Posted by: adoseofliberty | December 28, 2009

Federal Employees: Recession? What Recession?

According to USA Today, an analysis of federal salary data shows that the “number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession.”

Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

The amount of the highest-paid federal employees has been the source of the largest increases.  Employees earning $150,000 or more in the Defense Department increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009 and employees making $170,000 or more in the Transportation Department blossomed from only one person to 1,690 employees.

This six-figure trend is taking place all across the federal government, “in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech.”  Which is interesting, since performance-based raises and bonuses would rarely apply to more than one department in such a short period, especially during a major economic recession.  This growth in six-figure salaries has “pushed the average federal worker’s pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.”

According to the article, the primary cause of the salary changes are “substantial pay raises and new salary rules.”  These include scheduled,  annual, across-the-board pay raises of 3-4% approved by former President Bush as well as “longevity pay hikes” that average 1.5% per year.  Also, merit-based pay was implemented (for the first time??) in January 2008, for the Defense Department and were larger than expected (but were, not surprisingly, voted by Congress to cease in 2012).  And lastly, paycaps, which prevent employees from making more than their leaders, are eased when the boss’ salaries increase.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a first-term lawmaker on the House’s federal workforce subcommittee throws out one of my favorite “r” words:

“There’s no way to justify this to the American people. It’s ridiculous.”

However, there might be a reasonable basis for these large salaries:

Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, says the federal workforce is highly paid because the government employs skilled people such as scientists, physicians and lawyers.

Although she does not provide any numbers on employee type distribution to back up her statement.  Klement does claim that federal employees make 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.  However, this may be skewed since, according to the Federal Government news and resource Web site, FedSmith, federal employees are offered “cash awards, time off awards, or promotions or within-grade step increases during the year.”  The site also issued a report stating:

“Since 1990, average compensation has increased 115 percent in the government and 69 percent in the private sector, while average wages have increased 104 percent the government and 65 percent in the private sector.”

On top of all of this, the federal sector provides “employment security that is unique in the American workforce.”  We all have heard the joke that in order to get fired as a government employee you have to kill someone, or it would require an act of Congress, or it would take a nuclear war, etc.

The FedSmith site even goes further, saying, comfortingly, that the “[t]he federal civilian workforce has become an elite island of secure and high-paid workers, separated from the ocean of private-sector American workers who must compete in today’s dynamic economy.”  The poor, private-sector proletariat.  Having to compete and all.  None of that on this island!


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