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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 03/ 9/2011

Federal pay and benefits back in the spotlight

By Ed O'Keefe

OPM Director John Berry is among those scheduled to discuss federal pay with House lawmakers on Wednesday. (Post)

Eye Opener

The Republican-led House is scheduled to hold its first hearing Wednesday on the compensation of federal employees, pitting the Obama administration and federal worker union leaders against conservative fiscal experts armed with detailed reports suggesting federal employees are paid too generously when compared to private sector workers.

The hearing comes as state governments are working to overhaul public pension plans and scrap collective bargaining rights for state workers and as Republican continue introducing proposals to curtail federal pay and the workforce. Among the bills, some GOP lawmakers hope to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, implement a two-week furlough of most workers, freeze some pay raises, fire tax-delinquent feds, prohibit federal retirees from earning workers compensation payments and cut the pay for overseas diplomats.

Wednesday's hearing is the first of several House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meetings on these issues that are also likely to serve as tutorials for freshmen members less familiar with the complexities of the federal personnel system.

Disagreements are likely to begin today with Rep. Dennis Ross's opening statement. The Florida Republican, chairman of the subcommittee on the federal workforce, suggests that federal employees earned an average $101,628 in total compensation in 2010 -- nearly four times the average private sector salary.

According to his opening statement, Ross combines the Office of Personnel Management average 2010 federal salary ($74,311) with statistics suggesting the government pays 36 percent of employees' base pay health insurance and pension benefits, plus the financial value of the government's "generous" paid leave system.

Those figures are sure to irk OPM Director John Berry and National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley, two of the scheduled witnesses who have spoken in defense of federal salary levels before. The others witnesses are Partnership for Public Service CEO Max Stier -- a relatively neutral, nonpartisan, well-quoted expert on the issue -- and American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew G. Biggs and Heritage Foundation labor policy expert James Sherk -- who've penned detailed studies on the size and scope of the federal pay and benefits system.

A review of their written opening statements (kudos to the committee for posting all of the prepared statements more than 12 hours in advance) suggests all five agree that the General Schedule -- the system used to set federal pay and seniority -- is broken. The agreement appears to end there.

Review the highlights of their testimony below, click on the links to see their full written statements and leave your thoughts in the comments section below:

John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management:

"Our pay system is not perfect. I have said before that the system is six decades old and could use a reexamination. As for comparability, it is not perfect either. We are required by law to reduce the comparisons of all the Federal and non-Federal occupations and geographic regions down to one number. This does not reflect the complexity of the world we live in.

"But even if the system is not perfect, we must reject misleading uses of data that perpetuate the myth that Federal employees are as a whole overcompensated. As a whole, the wages that the Federal Government pays its employees are fair and the benefits it offers are competitive. Any reforms we undertake must meet the following principles that the existing GS system does well: transparency, equal pay for equal work, no political influence, ability to recruit and retain a well-qualified workforce.

"This is how it must be if we are to recruit and retain the best workers to carry out our critical life-saving and life enhancing missions. Falling behind is unacceptable."

Andrew G. Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute:

"Simple pay freezes or furloughs are blunt instruments that will not get to the heart of the issue, as they do not address the often significant differences in the generosity of pay among different federal employees. Increased flexibility to raise salaries when demand for a given job is low and reduce salaries when demand for a position is high is one way to allow market information to flow into federal salary decisions.

"Likewise, it makes sense for certain federal benefits -- in particular, retirement contributions and paid time off -- to be brought more in line with private sector demands. But more broadly, federal pay must be made to reflect market conditions, not with a one-time adjustment but with fundamental reforms that work consistently into the future."

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union:

"Federal employees are facing a two year pay freeze. They are seeing proposals every day to expand and extend that freeze. They are reading about efforts to cut the retirement benefits they have spent years earning and have seen proposals to require unpaid furloughs. They are being called lazy, selfish and greedy. Sometimes, even by members of this body, who earn much, much more than they do. Some of the hardest working people I represent, like Tax Examiners at the IRS and Transportation Security Officers at TSA earn less than $30,000 a year.

"NTEU members understand that the country faces challenges and although they did not cause the fiscal crisis, they are willing to work to help solve it. Federal employees have good."

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation:

"If the federal government underpaid its workers it would have severe retention problems. Instead, the opposite occurs. Federal employees are considerably less likely than private-sector workers to quit their jobs.

"Federal employees demonstrate that they earn above-market pay through their actions. Federal employees also receive premium benefits. They receive both a definedbenefit and defined-contribution pension plan, can retire with full benefits at 56, and receive significantly more paid leave than their private-sector counterparts.

"Accounting for the value of these benefits raises the federal compensation premium to between 30 percent and 40 percent above similar private-sector workers. All told, the federal compensation premium will cost taxpayers $47 billion this year.

"A major factor inflating federal pay is the fact that the federal government promotes employees faster than private-sector employers. My research found that most of the federal pay premium resulted from federal employees receiving raises more rapidly than their private-sector counterparts.

"This is a consequence of the General Schedule, which primarily bases pay on time served rather than performance. Federal employees who put in a minimal amount of effort automatically earn within-grade increases in pay. Over three-quarters of federal pay increases are based on time served, not performance. This systematically inflates federal pay."

Max Stier, president of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service:

"Whether one wants a bigger or smaller government, an enhanced or a reduced role for government, there should be little disagreement that once we decide as a nation what we want the government to do, it should be able to do those things effectively and efficiently. In order to do this, the country needs talented and motivated people in government and it needs an approach to pay and compensation that enables it to attract, motivate, and retain those employees. Pay reform in government is clearly needed."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cabinet and Staff News: The White House is working to repair relations with its Cabinet. President Obama pitches education ideas in Boston. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner praises Euro-Zone reform efforts. OMB Deputy Director nominee Heather Higginbottom generally sails through her Senate confirmation hearing. Could Julius Genachowski replace Gary Locke as commerce secretary? Peter Diamond unlikely to get confirmed to serve on the Federal Reserve board. Gen. David Petraeus says he's seeing progress in Afghanistan.


Gates sees progress in hard-hit Marine unit: The Marine battalion fighting out of this southern Afghanistan district has suffered more losses than any other in the history of the decade-long Afghan war.

Report reveals steep increase in war amputations last fall: The majority of American soldiers undergoing amputation for war wounds last fall lost more than one limb.

U.S., Europe considering naval operations to deliver humanitarian aid to Libya: NATO military officials began briefing governments Tuesday night on a range of options that will be presented to defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

At House EPA hearing, both sides claim science: Science and politics rarely play nicely together, and a House hearing Tuesday on a bill to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions proved no exception.


• U.S.-EU air-safety pact nears final approval: Under the deal, U.S. and EU air-safety agencies will recognize each other's inspections and analysis. That should allow the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency to share information and avoid duplicating efforts, officials said.

Lawmakers urge FDA to go slow on genetically modified salmon: A bipartisan cluster of mostly Northwestern lawmakers want to stop the agency from making a quick decision on whether to approve genetically modified Atlantic salmon for human consumption.


• 2 Federal marshals wounded in St. Louis shootout: One marshal is dead and a second was in fair condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.


• Report: Foreign Services poorly trained to handle crises: At a time when some Arabic speaking states are in chaos and America is fighting distant wars, the United States is sending its foreign service officers abroad poorly equipped to deal with the critical situations they face.

