch homes sell for $400,000 and new townhomes go for $300,000 to $800,000? Making $75,000 a year in D.C. is basically the equivalent of making $45,000 a year only a few hours drive north in Southern Central Pennsylvania.

3. Many of those making these “outrageous” salaries are literally married to their jobs, and some even die at those jobs (Ever work in the Pentagon? It seems like a few times a year they are carting someone out of there on a stretcher). To put it shortly, they work 10-12 hours or more a day, 5-6 days a week, take almost no time off, and are the very definition of a workaholic. This is one of the major reasons why my wife and I will not take positions above the GS13 level. We’d have zero quality of life, and certainly no time for our two boys.

4. I can almost guarantee the fat, lazy, union dolts in the article picture are not making anywhere near the salaries many here are protesting. They are likely in the $30,000 to $45,000 range. It’s not like federal secretaries are raking in fat $75,000 a year salaries.

Now the truly bad:

1. Yes, there are TON of lazy, irresponsible, wasteful, nonproductive, corrupt, federal employees. But guess what? Most of them are like the people in the article picture. They are your lower level, $30,000 – $45,000 a year, employees. I have found over the years that the more lower-level employees a federal organization has, the more corrupt, unproductive, lazy, whiny, and irresponsible said organization’s personnel are. There are some other factors that could be thrown in here, but we’ll skip them so the PC police don’t cry.

2. Following closely on the heels of point 1 in the “truly bad” is the fact that the government creates TONS of lower-level “do-nothing” positions. These are jobs that people occupy, and for $30,000 to $45,000 a year they almost literally sit around and do nothing. Their entire workday or work week is like the description Peter gives of his work day in the movie “Office Space”. About 1 hour of real work a day. The people occupying $75,000+ a year positions within the federal government could only dream of such a day. These “do-nothing” positions are the REAL problem within the federal governments employee pool. I’ve seen upper level managers/supervisors and department directors fight tooth and nail to retain positions that their lower-level supervisors are screaming are completely wasteful and irrelevant. It’s all about keeping positions for positions sake.

3. In summary, there are a lot of federal employees who collect pay checks for almost no work. There are thousands of duplicate, do-nothing, positions that drain millions a year. There are thousands of corrupt, irresponsible, whiny, unproductive, government employees. Major changes are desperately needed, I know this first hand. However, this “let’s take cheap populist shots at the ‘rich’ federal employees” bit is a little misguided. More focus on ACTUAL problems, less on what the pay of a minority of federal employees is. A leaner, more efficient work force is what we need.

There is a lot more that could be written here, BELIEVE ME. However, let’s just agree that the federal system needs a MAJOR overhaul.

matthewbit07 on November 10, 2010 at 12:14 PM

I, for one, am not outraged. USA Today is not known for accurately reporting all the pertinent facts.

This outcome can be explained easily using two things which, when considered, are quite sensible:
1) The explosion of TS/SCI positions in the contractor workforce immediately after 9/11
2) The in-sourcing of contractor positions that started around 2006 and accelerated with the new Administration

Are you going to deny that we needed to expand our intelligence community post-9/11? Or that we need clearances for people handling sensitive information? (Remember how Ed pooh-poohed the Post‘s report on “Top Secret America”?)

The total cost to the government of a permanent full-time position is less if the position is a government employee than if the position is a contractor; therefore, in-sourcing makes government cost less.

We all agree that intelligence is necessary, and we all agree that the government should fulfill its functions at the minimum possible cost, so why does everyone have their panties in a wad over this report?

hicsuget on November 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM

(how many laypeople can be expected to know the intricacies of big firm starting-salaries?),

Anyone with 10 digits, a keyboard and a brain.

Have you achieved something similar?

No, something far greater and without a law degree. You act as though being a lawyer is some kind of crowning achievement, and success can only be achieved by attending a presitigious college.

Not so, junior.

And I’ve dealt with my share of lawyers over the years. Some were brilliant, others were most unimpressive – although they all act as though they’re experts in every field.

They have a big ship on thie shoulder. Like you.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Well, I can speak to upinak’s (I think it was) position. My mother is an engineer with 20 years’ experience in the federal government. She, at any time she wanted, could leave her job and get a job in the private sector instantly gaining a 20% increase in salary. Even in this economy. Can’t speak about benefits, though.

Are there a lot of overpaid federal employees? Definitely. However, there are certain segments of federal employees (I can only speak about engineers) where the salary gap (though not perhaps the compensation gap) is either not present or favoring the private sector.

Scott H on November 10, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Anyone with 10 digits, a keyboard and a brain.

Well I know you have the first two requirements, so I guess you’re just missing the brain?

Have you achieved something similar?

No

Right.

something far greater and without a law degree. You act as though being a lawyer is some kind of crowning achievement, and success can only be achieved by attending a presitigious college.

