Great news: Sequester not impacting federal bonuses; Update: GSA responds

posted at 4:01 pm on May 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

For months, we’ve heard practically nothing from the Obama administration except how awful the sequester will be for ordinary Americans.  Fortunately, it won’t be so awful for our dear leaders in the federal government — especially in the General Services Administration.  The reduction of 2.3% in federal spending, which is actually a reduction in planned increases in federal spending, won’t take a bite out of the bonuses paid out to our betters in Washington:

An elite group of federal employees is set to receive cash bonuses despite this year’s automatic budget cuts, according to a report that a Senate subcommittee issued Friday.

The report revealed that members of the government’s highly paid Senior Executive Service _ who make up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce _ had received more than $340 million in bonuses from 2008 through 2011. The bonuses came on top of annual salaries that ranged from $119,000 to $179,000. …

But by law, agencies still must pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees who meet certain performance criteria, the report said.

When put into place, the bonuses made some economic sense.  For one, it provided a more competitive position for government agencies so that they could compete against the private sector for the best talent.  The bonuses were supposed to be tied to performance measurements so that enterprising executives could shake up hidebound bureaucracies and introduce more efficiency and value.

How’s that working out?  Bear in mind that the biggest recipient of these bonuses is the same agency that blew huge wads of cash on conferences and parties in Las Vegas and you begin to see the issue.  Unless these bonuses are awarded on the basis of winning the most bribes and kickbacks, there’s little justification for them.

Senator Claire McCaskill wants the bonus program ended during the sequestration, and has proposed a new law to accomplish it:

“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” McCaskill said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Maybe we need to rethink the entire bonus program, or at least the metrics that trigger payment.  If this band of geniuses can’t figure out how to reduce spending by 2.3% after watching the budget expand by more than a third since 2007, then “efficiency” isn’t exactly being produced in abundance from this program.

Update: The GSA sent us this statement in response:

“Last year as part of a review of all agency operations, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini cut executive bonuses by 85 percent. Additionally, the entire performance awards system has been reviewed, and the new leadership at GSA has worked to reform the system. As a result, GSA no longer has peer to peer awards. Under this Administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.” — Dan Cruz, GSA Spokesman

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we need to create another agency to watchdog this kind of thing. Imagine how many people we could employ? It’d be like for free and everything. No new taxes…seriously!

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kirkill on May 20, 2013 at 4:06 PM

sh1tbirds.

tom daschle concerned on May 20, 2013 at 4:07 PM

I’d almost forgotten about the GSA scandal.

forest on May 20, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Sequester for thee, not for me…

right2bright on May 20, 2013 at 4:08 PM

Nirvana in AmeriKa

Schadenfreude on May 20, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Of course the Sequester won’t affect federal bonuses. How would affecting such bonuses punish the American people?

CurtZHP on May 20, 2013 at 4:15 PM

What do you expect from people who’ve never held a private sector job where a profit is required?

Tater Salad on May 20, 2013 at 4:15 PM

“efficiency” isn’t exactly being produced in abundance from this program.

“efficiency” isn’t exactly being produced anywhere in government, let alone this program. Efficiency has no relevance to government programs and in no way should be used in describing anything those within government do.

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 4:17 PM

kirkill on May 20, 2013 at 4:06 PM

IRS must regulate this agency. Let us give IRS more people to deal with the workload.

antisocial on May 20, 2013 at 4:18 PM

When put into place, the bonuses made some economic sense. For one, it provided a more competitive position for government agencies so that they could compete against the private sector for the best talent.

Bullshit, they never made sense. HR statisticians look at comparative salaries across private and federal government jobs, and at benefit packages. Then they compare turnover rates that measure the rate at which people leave federal government jobs and compare that to private industry.

Any set of data you want to look at will demonstrate that federal government workers are grossly overcompensated and over-benefited, and the miniscule turnover rate demonstrates that as well.

