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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Federal worker advocate knocks Obama for pay freeze

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama's goal of making government "cool" again is in serious jeopardy if he goes through with a two-year pay freeze, according to a close observer and cheerleader for the federal workforce.

Max Stier
Max Stier. (Post)

Max Stier, president of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, has made the point before, but used a sharper tone in his most recent defense of the federal rank and file.

"Arbitrarily imposing an across-the-board hiring freeze in the name of saving relatively small sums would be a mistake with the potential to seriously hamper the workforce and degrade government's performance," Stier wrote in Sunday's Post in a piece entitled, "The workers Obama abandoned."

Some more:

Today, government service isn't even considered public service by most Americans, partly because successive generations repeatedly have been told by our political leaders that the government is the problem, not part of our collective solution. As a result, the desirability of public service has diminished, trust in government has steadily eroded and federal workers are undervalued.
In 1961, when JFK entered the White House, there was a sense much like today that America was falling behind. The Soviet Union threatened our existence, and the nation confronted many pressing domestic issues that included a troubled economy. Kennedy saw those in government as allies.
Now, 50 years later, we face the task of getting the economy back on track, reducing budget deficits, ensuring national security, competing on a global stage against China and other rising powers, investing in education and so much more. Yet Obama and Congress are on the verge of telling our public servants that they are expendable.

"Our nation today would be well served by a president who is willing by word and deed to strengthen the federal workforce, not to offer it up as a false sacrifice for our fiscal problems," Stier concludes.

(Full disclosure and a reminder: The Washington Post maintains a content-sharing deal with the Partnership, but Stier's views do not reflect the opinions of The Post, its reporters and editors, or this blogger.)

What do you think? Read the full piece and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 11, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Comments

O'Keefe . . . I'm guessing you have an ax to grind with the federal worker. Well, I have an ax to gring with funny looking dudes with goofy grins on their face.

You, and your article, are complete wastes of time!

Posted by: TheChampishere | January 11, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Today, government service isn't even considered public service by most Americans, partly because successive generations repeatedly have been told by our political leaders that the government is the problem, not part of our collective solution.
==========================================
Actually it is because we taxpayers in the private sector see how remunerative public "service" has become.

Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; a president who leaves the WH bankrupt only to be worth $110 million 8 short years later. Pensions that are crushing the economy, government that can't fix problems and then demands ever increasing sums of money.

A health care plan that will add trillions to the deficit and hire hundreds of thousands of administrators.

These and many more are the reasons we in the private sector know that government has become the problem.

Posted by: krankyman | January 11, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

It would be better to offer early outs and buy outs in the Federal Government in order to get new employees at half the pay.

Posted by: FutureJumps | January 11, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Mr. Stier

Posted by: Badwisky | January 11, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

An unstated assumption is that good performance is based primarily on pay. Federal employees also have better vacation policies, better job security and better benefits than most Americans. If author is going to cite Kennedy era, then perhaps a total compensation comparision (gov't workers to private sector) would be intersting and/or informative.

Other factors such as extent of political appointees and many more rules to follow should be explored as contributors to poor performance. Some pol appointees do good work while others create costs and inefficiencies. Carter once appointed a guy as an ambassador and he had to be told that there are 2 Koreas. A recent Bush appointee was more concerned with the size of his residence on an island than other considerations -- at a cost to the usg. How many manhours of a gov't employee's time is now spent on things which are marginal but required?

Obama added 2 commissions to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That diverted a lot of resources. If I wanted to improve consumer safety, I would have spent the money on scientists and technicians who test products - not on people who want larger offices and secretaries and who do not do hands on testing.

Kennedy also said ask not what your country can do for you.... Today, many people do exactly that. Writer also seems to forget the "ask what you can do for your country" and that sometimes means making a sacrifice.

I agree that government employees should not be blamed for many government programs -- they are products of politicians - congress makes laws, not government workers. Those workers who shirk their responsibility need to be held accoutable but the principle of avoiding guilt by association should be applied by the public.

Posted by: RichardCollins | January 11, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

with states and localities having to layoff thousands of employees who actually provide direct service to the taxpaying public it is rather disingenuous for federal employees-who are not teaching our children, inspecting our day care centers, extinguishing fires or patrolling streets- to claim their "sacrifice" should be rewarded with even more money and benefits not accept a freeze rather than layoffs or furloughs like real public servants.