BWI, 7 other airports cleared for charter flights to Cuba: Although charter flights from the United States land in Cuba every day, it's unlikely daily commercial flights will be offered unless the United States loosens restrictions on who can go there.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 9, 2011; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Once again, that funny looking dee-bag O'Keefe is at it again! Tell the Republicants that short term successes, equal long term failures . . . the next time you have a conference call with them.

Posted by: TheChampisheretoo | March 9, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse

When the Arm forces retire pay was outsource here in Cleveland, it was the retirees who suffered... Missing checks, wrong amounts, and having some having their monthly checks stop because of errors that they died. so the first contractor sold their contract for a profit to another contractor who also did errors. Goverment work is not the same as the private sector...and only goverment workers should do it..Contract companies are there for profit and not service...

Posted by: steve44122 | March 9, 2011 7:15 AM | Report abuse

The people who argue that federal employees are overpaid are simply ignorant of what these employees actually do. In addition, it is easier to attack the employees as one group, rather than to single out a particular job to make these claims. The truth is, many federal employees are UNDERPAID for the extremely complex tasks they perform very well each and every day. The public simply isn't aware of what is actually going on.

Federal employees need to begin an information campaign to show the public just how hard they work, and how complex and difficult their work is. I certainly appreciate the work of the FBI, CDC, NIH, etc. These people enhance the quality of life in America.

Posted by: AnnsThought | March 9, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Here we go again...blaming federal employees for the financial mess the country is in, when all federal agencies combined account for only 14% of the overall budget. Congress should focus on the real problems of entitlements and defense. Are federal employees well paid? Probably. Are they the source of the financial problem this country is in? Hardly.

Posted by: crilling2 | March 9, 2011 7:32 AM | Report abuse

I guess the federal employees who are landing Discovery today are overpaid too.

Posted by: avirakon | March 9, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Ignorant of what these employees actually do.

HA! Watch porn on their P.C.'s all day.

Posted by: bigmac1810 | March 9, 2011 7:39 AM | Report abuse

James Sherk has it right: the voluntary turnover rate for public employees, including Federal employees, is well below the private sector rate. That tells us that Federal workers are very satisfied with the combination of pay, benefits, vacation, work environment, stress, workload, and difficulty at their jobs. That means that there's room for us to tighten up in one or more of those areas.

Posted by: Swat02 | March 9, 2011 7:46 AM | Report abuse

The house cut 27 million out of the 29 million dollar Poison Control budget (in their 'dream' 60 billion). The reason given was they it should be consolidated and cost less. And that makes sense, except that they didn't tell them to consolidate, you essentially defunded them! Now they are saying 'all federal workers' are overpaid and lazy. So those of us who are underpaid, and oh so tired of this are walking... Cuz the economy is recovering and in my field I can leave and increase my pay by a considerable amount. Leaving you the lazy and the overpaid. My point is, if you think a certain field is overpaid, work on that instead of losing all the good workers in the govt. During the good years we were mocked for staying for the security, now we are envied for the security... If everyone thinks it is so wonderful in here, apply for govt jobs.

Posted by: kawilson69 | March 9, 2011 7:47 AM | Report abuse

The sheer ignorance of these freshman repunklians! They need to stop the dramatics and get off their lazy butts and go out and learn what, how and who OPERATES our federal govt.

Posted by: spankyfrost | March 9, 2011 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Are some federal employees overpaid? Probably. Are all federal employees overpaid? Definitely not. Some are underpaid. Should congress be wasting its precious time worrying about it? No. They should focus on some of the country's real problems. Of course, many Republicans seem to specialize in political grandstanding.

Posted by: John991 | March 9, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Typical Rethuglican proposals. Here's one - dock the pay of each member of Congress and their staffs for each day that an appropriations bill for the government is not in place after October 1 each year. And that "generous" health insurance benefit we get - hmmm, seems that these teabagging idiots on the Hill also get the same benefit.

Posted by: MPersow | March 9, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

It actually sounds like the private sector could learn something from how the federal pay and compensation package is set up. And instead of disparaging it and having the federal system lower itself, pattern private sector pay and compensation after the federal one. We are a good example, not a punching bag.
Plus, as I recall from many years in federal HR, when conducting salary surveys, OPM rules forbid us from being the pay leader!

Posted by: scully2 | March 9, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I don't disagree that the GS pay system is a flawed one; people shouldn't get a raise just for sitting in a job for a long time. Why not require that all feds go to the PDP system that some of DOD uses in which raises, etc are based on performance? Because the folks making all the noise don't bother to offer realistic solutions! The idea of outsourcing inherently governmental tasks to contractors, etc is a poor one, since contractor services cost SIGNIFICANTLY more than a fed does. That is fact, not a guess. I have both fed and contractor people working for me in identical jobs and the contractors cost about $22800 more EACH per year! I myself could make considerably more money in the private sector than I do as a federal employee but choose to stay in my job because I'm damn good at it and have some loyalty and pride in the service I give; as I expect is the case for most feds. My paycheck hasn't caused the massive deficit that this country faces, ridiculous spending practices by both republican and democratic administrations have.

Posted by: gsmom1091 | March 9, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

The ignorance of the public, including those currently serving in congress, about how their government works is just shameful. I can't believe nowhere in this discussion is there mentioned that there are two federal government workforces in existence. Those hired before 1987 and those hired after. Those hired on before 87 stay in government service more so due to the design of the civil service retirement system that greatly awards those whom retire with 38 years of service. Then there are those hired after 1987 that have a retirement system modeled after the private sector, whom are just as dependent on the 401k approach to retirement investing as everyone else is in the private sector. Comparing those of us on the Ronald Reagan designed government workforce to the those who came before us is just political spin and shameful ignorance or a combination of both. I think it is intersting that the Republicans are attacking the current system which is set in place by Ronald Reagan, and a retirement investing vehicle that George Bush wanted to redesign the social security system around. The only reason most of us on the Ronald Reagan designed Federal Employee Retirement System do not jump ship is due to the severe recession. Believe me, there is a current and real concern in government agencies about retention of our youngest talented workforce.

Posted by: davestwocents | March 9, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Wah , wah, wah, as a Federal worker, I don't have a problem with cutting our workforce by 10 percent. If my fellow feds are honest they know that at least 10 percent of our coworkers could leave and there would be very little if any impact on our missions. In fact, most agencies are never at full manpower and use those vacancy gas to cover budget gaps within their organization...

Posted by: MarkUSAF | March 9, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Having worked in the private non-government support sector for nearly 15 years as well as supporting the federal government for just as long, I find that it's a mixed decision on whether federal employees are overpaid. I'd have to say all in all you work harder for your money in private industry but I have seen some very hard working government folk who take their jobs quite seriously and are underpaid when compared to private sector employees. So I believe there are pockets of overpaid federal employees probably based on the agency. For example, I remember reading a Washington Post article last year that mentioned the abnormally high salaries at the FAA and the high disproportionate number of people who have salaries greater than $170K. It mentioned some sort of salary adjustment that occurred several years ago where there was a serious upward adjustment in people's titles (all Managers were made Directors) with a corresponding bump up in pay. It's this type of stuff that is disappointing to me as a taxpayer.

