Seriously? The federal government's highest-paid employee is ...

… not Joe Biden, and it wasn’t Donald Trump either at least in 2019, according to Forbes. This reminds me of the story about Babe Ruth scoring a contract for the 1930 season that paid him more than Herbert Hoover. When reporters asked him to justify getting paid more than the president of the United States, Ruth quipped, “Why not? I had a better year than he did.”

I’m not sure the same can be said for Anthony Fauci, however. He didn’t hit a lot of home runs, and for long stretches got kept out of the lineup:

Dr. Anthony Fauci made $417,608 in 2019, the latest year for which federal salaries are available. That made him not only the highest paid doctor in the federal government, but the highest paid out of all four million federal employees.

In fact, Dr. Fauci even made more than the $400,000 salary of the President of the United States. All salary data was collected by via Freedom of Information Act requests. …

$2.5 million. That’s how much Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and current Chief Medical Advisor to the President, will make in salary from 2019 through 2024, if he stays in his post through the end of the current Administration, and doesn’t (or didn’t already) get a raise.

In a ten-year period between 2010 and 2019, Fauci made $3.6 million in salary. Since 2014, Fauci’s pay increased from $335,000 to the current $417,608.

It appears from the data supplied by Forbes that Fauci gets a 5% raise every year. That finally vaulted him past the $400K annual salary set by law for presidents in 2019. If the pattern follows, Fauci’s 2020 salary would $438,488 and then over $460K in 2021, although the pandemic on which Fauci worked might have resulted in some pay freezes. Fauci’s status here appears to be more of an artifact of seniority rather than some kind of sweetheart compensation package.

How big of a problem is this really specifically to Fauci? The person at the top of an organization doesn’t always get the biggest paycheck. To continue with the sports comparison, check out universities with major football and basketball programs, where coaches get multi-million-dollar contracts and presidents get decent Academia compensation packages. Sometimes you have to cough up more cash for specialists. College presidents are a dime a dozen, but a championship head coach is golden for fundraising among the alumni.

That might be more apt than it should be. though. Those head coaches don’t just make a lot more than their university presidents, but also the head of their athletic departments, too. It creates a weird power dynamic (or perhaps just exposes a weird power dynamic) and can’t help but make the organization a little less functional than it otherwise could be. The seniority explanation only helps a little, as it points to a serious problem of cost management within the federal workforce. How many more career staffers make more than the salary-controlled political appointees to whom they report?

The griping in this case will come less from organizational concerns and more from Fauci’s performance and the political hot potato he has become, of course. Fauci participated in at least one of the “noble lies” told by the CDC and health apparatus, at first discouraging the use of masks and then later reversing himself. That undermined the credibility of the CDC and of Fauci, and arguably Fauci should have either resigned or stepped back after that to allow a more credible voice to emerge with proper information on COVID-19 transmission.

Fauci did get less air time after that, but not exactly for that and not by his choice. Fauci ended up crosswise with Donald Trump over other transparency issues on which Fauci was in the right, and so the White House started featuring Fauci and Deborah Birx a lot less as a consequence. I joked about getting left out of the line-up, but that’s at least somewhat on Trump and clearly didn’t happen because Ruth wasn’t hitting dingers, so to speak.

Anyway, Fauci’s not going anywhere at the moment, as his political value to Joe Biden is much greater than the $61K Fauci will out-earn Biden this year. For the longer haul, Congress needs to take a closer look at the organizational issues and introduce some controls on automatic raises in the civil service, it seems. What they’ll likely do instead is give presidents a raise, which allows them to avoid their responsibilities, the task at which Congress excels the most.