I don’t think that’s true. But if we’re talking about objective indicators of success…then getting into, and excelling at a prestigious school surely is one. As is obtaining a competitive and well-compensated job. The people who tend to disagree are those who were unable to do either. Like you, for example.

Of course we could get into some wishy-washy discussion about “real” success and how it’s really awesome and inspiring to own your own landscaping business or something, but I’m not particularly interested in doing that.

And I’ve dealt with my share of lawyers over the years. Some were brilliant, others were most unimpressive – although they all act as though they’re experts in every field.

heh. Yeah, lawyers, tend to do that.

They have a big ship on thie shoulder. Like you.
fogw on November 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM

heh.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

big chip on their shoulder.

Sorry, in a rush. Off to see the doc.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Let’s put a POINT on it. How many of those earning these salaries are POLITICAL APPOINTEES?

GarandFan on November 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

As I said above, it’s not a summer temp job. In any event, I’d say going to a top law school, finishing near the top of the class, and getting a job with a top firm would fit within most people’s definition of “success.” Have you achieved something similar?

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

It’s a good start, but you’re still in school. Schooling and summer jobs are training, and training is not success. Pass your exam and produce favorable results for clients and billable hours for your firm for several years. I’ll call that success, but even that can be temporary.

forest on November 10, 2010 at 12:35 PM

There is a lot more that could be written here, BELIEVE ME. However, let’s just agree that the federal system needs a MAJOR overhaul.

matthewbit07 on November 10, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Scott H on November 10, 2010 at 12:24 PM

First, bureaucrats enjoy benefits that few, if any, private enterprise has…like job security.
I have worked with these “supervisors” that are so brilliant, yes they have their “phd’s”, etc., but they basically have a choice, education, or a government job…private enterprise has little use for “academics” they look for producers.
Just because some one chooses to live somewhere expensive, doesn’t meant the employer (us) has to pick up that tab. There are plenty of jobs in Ohio, or Tennessee, if not, then take the job offered.
Advancement is not a function of being productive, but working in the govt. bureaucratic system. A guaranteed system, and one rife with affirmative action, which by definition the “brightest” is not always chosen.

1. Yes, there are TON of lazy, irresponsible, wasteful, nonproductive, corrupt, federal employees. But guess what? Most of them are like the people in the article picture. They are your lower level, $30,000 – $45,000 a year, employees.

You only have to look at Geithner for your answer…a tax evader.
Want more? Basically Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, you think those “leaders” were/are ethical, or do you think they work the system…ask Barney Frank who was “doing” one of those ethical leaders.

More focus on ACTUAL problems, less on what the pay of a minority of federal employees is. A leaner, more efficient work force is what we need.

This I agree with…Government should reflect the nation.
No pay raises, and take it back to pre 2009 levels, take down the benefits (way down), cut back on the work force (leaner). Cut the fat…do exactly what any business that would do that is losing a trillion dollars a year would do…

right2bright on November 10, 2010 at 12:40 PM

As a retired federal employee I can say that the pay rates were really going up, fast, about 5 years ago.

Working on projects that needed to have forecasts for cost estimating done I ran into the lovely non-productive time statistic for federal employees. Non-productive work hours is represented as the fraction of your time not devoted to work, thus if you are 80% productive about 20% of your time is non-productive hours. When you put in walking around, lunch, talking at the water cooler, meetings… lots of meetings… that yields you 6.4 productive hours in an 8 hour day. For industry and commerce.

For the government 20% non-productive work hours would be a joy, but is unattainable. Why? Forms to fill out. Various sorts of ‘training’. Meetings for ‘training’ that don’t involve training. Keeping track of your time. The list grows and grows, and if you have security overhead then you have those forms to fill out, those training sessions to go to, and lots of great fun time spent in meetings. If you work on contracts you have more paperwork, overhead, meetings, etc. plus travel time to get to job sites…

What was the best for the federal government for non-productive work hours? At the time I worked (up to 2005) it was 35%. That is 35% of your time was spent in non-productive activities. This is tangentially related to your burdened work hours, but that is for cost accounting that includes your salary, benefits, space you work in, maintaining that space, etc. Burdening of hours was typically 36% of your base pay where I worked… easy to confuse the numbers because burdened work hours incorporate all your non-productive time, too.

Back to efficiency, having worked at the place that had that 35% of non-productive work hours I was floored to learn that this was one of the best agencies in the federal government for productivity, and we had lots of security overhead being in DoD. The average across the federal workforce was 45% non-productive work hours… and the worse was in HHS which had 55% non-productive work hours (I can only speculate at the cost in meeting with the public in non-productive work hours). So when you complain about the forms you have to fill out for the government (for free! thank you for being a volunteer bureaucrat!) remember that on the inside it is far, far worse…

The answer is to cut down the size, increase the accountability and get rid of things for government to do so that far more productive industry can take it over.