Posted by: george32 | January 11, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

what you write may be true decades ago...
but with the loss of so many tax paying jobs...
the goverment must go on a diet...
a solution...
get back the jobs you let slip away...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 11, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"Federal employees also have better vacation policies, better job security and better benefits than most Americans"

You are living in the past, the benefits now are worse than the private sector. When my wife took a federal position our health care costs doubled for the exact same plan, plus did you know that Feds get NO maternity leave..as in none, nada, zip. People need to update their thinking or maybe actually know what they are talking about but I guess neither of that will happen.

Posted by: rockotodd | January 11, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Here's an idea, how about lawmakers, you know the ones who keep voting for ever bigger budget deficits, vote to cut their own pay.

Posted by: zackool | January 11, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; "

this is just BS, name one federal employee who could EVER get that - you can't

Posted by: Duke69 | January 11, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of comments on here are stuck on the believe that government works are lazy sobs who pull down insane amounts of money. What the author is trying to say is that if you don't pay people well and you don't give them opportunities to advance you are going to create exactly the situation that the commenters are claiming.

If your boss came to you and said we are freezing your pay, oh and I can't hire that replacement for Suzy so you need to do her job too, how much motivation do you think you would have for your job.

Also, who is going to do these jobs. Jobs at the USDA requiring PHDs to keep our growing biotech companies honest, jobs at TSA to make sure that murders and pedophiles are not approved to work those scanners. The list goes on.

And outsourcing. You think government employees are expensive, try an outsourced employee. Typical contract rates are $100/hr or higher for jobs the government would pay 1/2 directly.

Bear in mind the government employees on average more PHDs, Masters, and college graduates than the private sector. There are exceptions, but the norm is that government workers are paid less than their and heres the key 'equivalent' private sector positions.

BTW: Disclosure, I am one of those contractors the govn't pays upwards of $150/hr for. I have seen my billable rates, so I know.

Posted by: wleeper | January 11, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@george32. Don't Patrol the streets? you've heard of the US Marshals, Secret Service, Park Police, ATF, DEA, FBI, etc?

Don't teach your children? I'm sure the DOE (education) has nothing to do w/that.

Inspect daycare centers? No, you're right. We inspect YOUR FOOD!

Posted by: stilldoin | January 11, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

george 32: "with states and localities having to layoff thousands of employees who actually provide direct service to the taxpaying public it is rather disingenuous for federal employees-who are not teaching our children, inspecting our day care centers, extinguishing fires or patrolling streets- to claim their "sacrifice" should be rewarded with even more money and benefits"

Actually provide a direct service??? What about the meat they inspect, the research being done for deadly diseases, drug safety and efficacy, border patrol..this list goes on. Your comments are disgusting.

Posted by: buzzy1 | January 11, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't anyone ever mention the fact that 50 years ago the U.S. population was 175 million. Today it's 310 million and we have fewer federal employees than 50 years ago. Duh???

Posted by: TooManyPeople | January 11, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Obama really crapped in his mess kit this time. Penny wise and pound foolish.

Posted by: TooManyPeople | January 11, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Today, government service isn't even considered public service by most Americans, partly because successive generations repeatedly have been told by our political leaders that the government is the problem, not part of our collective solution.
==========================================
Actually it is because we taxpayers in the private sector see how remunerative public "service" has become.

Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; a president who leaves the WH bankrupt only to be worth $110 million 8 short years later. Pensions that are crushing the economy, government that can't fix problems and then demands ever increasing sums of money.

A health care plan that will add trillions to the deficit and hire hundreds of thousands of administrators.

These and many more are the reasons we in the private sector know that government has become the problem.

Posted by: krankyman

*******************************************

Here's an idea, change your Post name from krankyman to Stupidman. You are clueless! And, as all Repubs do, YOU LIE!!!

Posted by: TheChampishere | January 11, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Today, government service isn't even considered public service by most Americans, partly because successive generations repeatedly have been told by our political leaders that the government is the problem, not part of our collective solution.
==========================================
Actually it is because we taxpayers in the private sector see how remunerative public "service" has become.

Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; a president who leaves the WH bankrupt only to be worth $110 million 8 short years later. Pensions that are crushing the economy, government that can't fix problems and then demands ever increasing sums of money.

A health care plan that will add trillions to the deficit and hire hundreds of thousands of administrators.

These and many more are the reasons we in the private sector know that government has become the problem.

Posted by: krankyman

*******************************************

Here's an idea, change your Post name from krankyman to Stupidman. You are clueless! And, as all Repubs do, YOU LIE!!! Teabagger!

Posted by: TheChampishere | January 11, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The infantile and selfish "I lost mine, so you should lose yours, too" refrain is getting kinda old.