Posted by: Seeing-eye-Cat | March 9, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Overall I think the Republicans would do better focusing on larger budget-balancing measures than federal pay. Going after government workers is the same tactic the Wisconsin governor is doing and a cynical observer might say it is with the aim of undercutting the people who tend to vote against them.
I will say this for federal pay: none of the comparisons between government and private sector pay seem to take into account the fact that it is very hard to fire a federal worker. You have to jump through all kinds of hopes, it can take years. Meanwhile most private sector workers are hired at will. So there should be some kind of discount applied to federal workers' pay calculation for that peace of mind. I would happily forgo a 10% pay raise in exchange for the assurance that my boss would have to go through hell and high water to fire me.

Posted by: ErikaM1 | March 9, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Thirty years ago the bulk of the federal workforce was blue collar to maintain the government infrastructure. The majority of that workforce is now contractors, leaving a mostly middle-level management class as the basic federal employee. The high average salary cited by Congress includes all the Senior Executive Service (SES) positions created by and approved by Congress. So Congress creates a top heavy civilian leadership, grants them high salaries and then complains the average salary is too high and what to reduce the pay of the middle-level employees to pay for the salaries of all the SES employees.

Posted by: james90 | March 9, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

It's simply breathtaking. For all their talk about the need for jobs and to reduce unemployment, the Republicans again turn their focus to government bashing, abortion-related issues, voter disenfranchisement, and union busting.

What it tells me is that the Republican Party excels at breaking the government, forcing the Nation into pointless, costly wars overseas, and running us deeper into debt -- they have no clue how to grow us out of the deficit, do they?

Posted by: HillRat | March 9, 2011 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm just wondering, I guess the two Federal Marshalls who got shot and one killed yesterday in St. Louis were overpaid and lazy. Hmmm! Didn't another Fed just get murdered in Mexico by the drug cartel. How many of our kids are coming home in body bags or a couple limbs missing from the middle east? How many companies hire pilots to ride into space on a Roman Candle. If you want to compare private to federal than compare the cost of a military contractor to a service member doing the same job. We got a smaller ARMY and contracted the services out. Our actual costs more than doubled and they can't carry weapons. Our problem is we have too many overpaid and lazy butts in Congress and too many coon asses who support them.

Posted by: doubleduece | March 9, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I always find it amusing that the people who do not know anything of what government workers do have the most to say on what they think we should be paid. For the most part a good government employee can make 2-3 times what they get paid if they go to the civilian sector and work. Government employees stay because they believe in service to country and are dedicated people to the public. When the civilian sector was riding high with their high pay and bonuses everything was grand for them and they could care less about the government employee. Now that they have lost their high paying job they hate the fact that we the government employee stayed in our jobs. Funny how when the shoe changes how they cry for the choices they made and now it's all the government employee who at fault for what the economy is going through. It was not us the government employee who brought down the economy. It was bankers, realtors, investment hedge funds brokers and many of the same people who were out to line their pockets with greater and greater profits by taking as much money they could from every place they could. They did not care about the public, citizen or the USA. All they cared about was getting as much as they could now no matter what the cost to everyone else. Our Congressional leaders let this happen but then they are the rich and fat so what did you expect... they are so removed from the public they are supposed to represent that they have no concept of what it's like to live as 90% of the citizens of the USA. They need to be brought down in the trenches and live as we do to once again understand how the public actually live each day. Will this happen? Not on their life... Our elected officials could not even survive more than a week as a person who makes 30-40 thousand a year. Things have to change sure but people in this country always try to blame someone else for the choices they make in life when it don't work out for them. Take responsibility for the choices you made and quit being a cry baby...

Posted by: Concerned5 | March 9, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I say start cutting pays from congress and senators and work downward. Oh, I forgot, these individuals made sure that this will not happen. How? They added an amendment to the constitution to make sure that their pay is off limit. So when they talk the talk, they do not do the walk, idiots. Everyone has to share in the pain except for them, I should of been a politician.

Posted by: Realistic5 | March 9, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Once again, Republicans show that they are not for efficient and effective government, but merely want to cripple the government in their anti-government mania. Since the US government is elected directly by the American people, that makes them anti-American.

Using a blunt number, bloating the value of Federal benefits and then ignoring differences in experience, education, profession and local cost of living, and then insisting to chop pay and benefits down is a simple way of getting the best people to leave the government and find work elsewhere, possibly in other countries where their talents are valued.

Federal benefits have grown in value not because they have become more generous, but because of medical inflation. Do Federal workers rejoice at the 15% annual premium hike they get? They are simply getting the same, or even reduced, health care benefits and paying more for it. That is a huge pay cut, even if it is partially mitigated by the government portion.

Government workers make more for 3 simple reasons:

1) The government has gotten rid of most lower wage careers, meaning that nearly every Federal worker has a college degree. For college degreed employees, they are paid significantly less than private sector comparables. Only 27% of Americans are college grads while it is nearly impossible to get a government job without one, if not multiple degrees.

2) The Federal government is concentrated in big cities like DC, NY, LA and SF. It is expensive to live there, and you cannot pay a DC worker the same as a Salt Lake City worker unless you expect him to sleep in his office. Putting Federal offices in areas where they are the most effective means putting them in the capitol and other major population centers.

3) The Federal government has not hired many people in the past 30 years, meaning the Federal work force has aged rapidly. The average employee is 55 with nearly 30 years experience. That means they are at the top of the payscale, ready to retire in the next few years. Replacing them with younger workers lower on the pay scale will reduce Federal salaries.

Instead of whining that Federal workers are paid too much, Congress should worry about how to attract younger employees to replace the experienced ones on the verge of leaving. Pay freezes and furloughs tell them that the Federal government doesn't value their talents, so they should take their services elsewhere. Five years from now, we will look at this hearing as one of the most blinkered responses to the Recession as the government struggles to fill key positions vacated by retirements and young people ignore the job postings for underpaid positions with reduced benefits.

Posted by: LeoNoVA | March 9, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Congress should remember that they are also Federal workers and so is their Staffs. How many of theis staff members make over $100,000 plus benifits, mabey Congress should set an example by cutting their staffs by 10% and cutting the pay also. For Congress men themselves, probably most people in the United States that work would like to start at $170,000 a year plus benifits. After you pick on Federal workers who is next, the Armed Forces, the soldiers, sailors, airmen are over payed, have too many benifits, and are lazy. If you people had any guts or were not so concerned with staying in power you wood look after the American people and for the most part stop lining your pockets.

Posted by: usnsnp | March 9, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Federal retention rates were much lower 10 years ago when the economy was booming. The nature of public sector work is that you miss out on the booms but are sheltered from the busts.

As the unemployment rate lowers, and as Federal retirees start to leave as they age, you will see fewer and fewer people applying for government jobs and more people jumping to the private sector.

Congress should be running the country based on what will happen in the next 5 years, not what happened over the last 5 years. These policy changes will hardly affect those ending their Federal careers soon, but will severely harm new Federal employees and encourage the best of them to leave at the first opportunity.

If that's what you want, then you just want to see your government fail.

James Sherk has it right: the voluntary turnover rate for public employees, including Federal employees, is well below the private sector rate. That tells us that Federal workers are very satisfied with the combination of pay, benefits, vacation, work environment, stress, workload, and difficulty at their jobs. That means that there's room for us to tighten up in one or more of those areas.