Oh, the very best in controlling non-productive work hours? Charities, averaging 10% (United Way was at 35% which is a big deal).

If you want it done productively hand it to a charity or business. If you want it to be costly, take forever and be inefficient hand it to government.

ajacksonian on November 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Just to get this straight, you’re currently a 2L, and you’ve been telling us about a position for summer 2011.

On another note.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 11:55 AM

laypeople

Take care with that word. You may pat yourself on the back for using a gender-neutral term. But lawyers’ use of terms such as laity, layman, laypeople, and layperson is a condescending way to describe those who are not lawyers. It’s entirely your choice, but I’ve read that and I’ve have had nonlawyers tell me so too. Lawyers aren’t clergy, so try nonlawyers. Consider the entry for nonlawyer (p. 595) in Garner’s A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed. 1995). Keep your eyes open, Garner plans to publish a third edition soon.

BuckeyeSam on November 10, 2010 at 12:46 PM

They have a big ship on thie shoulder. Like you.
fogw on November 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM

heh.

crr6 on November 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

big chip on their shoulder.

Sorry, in a rush. Off to see the doc.

fogw on November 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

We will see if crr6 “mans up”…

right2bright on November 10, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Great photo, Ed! Those AFSCME protesters all have 50-inch waists or more! And we thought Obama hated fat cats!

If Mee-chelle Ma Belle wants to be proud of her country, she can start by taking all the junk-food vending machines away from Federal bureaucrats!

How ’bout some number-crunching! If 82,034 Gov’t workers each make over $150k, that comes to at least $12.3 Billion in taxpayer-funded salaries for 0.027% of the population.

To paraphrase a lean and lanky candidate, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. They’re hog-wild in Hogbamaville, but the voters are lean and mean!

Steve Z on November 10, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Steve Z on November 10, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Of course those AFSCME protestors don’t represent federal workers in any capacity. Nor do the high earners your outrage is directed at belong to any union.

But let’s not let facts get in the way of the storyline….

Bradky on November 10, 2010 at 1:23 PM

I’m sure they feel they’re entitled to it, and will bite, and BITE hard, if one tries to take some of it away.

Some people have no shame eeking their livelihoods off the backs of others.

capejasmine on November 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM

matthewbit07 on November 10, 2010 at 12:14 PM

However, this “let’s take cheap populist shots at the ‘rich’ federal employees” bit is a little misguided.

Nothing at all like bussing in Union Thugs to sit in front of private homes? Pop shots on both the Private & Public sector go nowhere. I’d like to see the analysis on the rising working age of both sectors and how it compares to salary. Are there manditory retirement age limits in Gov’t?

A leaner, more efficient work force is what we need.

I’ve been through several layoff’s over the past two years in the private sector. They’re gearing up for another one shortly. Haven’t seen much public sector culling.

ExPat on November 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM

HondaV65 on November 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM

I got a few stories myself. The worst part is being a GS-12 (not too bad, really), and doing the bidding of non-supervisory GS-14s and -15s who couldn’t organize a sock drawer if their lives depended on it. I don’t support a pay cut. I support a pay freeze, and restrictions on high-salaried non-supervisory career appointments.

manwithblackhat on November 10, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Even Michelle Malkin is not cutting W much slack.

But as bad as Bush was with the economy, Obama is just about doubling down. This has got to change because we can’t afford it.

Congress should move to first get rid of Bush’s Medicare prescription drug expansion. Obama has already said he thought it was too expensive. Let him veto that. That would show the GOP is serious about cutting spending and Obamacare can be next in order (and massive entitlement expansion we cannot afford). You do those two changes and you can then work to resolve the problems with social security and medicare.

As far as discretionary spending (including defense), which is at about $1.8 trillion for 2010, how about a 5% cut accross the board, including salaries of all federal employees. President and Congress included. That is doable (are you telling me any agency or defense could not cut 5%) and would send a very clear signal. That would save $900 billion dollars. Too crazy? How about a 2.5% cut? That would save $450 billion.

Mr. Joe on November 10, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Physicians rewarded. Medical doctors at veterans hospitals, prisons and elsewhere earn an average of $179,500, up from $111,000 in 2005.

These unbelievably low salaries are why the Federal government cannot attract medical specialists to work.

slp on November 10, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Mr. Joe on November 10, 2010 at 1:46 PM

If you want to see some serious cuts, wait two years. The bulk of “baby boomer” Federal employees will be retiring during that time. In fact, the process has started already. The streamlining and automating (mostly driven by computers and the internet) of many government functions could eliminate having to replace those retirees. Many Federal agencies could cut their numbers by five or ten percent without laying anybody off, or a decrease in Federal pay.

By the way, this guy …

matthewbit07 on November 10, 2010 at 12:14 PM

… knows what he’s talking about.

manwithblackhat on November 10, 2010 at 8:29 PM