In decades past, private sector employees (in general) enjoyed robust job growth and at least the opportunity for high compensation and benefits; public sector employees, in general, did not. They slogged away at secure jobs that paid the bills but were guaranteed never to make them rich. Now that public sector compensation has caught up (at least at the lower skilled end), and job security is in, all of a sudden those pathetic public sector drones are the enemy. Sour grapes. I suspect that if you integrated over a lifetime of employement, employees in both camps would come out about even in total compensation. Its just that now, at THIS point in time, the shoe happens to be on the other foot.

I really seems a bit selfish to accept your own good fortune as your due, then turn around and pillory the guy next door when it looks like his day has finally come.

As far as "its my (tax) money" argument goes. Well, its mine too. It's the govt employee money too (they do pay taxes, you know). And moreover, its all our money that goes to fund all these other non-public sector needs: like food, clothing, power, fuel, medical care. Why are you not in hate with all those overpaid private sector employees whose salaries you are forced to fund? Or are you pretty much in hate with anyone who has a semi-secure job?

Posted by: pdqlmnop | January 11, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Why not a pay freeze for Wall St. CEO's? These b'astards nearly wrecked our ecnomomy but are receiving record high compensation packages and bonuses.

Posted by: montana123 | January 11, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

A hard call.

As a federal employee, I don't feel underpaid. But then again, I could have gone to the private sector during the good times and made more money. I chose job security. That was important to me.

I don't mind taking a pay freeze because there are so many people out there without jobs at the moment.

I do mind people denigrating my work. I perform a valuable serviec to the American people. If no one did my job, no one woud die, but the public would be less well served.

Posted by: InTheMiddle | January 11, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

""Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; "

this is just BS, name one federal employee who could EVER get that - you can't

Posted by: Duke69 | January 11, 2011 12:34 PM
"

Easy - pick any one of 'Bama's hundreds of Czars!

Posted by: snowbucks | January 11, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

krankyman wrote:

"Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year;"

--------------------------------
Sorry, there's not a single Federal Employee who makes anywhere near that much. SES employees, the absolute creme-de-la-creme, top out at $155k. Their retirement pensions are usually around 70% of that if they retire with 40 years of service (if they're under the old retirement system). Do you think $150k is a lot for an executive to get paid in the D.C. area?
--------------------------------
Pensions that are crushing the economy, government that can't fix problems and then demands ever increasing sums of money.
-----------------------------------
The Federal Government changed its pension system in 1986. The overwhelming majority of a Federal Employee's retirement is now funded through his own contributions to a TSP. The Fed Gov. only matches an employee's contributions up to 5%, which is in line with private sector 401k matched contributions. Are there any other misconceptions I can clear up for you?

Posted by: pswift00 | January 11, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

BTW, instead of complaining that it's not fair that the private sector doesn't enjoy as much job security as the public sector due to at-will employment laws, why not advocate for equal protections among private sector employees? Or would you prefer that everyone be subject to at-will employment? Unfortunately to do so, you'd have to change 6th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees due process. The Federal Government can't deprive an employee of his or her job (considered property) without due process (i.e; a review via appeal). This guarantee of due process should be granted to all employees, public or private.

Posted by: pswift00 | January 11, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I hate to bring this up but pay or hiring freezes or even government lay-offs will not be enough with the worsening economy, what about next year or the year after...our economy has crashed and on Main Street it is getting much worse...but hells-bells government workers in Communist China are doing just fine are even hiring more workers if "hiring" and workers are the correct terms in Communist China.
Without an industrail base and a strong working middle class the luxury of large numbers of government employees with good pay, pensions and health care is not possible...get it. But not only can we Main Street citizens not afford the government workforce but also the cadre of worthless career politcians.

Posted by: 123Njord | January 11, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

A hard call.

As a federal employee, I don't feel underpaid. But then again, I could have gone to the private sector during the good times and made more money. I chose job security. That was important to me.

I don't mind taking a pay freeze because there are so many people out there without jobs at the moment.

I do mind people denigrating my work. I perform a valuable serviec to the American people. If no one did my job, no one woud die, but the public would be less well served.

Posted by: InTheMiddle
=============================
Well said!

I find it sad that so many have no idea what federal workers make or what their benefits are, even though this is easily located public knowledge.

Posted by: will4567 | January 11, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I have to laugh at everybody saying "I could have gone to the private sector and made more money". Tell me a private sector job that is guaranteed, good salary, and great benefits. (exclude the gov't contractors).

Out here in the real world, we have lived with layoffs and frozen salaries for years.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | January 11, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I hate to bring this up but pay or hiring freezes or even government lay-offs will not be enough with the worsening economy, what about next year or the year after...our economy has crashed and on Main Street it is getting much worse...but hells-bells government workers in Communist China are doing just fine are even hiring more workers if "hiring" and workers are the correct terms in Communist China.
Without an industrail base and a strong working middle class the luxury of large numbers of government employees with good pay, pensions and health care is not possible...get it. But not only can we Main Street citizens not afford the government workforce but also the cadre of worthless career politcians.