Posted by: Swat02

Posted by: LeoNoVA | March 9, 2011 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I work in the private sector and know that I would make approximately 25% - 35% LESS if I were to work in the public sector.

While there are many public sector jobs that do pay more than their private sector comparables, that is not true for all public sector positions. The more education and experience required by a public sector job, the more likely it is that that job will pay less than a comparable position in the private sector. I think federal workers stay at their jobs because the work is interesting and many have a sense of patriotism.

Posted by: dcheretic | March 9, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Federal retention rates were much lower 10 years ago when the economy was booming. The nature of public sector work is that you miss out on the booms but are sheltered from the busts.

As the unemployment rate lowers, and as Federal retirees start to leave as they age, you will see fewer and fewer people applying for government jobs and more people jumping to the private sector.

Congress should be running the country based on what will happen in the next 5 years, not what happened over the last 5 years. These policy changes will hardly affect those ending their Federal careers soon, but will severely harm new Federal employees and encourage the best of them to leave at the first opportunity.

If that's what you want, then you just want to see your government fail.

James Sherk has it right: the voluntary turnover rate for public employees, including Federal employees, is well below the private sector rate. That tells us that Federal workers are very satisfied with the combination of pay, benefits, vacation, work environment, stress, workload, and difficulty at their jobs. That means that there's room for us to tighten up in one or more of those areas.

Posted by: Swat02

Posted by: LeoNoVA | March 9, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

For many years, most have agreed that the current GS system is flawed. Yet, efforts to change it have largely failed. One thing is for sure, politicians and right-wing government hating NGAs are not going to be part of the solution. Anyone who uses "averages" to make their case is bogus on the face of the argument. Many federal employees have degrees and there is a higher preponderance of engineers and scientists than are employed in the private sector. Equating a McDonald's employee with an NIH scientist is just wrong.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | March 9, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Cut pay for all fed govt employees by 25%. Now.

Posted by: MDFan | March 9, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Federal pay and benefits are constantly compared to private sector pay and benefits. The peoblem is not that federal compensation is too high, but that private compensation is too low. At the beginning of my career I worked for a major corporation. My total compensation was better than federal compensation - better pay and better benefits such as fully company-paid-for health insurance and retirement. We are now engaged in a race to the bottom, where we are all (federal and privare employees) competeing with low wage workers in Communist China. This is exacerbated by the Republicans' war on workers and the middle class. The federal system is not perfect, but in general what I have as a federal worker is what ALL American workers should have - fair pay and fair benefits.

Posted by: Cosmo2 | March 9, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Would someone please point me toward those Federal Government agencies that pay their employees on average $101,628? I will have been with the USG for 30 years this May and am just now approaching those levels. Most people I work with don't earn anything near that amount, so who in the world are these people skewing the average? Congress perhaps?

Posted by: NataliaFox | March 9, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

People who malign working people who serve our country in various ways and pay taxes just like everyone else but also collectively negotiate for decent working conditions are SCABS. and they get their cues and talking points from this lunatic:

Posted by: jKO2010 | March 9, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Wisconsin all over again!
Keep Pushing the Same LIES in a Different Venue.

Nothing Republicans are doing will reduce the Deficit of the U.S. or states; Any cut in Public Employee Pay or in 1 State Raising Taxes on Low Wage and Seniors while Cutting like amounts in Taxes of Businesses.

You Don't lower a Deficit by Taking from the Workers and Giving more Tax Cuts to the Rich.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | March 9, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I think pay for performance isn't a bad idea in general, but I've seen first hand what superviors do to individuals, when they simply don't like them for no reason at all, or for not being a particular race, sex or sexual preference. Discrimination is very rampant in the federal government, and pay for performance would just lead to higher ups giving promotions and awards to their "like kind". I've seen a supervisor get an award for a generous amount, but his subordinates are the ones who bust their behinds to make his numbers look good and get nothing.

Posted by: ksimms1 | March 9, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"Come all you workers and hear what I say,
They're trying to plunder the eight-hour day,
Won by our forbears in a bloody campaign,
So rise up and be in the struggle again.

"So stand up united, let no one betray
Our right and our children's - the eight-hour day.

"Individual contracts were made for the fool,
If business divides us then business can rule,
If we let the government back what they say,
It's a twelve-hour shift and no penalty pay.

"This system they're making's a ticket to hell,
Working weekends and Christmas and New Year as well,
No time for the needs of our children and wives,
If we let productivity measure our lives.

"It's a user-pay's system as I have heard tell,
They're using us hard, so they'd better pay well,
Business and government walk hand in fist
And it's only in union we can resist.

"So come all you workers and fight this abuse,
Let overtime hours be our right to choose,
Fight to regain a fair penalty pay,
And grip like a bulldog the eight-hour day."


U N I O N S.

Posted by: jKO2010 | March 9, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

LeoNoVA wrote:

"Federal retention rates were much lower 10 years ago when the economy was booming. The nature of public sector work is that you miss out on the booms but are sheltered from the busts."

Turnover was higher when the economy was better, but it was still lower than in the private sector. And the larger point remains: we could cut public salaries now without fear of losing workers at a rate higher than the private sector loses workers.

Posted by: Swat02 | March 9, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree with cutting the Fed force by 10%. On the other hand, the Public Sector has more room for career growth and raises, plus they can get bonuses! The Feds do not get that at all!

Posted by: mugengsr1 | March 9, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm a benefits professional in the private sector and I can tell you governement salaries are not too high for skilled workers. Where the real cost is in federal employee's benefits. Most in the public sector will never have a pension and yet federal employees receive a full pention in their 50s and often continue working in the private sector. When the average longevity is over 80 that benefit is extremely expensive. We are looking at reducing social security, why don't we look at reducing this first before those who already don't have a pension shouldn't have that taken away. As we have seen pensions fail and costs drive companies into bankruptcy - the federal compensation needs to focus on the cost of these excessive benefits.

Posted by: pensionreform | March 9, 2011 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm a benefits professional in the private sector and I can tell you governement salaries are not too high for skilled workers. Where the real cost is in federal employee's benefits. Most in the public sector will never have a pension and yet federal employees receive a full pention in their 50s and often continue working in the private sector. When the average longevity is over 80 that benefit is extremely expensive. We are looking at reducing social security, why don't we look at reducing this first before those who already don't have a pension shouldn't have that taken away. As we have seen pensions fail and costs drive companies into bankruptcy - the federal compensation needs to focus on the cost of these excessive benefits.

Posted by: pensionreform | March 9, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The irony that below this article is a "blurb" about the 2 US Marshals (Federal employees) yesterday; 1 dead, 1 wounded. The ultimate sacrifice!

Posted by: stilldoin | March 9, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Dennis Ross spent a lot of his life making a huge amount of money keeping Disney employees from getting benefits, so it's no surpise that he has brought his Mickey Mouse approach to federal pay. I wonder how many of his average staff salaries are at his magical $25k per year in total pay. Probably not many. The Disney employees that he was attacking as a lawyer mostly spent their time working as restaurant, cleaning and crowd control workers for young families. The feds don't do that kind of work. Recently Forbes ran an article repeating these myths about Federal pay in the problems DOD has had insourcing federal work. The article then went on to cite two areas where the feds could not get the talent they needed or could not match private pay. Ross should compare how much Disney pays its software engineers to how much the federal government pays for the same work, or their facilities managers to federal building managers, buyers to government procurement specialists and other job to job comparisons. American employers have engaged in a 30 year assault on the American worker, destroying their unions, cutting their wages and benefits, by shutting factories and sending jobs to China or to right to work states in the South. Federal employees don't cut grass, clean laundry, flip burgers, sweep streets or do other menial work that now makes up the faster growing services work in the US. That's the kind of work most Disney employees do. If Americans want the full Disney experience, they can expect to stand in line for an hour to get through anything when they deal with the federal government, they just won't have any clowns around to entertain them.