In fact lowering salaries and benefit packages would increase the turnover rate above insignificant, and bring in some new talent. A federal government job shouldn’t be for life, but for too many it is.

slickwillie2001 on May 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Federal bonuses should be outlawed. The Federal pay scale should not be defeated by allowing bonuses. Period.

petefrt on May 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Isn’t retiring at 52 with basically full pay and health care enough of a bonus for the government class?

MNHawk on May 20, 2013 at 4:20 PM

What do you expect from people who’ve never held a private sector job where a profit is required?

Only in government can one waste revenue in every way imaginable and then come crying to the revenue producers for even more of their dollars to increase wasteful spending.

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Why of course not. The upper nobility should never have to suffer.

rbj on May 20, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Any set of data you want to look at will demonstrate that federal government workers are grossly overcompensated and over-benefited, and the miniscule turnover rate demonstrates that as well.

slickwillie2001 on May 20, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Yes, compensated grossly more already than their counterparts in private sector. That needs to be fixed, along with banning bonuses.

petefrt on May 20, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Isn’t retiring at 52 with basically full pay and health care enough of a bonus for the government class?

No it isn’t. The greedy little varmints want more. A lot of ‘em have acquired a taste for a higher living standard and need more to enjoy the extravagances now and continue on in their retirement.

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 4:22 PM

federal government workers are grossly overcompensated and over-benefited, and the miniscule turnover rate demonstrates that as well.

The overcompensation occurs at state and local levels too. The level of turnover often reflective of the incentive to stay for the better pay and benefits, while not being required to be as productive as in the private sector….and also the difficulty of actually trying to get rid of dead weight, thanks to union rules making it hard for government employers to fire people.

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Federal bonus?

There are bonuses in Government?

I haven’t seen a Bonus in the private sector since the first term of the George W Bush Administration!

portlandon on May 20, 2013 at 4:31 PM

“efficiency” isn’t exactly being produced in abundance from this program.

And what does any government agency “produce”? Nada. They just suck, like a huge black hole. 6 of the top 10 wealthiest counties in the US surround DC. If you want to live in that swamp, you can probably find work there.

kirkill on May 20, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Cut White House tours but not bonuses for the corruptocrats. You know that people of this country have to be totally non-engaged, except for the moron liberals, in order for the complete corruption to go on.

cajunpatriot on May 20, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Hey, don’t be hard on these federal employees. It takes a lot of work to spy on the common folk! Do you realize how much effort is needed to remind us of their superiority? :-P

Kingfisher on May 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

i’m wondering why it’s a democrat that is coming up with and pushing this legislation?? hey, rubio, you f*ctard, stop w/ immigration and work on something that actual real American citizens will benefit from, not parasites.

chasdal on May 20, 2013 at 5:11 PM

The overcompensation occurs at state and local levels too. The level of turnover often reflective of the incentive to stay for the better pay and benefits, while not being required to be as productive as in the private sector….and also the difficulty of actually trying to get rid of dead weight, thanks to union rules making it hard for government employers to fire people.

hawkeye54 on May 20, 2013 at 4:26 PM

It often does, but I didn’t want to generalize because state and below pay scales vary drastically from state to state. Some like Illinois and California are as bad or worse than federal, but in some of the better-run conservative states the salary scales are very modest.

slickwillie2001 on May 20, 2013 at 5:29 PM

“Last year as part of a review of all agency operations, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini cut executive bonuses by 85 percent. Additionally, the entire performance awards system has been reviewed, and the new leadership at GSA has worked to reform the system. As a result, GSA no longer has peer to peer awards. Under this Administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.” — Dan Cruz, GSA Spokesman

My experience with Democrats making statements like this is that the statement is somehow misleading or irrelevant. It is lying without actually making a false claim. Obviously, since I know nothing about this particular topic, I could be wrong, but my experience is that the odds of me being wrong are quite low.

thuja on May 20, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Federal bonus?

There are bonuses in Government?

I haven’t seen a Bonus in the private sector since the first term of the George W Bush Administration!

portlandon on May 20, 2013 at 4:31 PM

That’s what I was thinking, but the last time I remember anybody getting one was about 1977.

forest on May 20, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Federal bonus?