Posted by: 123Njord | January 11, 2011 2:08 PM

*******************************************

Maybe you should have posted this crap 6 months to a year ago when the crap you cite was still RELEVANT!!!

Posted by: TheChampishere | January 11, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

It is axiomatic that most of the federal workforce is mediocre at best and incompetent at worst. Yet Congress and the President do little or nothing to light a fire under its collective kiester to improve efficiency. There are simply no disincentives for poor performance. My Lord, you don't even have to pay your federal income taxes! And what other employer pays dipsticks to come to work? They are overindulged and coddled when they can use a good swift kick in the pants. With unemployment so high, this would be a wonderful opportunity to unload the dead wood and attract highly motivated and eager people into the ranks. But that won't happen. Government leadership and management are no better. The mantra is "please the boss at all costs and forget about what's right." Unions are also a big factor in keeping the incompetent and lazy gainfully succling from the taxpayer's nipple. They could care less about productivity and efficiency. They only care about bodies and dues. The fact is the private sector is more efficient, better led, and better motivated. It will likely always be that way. A 10% reduction in the federal work force wouldn't affect efficiency and performance one bit because there's so blasted little of it to begin with.

Posted by: panamajack | January 11, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

krankyman: "Servants retiring at 50 on $300K per year; a president who leaves the WH bankrupt only to be worth $110 million 8 short years later. Pensions that are crushing the economy, government that can't fix problems and then demands ever increasing sums of money."

I hope you're being sarcastic, otherwise your handle should be "fictionman" or "baselessman" - where are you getting these ideas? As of the mid 80's Feds don't have full pensions any more. Feds have 401Ks just like the private sector. And I don't know any feds that make over $200K (except the president).

How is cutting the number of government employees and freezing salaries supposed to improve productivity/Government? Good luck with recruitment and retention.

Posted by: dconover | January 11, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately to do so, you'd have to change 6th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees due process. The Federal Government can't deprive an employee of his or her job (considered property) without due process (i.e; a review via appeal). This guarantee of due process should be granted to all employees, public or private.

Posted by: pswift00
-----
This implies that all government employees are criminals. Hmmmm ...

Posted by: shhhhh | January 11, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

My rent is going up $200 in Silver Spring on my one bedroom apartment. My health insurance premiums are going up.

How much longer do you think I will be able to afford to live here in the DC area and continue to work for government?

We need a substantial raise (at least white collar employees do) to put us in line with private sector employees, not a freeze.

Unless the federal government is willing to build some housing for federal workers, i won't be working here much more than a few more years.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | January 11, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Where from comes the notion that in an economic downturn only private sector workers should suffer?

Posted by: BobThompson | January 11, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

anarcho-liberal-tarian, stop whining and get a real job.... maybe one where you'll be too busy to whine at 3:54 in the afternoon.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 11, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

It would be better to offer early outs and buy outs in the Federal Government in order to get new employees at half the pay.
----------------------------------
You're not going to get any IT workers at half price.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | January 11, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The private sector workforce wrongly scapegoats the public workforce. Corporate America has been sending jobs overseas, cutting benefits, weakening unions, and otherwise sticking it to the workforce for years. Why do we sheepishly accept it? If we decided to let our wallets do the talking and only bought from companies that treated their workers with respect, buy made in America, and otherwise exposed this duplicity from corporate America it would go a long way towards improving the job situation in this country.

Posted by: DontGetIt | January 11, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

There is no pay freeze. The premise is false. Step raises and bumps are still in place. Check it out.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | January 12, 2011 12:31 AM | Report abuse

It's not considered public service because, for decades the greedy, selfish corrupt unions have only served themselves.

Unions should be making LESS -- not substantially more -- than the public that pays their too-often-outlandish salaries, pensions and benefits.

Long past time to rein in the greedy, corrupt unions.

Posted by: EricArthurBlair | January 12, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

It's odd that the same people who defend billionaires' right not to have their taxes raised (restored) will cheerfully vote to "tax" public employee by freezing or reducing their pay.

Posted by: Owkrender | January 12, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

My Lord, you don't even have to pay your federal income taxes! Posted by: panamajack
_________________________________________

To panamajack: I've been with the federal government for 13 years now, since finishing graduate school, and I've paid federal and state income taxes each and every one of those 13 years.

Posted by: Jamie13 | January 12, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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