Posted by: Smith66 | March 9, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

From factories and workshops, in long and weary lines,

From all the sweltering forges, and from out the sunless mines,

Wherever toil is wasting the force of life to live,

There the bent and battered armies come to claim what God doth give,

And the blazon on their banner doth with hope the nations fill,


Hurrah, hurrah, for Labor! for it shall arise in might;

It has filled the world with plenty, it shall fill the world with light;

Hurrah, hurrah, for Labor! it is mustering all its powers,

And shall march along to victory with the banner of Eight Hours!

Shout, shout the echoing rally till all the welkin thrill,


Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!





Posted by: jKO2010 | March 9, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation says in part, "They receive both a defined benefit and defined-contribution pension plan, can retire with full benefits at 56."

Where has Mr. Sherk been? The Reagan Administration changed the retirement system from CSRS to FERS back in the mid-1980's. Only employees hired before the changeover can retire with full benefits at 55 years old, and only if they have 30 years of service. Those hired since FERS was introduced do not have such a provision. If they retire at 55, they lose 1/2 of the benefit. You lose 5% for each year you are younger than 65 years old. Someone of his stature should know that, or he is simply out to lie to Congress.

Posted by: mencik | March 9, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Uh - remind us again of how many of those porn surfing feds over at SEC were fired? Was it ZERO?

I've worked on both sides, both federal civilian and private sector. Both sides have many hard working people, but there are also many differences. In my experience, people in the private sector work harder and longer than the feds, and they are much more accountable for what they do. People in the private sector have MUCH less job security than feds (despite the SIEU and AFGE rhetoric, it is practically impossible to fire a fed, even if the person is completely unproductive). Federal retirement benefits, especially under the older system CSRS, are ridiculously generous.

Obviously, we need a federal workforce, but any federal workforce we have is going to be expensive and inefficient - where have we ever seen bureaucracy that is not? Bureaucracy expands to fill the available space, so however big we let it get, AFGE will argue that size is essential for the good of the country - blah, blah, blah. So we should keep the federal workforce as small as possible. Obama is inflating the federal workforce like a hot air balloon - and we as taxpayers have to pay for that.

So, if you take away the extremist rhetoric, I think the Republicans have it right. We need to shrink the federal workforce and keep it small.

Posted by: hill_marty | March 9, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Sham hearings to spew the Koch Brothers script. This is a bold attempt to destroy the career civil service in order to create the unopposed corporate state. We must oppose the bought and paid for shills of the Republican/Tea Party at all levels.

They have bought the Congress and 4 members of the Supreme Court. They must be stopped before the only recourse is in the streets.

Posted by: fare777 | March 9, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

having been a govt employee,and the private sector until retirement it it no different. always the useless deadbeats that are in the minority.only those on the hill and most apointees are overpaid for sitting around mouthing BS while they do nothing

Posted by: pofinpa | March 9, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I don't disagree that there are a lot of folks making 40-70k for fed jobs that would seem to pay 30-50k in the private sector. That changes among the higher paid professional ranks though. I make less than my three best friends from law school, who faired no better than me academically (this statement is not scientific, but it's all I know).

Another problem fed managers face is that they are encumbered by federal veteran's and civil service hiring preferences, which force them to choose among lesser quality applicants (not trying to knock anyone here, just calling it like it is). A recently hired manager at this office was the only applicant for a job that pays 100k + per year, and I would have to believe that there is someone in the private sector who would have loved that job. So, there is always room to improve things.

However, after seeing how arbitrary management can be in dealing with personnel issues, it's scary to think the GOP wants to strip rights away and restore the spoils system. We've taken enough of a beating already with no pay increases for two years. This is getting to be ridiculous, and I am more thankful now than ever that some state senators in Wisconsin skipped town, keeping wingnut zeal in the spotlight.

Also, for years I have heard that our TSP was a model retirement system that the private sector would do well to emulate. That was part of the incentive for me to come here. Now they are saying it's a perquisite? Ever since the GOP began cutting taxes to ridiculous new levels in state and fed governments, 6 has become 9.

We let the GOP brow beat us into thinking that taxes were evil, and we sheepishly endorsed their position that they could help the economy by cutting taxes. In reality, the economy went into a ditch and now they are coming after the institutions of governement with a self-induced "We're broke" mandate.

If the GOP keeps this crap up, I am going to hang a shingle. I don't enjoy being so thoroughly under-appreciated.

Posted by: rangersmith1997 | March 9, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Kind of funny, having worked for the Fed Govt for thirty years, on the verge of bankruptcy several times, paying over $6,000 per year for my "generous" benefits. No one I know would even think about a Fed job in the past because the pay is too low, now everybody and their brother wants one after the bankers and politicians have totally destroyed the economy.

Posted by: B-O-B1 | March 9, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Unless they do somethig regarding the governments missions and duties, there ain't a lot to be gained by taking on employee pay and benefits. But something like this should start galvanizing those close to retirement or already eligible to retire to start planning on getting out. So the workforce is going to start shrinking big time soon.

Posted by: ronjaboy | March 9, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Federal employment is not the same as private sector employment. One makes a lot of sacrifice to work in government, and they can't be sued for employer abuse. There is a lot of worker abuse that occurs in government that wouldn't be tolerated in the private sector. If anything, government employees deserve to be paid higher than the private sector.

Posted by: glenmayne | March 9, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

As my father said, "You get what you pay for." Do the Rethugs really think that dumbing down the Federal Service is good for the country? Are they that naive, or that dopey?

Two quotes please:

I believe we need to attract a new generation of the best and brightest to public service and I believe that government can be a source of inspiration, not degradation.
Andrew Cuomo

I don't think that politics attracts the best and the brightest of America. It doesn't attract the most sincere people.
Dick Murphy (former politician)

Posted by: ch4gas | March 9, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

According to this article somebody owes me $75,000. They must be looking strictly at DC numbers because where I work you will not find to many who's "average" salary is over $110,000.

Posted by: MorningSky | March 9, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

As a taxpayer and private sector employee, I don't have a problem with the amount we pay Federal employees. I do, however, have a major problem with how many of them there are, doing silly, useless things that add no value to our economy and are not basic functions of government. Somewhere in America today a kindergarten teacher is struggling with a class of 28 children, and a construction worker is tying rebar in freezing weather. Our government takes money from their paycheck to pay bureaucrats for busy work in useless programs.

Posted by: Chippewa | March 9, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

After 20 years, I am leaving my government job and going to the private sector, where I will have better benefits and a better salary to do almost exactly the same thing.

These attacks on public workers as of late left no doubt in my mind that it was the right thing for me to do.

I'd rather sacrifice the last 20 years of my career than endure being scapegoated by congressional representatives who make more than I do.

If my current employer (the American People) doesn't care about what I have to offer, then I'll go to an employer that does.