There are bonuses in Government?

I haven’t seen a Bonus in the private sector since the first term of the George W Bush Administration!

portlandon on May 20, 2013 at 4:31 PM

That’s what I was thinking, but the last time I remember anybody getting one was about 1977.

forest on May 20, 2013 at 5:46 PM

In private industry, bonuses are generally tied to profits. Most bonus programs started as some kind of ‘profit sharing’. In a year when the company loses money, no bonuses.

If we must have bonuses in government, let’s base them on the size of surpluses. Any year there’s a deficit, no bonuses.

slickwillie2001 on May 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM

This should make all citizens happy.

jukin3 on May 20, 2013 at 6:12 PM

GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.

In the last five years, historically high numbers of private sector job-hunters have effectively quit looking for work.

In the last 5 years, a large number of us have taken salary reductions while gaining the task responsibilities of those let go.

That said, I have a sadface for those in the GSA that merely have bonuses at their lowest levels in 5 years.

socalcon on May 20, 2013 at 6:28 PM

My $170 bonus from last year got cut 100% and I get furloughed.

Russ86 on May 20, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Do not judge.

Where would be without unaccountable bureaucrats living on 6-figure salaries telling us what to do?

StubbleSpark on May 20, 2013 at 7:05 PM

“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” McCaskill said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Can you say “TARP”?

BobMbx on May 20, 2013 at 7:41 PM

GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.

Choco rations, however, are being increased from 2 lbs per year to 1 lb per year for everyone.

BobMbx on May 20, 2013 at 7:42 PM

Given the latest scandals dealing with “government exceptional-ism”, it’s time to rethink not only their bonuses, but also their salary structure.

djaymick on May 20, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Ya know what the rest of us get when we improve efficiency and do superior work? WE GET TO KEEP OUR FREAKIN’ JOBS ANOTHER WEEK!!!!!!! Sometimes.
Sorry, I had to get that out

yesiamapirate on May 20, 2013 at 8:54 PM

Rank and file takes a 10% pay cut. Execs get bonuses.

Happens in the private sector, too.

That’s when my liberal upbringing kicks in again and gets me sympathetic to unions.

Meryl Yourish on May 20, 2013 at 9:42 PM

Under this Administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years.” — Dan Cruz, GSA Spokesman

Well, whoopty-frickin’ doo! Under this Administration, jail time should be higher than ever.

ghostwalker1 on May 20, 2013 at 9:49 PM

Hey, I scored the highest performance rating a Federal employee can earn, but it got wasted with the loss of the bonus. Also, I’ve got to give up 13 days to leave without pay – that’s a 5% pay cut. All thanks to the “sequester.” And yet, we’re spending more money than we did last year. Huh?

Used to be that furloughs were up front, in your face affairs and they got settled. Obama is amortizing this one over half a year. There’s no pressure to fix anything. We’ll never get back the money we’re losing. That allows him to keep expanding the government by cutting wages of current employees.

The whole thing is a scam designed to tick off the Feds and make us blame Republicans, but all the guys and gals I work with either blame the Democrats outright or are in a “pox on both houses” mood. So it’s not working.

I keep telling my colleagues to give the Republicans a try – we actually got pay raises under the Republicans. Quite a few seem to be coming over.

Cricket624 on May 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

I don’t think government employees should get bonuses. I probably would relent if the employee did something so exceptional that the legislature VOTED to give the particular employee a bonus. At least that would be on the record and could be debated. A blanket bonus would be objectionable except perhaps in very exceptional and limited circumstances.

Government TAKES its revenues as opposed to a private business selling goods or services to customers who voluntarily pay for those goods or services.

While one can complain about businesses that give bonuses (however unevenly), when it is losing money, at least there is the expectation that that cannot go on forever because the firm will have to get back into the black or go bankrupt. Government is not the same thing.

Russ808 on May 21, 2013 at 5:01 PM