Posted by: trambusto | March 9, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't congress help reduce the deficeit by reducing there salaries and paying for their own healthcare? Also federal employees like me are getting paid under 50,000.00 a year and can barely take care of our families. Can't they find somewhere else to take money from except the poor and middleclass!!

Posted by: jcofield777 | March 9, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Comparing federal government employees and those in the private sector is like comparing apples to oranges. They are very different. I hope in whatever discussions take place folks dive into the details and take time to understand the roles that government employees take on. For example, their jobs range from those managing the military, FBI agents, CIA officers, to astrophysicists. Many of these jobs are not commonly found in the private sector.

Posted by: carbon916 | March 9, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Are they also going to talk about their and their staff's salaries? If not why not?

Posted by: rlj1 | March 9, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I agree with AnnsThought: "Federal employees need to begin an information campaign to show the public just how hard they work, and how complex and difficult their work is". As for Congress, I would also appreciate if decisions were made on fact and not speculation. It would be nice if people understood statistics and did not use their knowledge or lack of knowledge to mislead by using an average (mean) instead of a median in making their arguments. What is pointed out here is that the analysis must be driven down to each position category. Max Stier stated it the best, "we decide as a nation what we want the government to do, it should be able to do those things effectively and efficiently". James Sherk, was the least effective, since he makes an assumption based on a simple and unprovable a simple correlation.

Posted by: moralcompass1 | March 9, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Koch Industries - Oil Commodities Trader and one of the ones responsible for $4/gallon gas that helped tank our economy a few years back. They're back again today with their latest scam to destroy our economy.

Donated $2,057,776 to Republicans in 2010. Donated over $11 million to Republicans since 1989.

Figures from

Posted by: avirakon | March 9, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Let's start by cutting congressional pay to 150% of the median income of American workers which is $47K. No lifetime health and pension benefits, no more than five staff members, one paid junket per year, office budget of $1 million per year which would include staff, no personal government vehicles ....

Posted by: knjincvc | March 9, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I am so sick of hearing that federal employees are overpaid. I work in HR and I can tell you for a fact that when I try to hire from outside of the government the applicants go on and on about how they can make $20k more in the private sector and balk at the pay offered. The comments about this great retirement benefit anger me as well. The current federal retirement system models the private industry. For the most part, what you get is what you ivest into a 401k type of plan. That change came in 1987. Do some research before you enlighten us with your expertise of the federal system. Meanwhile, the cost of our our health care plans go up significantly every year with no vision or dental included. If you want that, you have to pay for a seperate plan as our wages stagnate. I agree with one poster....didn't hear a peep about federal workers when the economy was good. Now that it is in the toilet, the lazy slob federal workers have too much.

Posted by: buzzy1 | March 9, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Reduce the number of general officers in the military,their retirement pay and benefits ... start at the top not the bottom.

Posted by: knjincvc | March 9, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm a benefits professional in the private sector.... Most in the public sector will never have a pension and yet federal employees receive a full pention....

What a cowardly thing to say. If you want a decent living, join a union and stand up for your right to have one. If you don't have a decent wage and some benefits to fall back on after years of service, then don't be jealous of those who do just because you are too cowardly to stand up for yourself.

Since your children don't a parent who can afford to stay home and take care of them nowadays, why don't you make them work too, for half-pay off the books since that is the era you are so nostalgic for and want to pull our country back into.

Posted by: jKO2010 | March 9, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"I agree with AnnsThought: "Federal employees need to begin an information campaign to show the public just how hard they work, and how complex and difficult their work is"."

Look, I'm not here to bash on federal employees. You'll find good ones, and lazy ones...just as you will in any private business. But spare me the 'federal workers work so hard' nonsense.

I can give a pretty good comparison on this and one of my best friends. I work in the private sector, he is a federal employee. Our education is very similar, so too are the jobs we hold. Our salaries are pretty similar, but let's compare benefits:

+ he gets at least 3 more holidays
+ he gets 1 additional week of paid vacation
+ he gets paid sick days (I get 0), and he can bank unused days for years to take extended paid absences later.
+ he will be able to retire when he is 56, I'll have to work until I'm 62 to gain at least a similar level of earnings for retirement.
+ he pays nearly nothing for his health care; I have to contribute 25% of the annual premium out of my salary.

If you work in the private sector and are already irritated by the lavish federal benefits, just's where it gets REALLY annoying.....

+ he gets to take a half-day off paid every month to give blood! (most of us in the private sector have to give blood during lunch or during our off time)
+ even though we have similar jobs, the federal government has determined his requires 'good fitness', so he gets to work out during his paid 'work time'! (I have to hit the gym at 6am like most private workers if I want a workout before reporting to work)
+ and finally, pretty much every day he's headed home at 4:30pm after exactly 8 our vocation, most like myself are working until 7pm-8pm, where 10+ hour days are routine.

So while I'm happy to keep paying taxes to support a competent federal workforce, please stop telling us how hard federal workers have it....most of us who know federal workers know better!

Posted by: dbw1 | March 9, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Sherk is not accurate in his statements. Federal retirement requires categories of years of service and high penilty for lack therein. The only way a FERS employee can retire at 56 is if age 56 is their mimimum retirement age and the have at least 30 years of service. Otherwise, their pension is reduced 5% for each year difference between retirement age and minimum retirement age. The pension is calculated by a complex formula and greatly reduces the retiree's income. FERS retirees are greatly dependent upon social security and their investments into the 401K Thrift Savings Program.

Posted by: girlsailor | March 9, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

According to Sherck, workers must be overpaid because turnover is low. But he neglects to mention that a higher turnover rate would actually cost the government money.

Additionally, he assumes that turnover is all about pay/benefits. Plenty of government workers enjoy public service.

Some also have very specialized knowledge that isn't easily transferred to private sector jobs. While workers in the private sector see job opportunities with competing companies and use current jobs to network for new jobs--these options aren't suited to most gov't jobs.

Posted by: writinron | March 9, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

This is another example of skewing the facts to generate negative public opion.

The real problem here is that private industry no longer invests in its employees (benefits/retirement) and only looks to the short term profit. And the drive is to remove what rights they have under the law (unionization, etc).

The probelm is private industry and a Congress that gave away bailouts while never holding them accountable for their financial irresponsibility -that lead to our financial situation.

Focus on federal employees as short term costs and avoid looking at cutting big budget programs outside the U.S.

Congress needs to do their job and get the FY12 budget and appropriations completed. Instead they waste time on continuing resolutions and infighting. The fy11 budget year is basically over if you look at the time line from appropriation to budget authorization to execution.

Posted by: girlsailor | March 9, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"he pays nearly nothing for his health care; I have to contribute 25% of the annual premium out of my salary"

Are you sure? He certainly doesn't work at my agency! I couldn't tell you the exact percentage without looking it up, but it's a very significant amount (and goes up every year), and far, far higher than I paid for (better) coverage in the private sector. (FWIW, I also earn less vacation time than in the private sector, but on the upside, I do get the opportunity to use it, which I rarely could back then.)

Posted by: Janine1 | March 9, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

As a federal attorney I am underpaid, my grade increases take two to three months to be processed, and my private sector counterparts make 3 or more time what I make.

My health insurance premiums have gone up, my co pays have gone up. My rent has gone up. And my salary is frozen.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | March 9, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Amazing. Those that have all ready made up their mind that public employees are getting something from the government they are not have accepted the retention argument completely. Sure makes sense that we start compensating them in a manner that causes a big turn over in employees. Really a good way to improve the efficiency of the buraucracy.

Posted by: sauerkraut | March 9, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

First of all, I am not a federal employee. No one in my family is, either. But I m so sick and tired of this ceaseless assault on the paychecks of those who make less than $250,000 a year, federal, state and private. It is no wonder that the tea-partiers and conservatives can make political hay out of lower taxes and smaller government all of the time, when at the same time they are driving people's wages and compensations into the ground. Rather than constantly striving for "fair compensation" whatever that is, maybe we should be striving for "fair taxation" i.e. people who are top wage-earners to be paying their fair share of taxes, especially when families earn over $250,000 a year. If I make over $250,000 a year and my taxes increase 10% it sure as the devil isn't going to hurt my bottom line as much as if I make $50,000 a year and my wages are reduced by 10%, and then I suddenly have to start paying for a pension and health insurance on top of it. Cease this awful assault on the little guy now, no matter if public or private!!!

Posted by: rtinindiana | March 9, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Lower job turnover in govt vs. private sector has been cited as evidence of overcompensation, but this conclusion may not be justified. The fact is that people providing government services are working for organizations that will never go out of business and change slowly. The profit-driven private sector thrives on change that causes a more turbulant labor market. Too much change too fast in, say, national defense can be dysfunctional.

Posted by: twevans1 | March 9, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I find the whole conversation about over paid feds humourous. A friend of mine fresh from grad school with a Masters', who works for a PRIVATE organization as an over glorified secretary started out with full benefits, and take home pay around $2200 every pay period. Take another individual fresh from grad/law school who chooses to work for the federal government. Mandatory starting is between GS-7/GS-9 and maybe if lucky GS-11. They will be lucky, after taxes and paying "benefits" to bring home $1300-1500. Than throw in the fact that they have student loans (average payment $900). No loan repayment for us. Let us not forget the wonderfully low rents available in MD/DC/VA. Oh that's right you are lucky if your rent is at $900 with utilities. That is mecca, but not reality. Usually you are paying $1000-1200 for a STUDIO. And fed workers are over paid they say. Let's not even get into utilities, necessities. God help you if you have kids; worse if you have kids, and are a single parent. Too many federal workers eek out a living, but take the brunt of the blame when the private sector is in shambles. And let us not forget who comprises a good size of the federal government....Veterans. But what does it matter? After all society seems to think federal employees (and Veterans) are and always have been expendable.

Than there is the other argument. They aren't paid as much, but have great benefits. Really? I pay into social security, my TSP (401k) only grows if I actually pay money into it (if I have the spare $$). Health benefits? Yeah, I actually pay more out of pocket for my portion than what I did when I worked at Starbucks. How is that for a reality check. Pension - Really what pension? It is minimal. I have to scrape money together to open a roth ira to make sure that maybe just maybe I have a retirement nest egg. And that's right, my retirement age....hmmm, let's see....I will be lucky if I can retire at 67. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

@dbw1 and others- you really don't know what you are talking about. Your little breakdown is a bit inaccurate. I know. I work 9+ hours a day (without factoring commuting); 25% of my pay check goes towards my portion of healthcare (let us not count what I shell out in copays); vacation? I can usually only afford two weeks a year because of the demands of my job. Retirement - again, sorry jackwad I can only retire after age 67 (its called social security idiot); I'm actually paid 15% less than contemporaries after 4 years on the job - and I do more; I'm not paid to work out (on my own time); I don't get a day off for giving blood. I never get to leave on time. And anytime away from the office has to be documented. So stop feeding the bs. The only federal workers I've seen living in the lap of luxury are PRIVATE contractors assigned to work in government agencies. So spare me the pissing contest and your pedestal.

Posted by: devilsadvocate3 | March 9, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

If, as so many Republicans contend, the federal workforce is overpaid and can be shamelessly targeted and unfairly subjected to having their contracts broken, and at will; if, as Tea Party activists and the Norquists of this world claim, there's no need for government in the American people’s lives, then I suggest that they travel to developing countries and savor the realities and limits of no/bad government. I suggest that if they choose to be ignorant or worse dishonest, if they choose to follow irresponsible pundits who clearly do not see the need for clean water even to accomplish their reckless fantasy—“I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub"-- then, they should no longer be able to use tap water, shower, do dishes, water their expensive lawns, wash their kids, pets and cars. They should no longer be authorized to receive mail at home or send their Christmas cards through the USPS; their children no longer allowed to watch Sesame Street, use school buses and classrooms, no longer expect to be cared for in their old age by minimally educated/trained hospice and hospital workers. (These low-wage workers will need a minimum of brain matters to properly dose the pills of our ailing relatives, including those of Tea Party’ers). Without a federal government to establish standards, they should no longer be able to drive our roads, potholed or not, fly their jets, rely on public transportation for their maids and nannies, be able to dial 911; no longer expect government licensed builders and contractors to work on their homes; no longer feel safe from unqualified drivers, contaminated Tylenol or E-coli meat; no longer expect police protection, no longer be able to use the courts to protect their family and property; no longer assume the State will be there to house and care for their dependent, handicapped, delinquent, psychotic, dangerous, ill, offspring, should this come to pass. How about getting rid of border agents, and bilingual consulate staff around the world who replace passports and rescue citizens? And surely, those would-be government shutters cannot presume that the FDIC (government entity, federal workforce) should continue to protect their savings (and those of their billionaire sponsors) through much decried regulation of the S&Ls. They should not assume the reimbursement of their $$ when banks fail; no longer expect that taxpayers (including government employees) will bail them out when insurance premiums fall short and threaten their $250K bank accounts.
Can we not be serious again? Can’t we see the red herring? Let’s not attempt to dismantle the infrastructure by eroding its human resources. This is a revenue crisis: let’s tax those who presume to use but refuse to pay for these services; let’s encourage public servants to serve competently, with adequate pay--and dignity.

Posted by: allersimplemag | March 9, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

What Public Employee Leaders Could Be Saying (But Aren't)

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
What Public Employee Leaders Could Be Saying (But Aren't)
Public employees and their leaders could publicly recognize the structural and demographic changes in the U.S. economy, and vow to tax the top 1% instead of supporting terribly regressive junk fees and sales tax increases on the working poor and the middle class tax donkeys who pay most of the taxes. The fact that they refuse to acknowledge these realities and refuse to take on the Financial Elites speaks volumes.

Here's what representatives of public-sector unions and public employees could be saying, instead of what they are saying:
There are over 20 million Federal, state and local government employees, and about 106 million private sector workers. We work for you, and for the good of our communities and of the nation. That is a big responsibility.

Back in the stock market bubble of 1995 to 1999, our wages, pensions and benefits were "sweetened," sometimes administratively and sometimes with voter approval. In the years since, what looked at the time like it would be paid by stock market gains rather than additional taxes has been revealed as wishful thinking.

We recognize that the U.S. economy has changed structurally, and it cannot return to 1999. We also recognize that the demographics of the nation have irrevocably changed since 1999, and thus it is wrong to burden future workers with pension and benefit costs which only made sense in an era of stock prices rising 10% or more annually.

In response to the shortfall between what we were granted in 1995-1999 and what the "new normal" recessionary economy can support, state and local governments have aggressively raised the most terribly regressive taxes: junk fees--parking tickets, vehicle license fees, and so on--and sales taxes.

These taxes are paid by everyone, rich and poor alike, and so they are deeply regressive.

Most of the Federal and state income taxes are paid by upper-middle class workers and small business, including sole proprietors and independent contractors. Almost 40% of all workers--those with lower incomes--pay no income tax at all. The top 1%, meanwhile, pay on average about 17% of their income in total taxes--less than half the rate paid by upper-middle class wage earners.

We understand that roughly two-thirds of the nation's households are measurably poorer in income and assets than they were a few short years ago. We understand that gains in productivity have not flowed to the incomes of most private-sector workers, but have instead flowed to the top via corporate profits and bonuses to the top slice of private-sector employees.

(part 1 or 2; continued)

Posted by: jp1110107 | March 9, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

We also understand that the American workforce is aging, and that demographics are dictating that we as a nation need to work longer if our retirement plans are to remain solvent.

In recognition of these realities, we in the public sector are voluntarily renouncing all the "sweeteners" which were awarded during the bubble years of 1995-1999, as they have been revealed as unaffordable. Our retirement and benefits will revert to the base year of 1995, before the bubble distorted the system and the economy, and be adjusted for inflation since then as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

In recognition of the nation's demographic realities, we are moving our retirement age up to those of the Social Security system: 62 for reduced benefits and 67 for full retirement benefits.

We understand that raising "stealth taxes" via junk fees and highly regressive sales taxes places great burdens on households which are already straining to make ends meet.

As a result, we are putting our political weight behind an alternative way to bolster state and local government finances: "make the top 1% pay the same tax rate as the rest of us." If the top 1% paid the same 40% rate as higher-income workers pay, then that would only be equitable.

We will also fight to reverse the regressive increases in sales taxes and junk fees which have been imposed on those least able to afford more taxes.

The super-wealthy--those households with incomes above $1 million annually, and with financial assets above $5 million-- are the most politically powerful group in the nation, and so getting them to pay the same tax rates as we pay will be a difficult battle. They own or control the political class, the tax attorneys, the tax-avoidance scams and the offshore accounts.

But taking more money from households who are struggling to get by with highly regressive taxes and junk fees is simply wrong, just as it is unjust that the super-wealthy avoid paying the same tax rates that ordinary workers pay.

We ask for your support in this campaign to reverse regressive taxes and make the top 1% pay the same tax rate as the rest of us.
What is not being said is this: public employees are dependent on, and benefit from, the State's monopoly to collect taxes and fees via coercion. Private-sector workers cannot rely on a coercive monopoly to extract their wages from others. This is the key difference between the public and private sectors.

To the degree that junk fees and taxes have been raised administratively by a political class that is beholden to the super-wealthy Financial Elites and cartel-State fiefdoms, then the imposition of regressive junk fees and other taxes is taxation without representation, i.e. tyranny.

Public employees benefit from this tyranny, private-sector workers do not. That is a key difference between the two.

(part 2 of 3; continued)

Posted by: jp1110107 | March 9, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Given that the political class only represents cartel-State fiefdoms and Financial Elites, then the only taxes which aren't a form of tyranny are those approved by voters.

While there is always a danger of "the tyranny of the majority" in the ballot box, it is certainly less tyrannical than administratively imposing regressive taxes and exorbitant junk fees on the working poor and the middle class tax donkeys.

The consent of the governed (and thus of the taxed) can be revoked at any time.

(part 3 of 3)

Posted by: jp1110107 | March 9, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

It is infuriating to see federal pay so inaccurately characterized. Federal workers are always a step behind the economy. The automobile mileage was upped awhile back and then lowered again. Now gasoline is higher than it's been in two year and the mileage still stands at 51 cents. Federal workers get bamboozled out of their money unless they know all pertinent government regs like lawyers. And people wonder why the federal workers depend on unions. Look up on the Internet one of the sites listing pay of federal employees. The salaries do look impressive sometimes, take mine for instance for working part-time an average of 26 hours a week. My salary is almost $35,000. So why did I actually make about $24,000 last year? Do the math and you will see that federal workers are victim of the anti-government propaganda machine.

Posted by: ikedbyike | March 9, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Broadly stating that federal employees are overpaid is like saying everyone in Texas is overpaid. Some federal jobs don't have a corresponding private position. Others aren't funded by taxpayers. My federal position is entirely fee funded; my work pays my salary and I actually make the government a profit which Congress squanders as they please.

When times are good the attrition rate is almost 30% with people jumping ship to make sometimes double what they make here. But now, no one's leaving. And like others have mentioned we're being ostracized for being overpaid when before we were the suckers who stayed with the lowly government job.

Posted by: Unamused | March 9, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

An easy way to save money for the federal government-
Pay congress half of what they get now, cut their retirement pay for all current and past members of the house and senate in half ,and eliminate their current health care - make them have the same health care options as the rest of the Feds!
That should save a bundle!

Posted by: 10bestfan | March 9, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

It should never be out of the spotlight, but let's add overstaffing and functionally inactive employees as well.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 9, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Alright! So we get to hear over-paid, rich Republicans blast hard-working, under-paid people? Yippie!

Best of all, Republicans will strictly use talking points given to them by Fox News. Hard hitting info right there

Posted by: Bious | March 9, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

So while I'm happy to keep paying taxes to support a competent federal workforce, please stop telling us how hard federal workers have it....most of us who know federal workers know better!

Posted by: dbw1

Sounds to me like you should have negotiated a better job for yourself. Your comparisons don't sound valid. Feds have exactly 1/2 hour for lunch, on their time. Your friend would not leave after working exactly 8 hours unless he is falsifying his time sheet.

Posted by: glenmayne | March 9, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I get paid less than 35K a year. I have a college degree and three years prior experience. I also live in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country. How in God's name am I overpaid?

Posted by: u_morris2006 | March 9, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I get paid less than 35K a year. I have a college degree and three years prior experience. I also live in one of the highest cost of living areas in the country. How in God's name am I overpaid?

Posted by: u_morris2006 | March 9, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

SO, outside of residing in the Heritage Foundation - what are Sherk's credentials? Oh, that he is an economist? That he draws the lines that he is paid to draw? He smiles because he knows he is being paid well to speak on something he knows little about - it just sounds good in sound bites.

Tell you what, you come work my job and I'll go work yours. We'll see who quits first.

Posted by: zendrell | March 9, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Dear American,
The proposals to cut the federal force are simply attacts to your own country. We Americans have been very proud of our government. Everything needs to be fixed and there is always continuous improvement (such as revising pay scales, etc, etc). However, things like eliminating benefits, lowering salaries, cutting the government by certain percentages) do not get to the root of the problem. These moves are opportunistic and not patriotic. We should be proud of our government employees, regardless of our political orientation. As Americans we should support an effective government. That thing that the government employees are overpaid is a lie. This is an excuse to cut benefits and weaken the middle class that is the engine of this country. Look back in history and see the power of the middle class. Simply by coming up with these proposals you are going to be voted out of Congress very soon. This is the power of democracy. The US deserves much better than a Congress who does not work for the people of this country. Let's stop this damage now before it gets out of control. Education is essential to move forward a country. Anyone who thinks about cutting education is against its own country.

Posted by: Peter72 | March 10, 2011 12:52 AM | Report abuse

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