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The Ruling Class Takes Care of Its Own

The excess pay and benefits are outrageous — and unaffordable.

by
Tom Blumer

Bio

August 18, 2010 - 12:00 am
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It’s safe to say that the disconnect between the resourceful, wealth-producing private sector and the resource-draining, wealth-destroying public sector has never been greater. In his seminal, insightful essay at the American Spectator, Angelo M. Codevilla of the Claremont Institute characterizes the former as “the country class” and the latter as “the ruling class.”

To see that the ruling class currently has the upper hand, one need look no further than an August 10 USA Today report covering federal, state, and private sector compensation filed by Dennis Cauchon.

Here’s the rundown in round numbers:

  • The average civilian federal worker earns — I’m sorry, “gets paid” — over $81,000 a year. After adding in almost $42,000 for benefits, he or she receives total compensation of over $123,000.
  • For state and local government employees, the analogous figures are a shade over $53,000, almost $17,000, and nearly $70,000.
  • Private sector workers average about $50,500 in pay, $10,500 in benefits, and just over $61,000 in total comp.

For those keeping score, the average federal worker — oops, “employee” — is paid 60% more than his or her private sector counterpart, receives bennies that are four times greater, and gets a total compensation package that is more than twice as high.

You know things are out of whack when including UAW workers at government-controlled General Motors in the federal government’s numbers (they aren’t; GM — get ready for this — calls itself “a private company” in its regulatory filings) would more than likely bring those averages down.

According to Cauchon, the status quo’s defenders claim that “the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.” I don’t think so, because USAT’s reported figures are averages, not medians. While there are upper limits on what federal workers can be paid, a relatively small but numerically influential group of extremely productive and successful private-sector participants makes quite a bit more. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the federal-private differentials using medians are even greater than those seen above using averages.

Regardless, Cauchon in effect reports that for the time being the differentials, no matter how calculated, are on track to grow:

Last week, President Obama ordered a freeze on bonuses for 2,900 political appointees. For the rest of the 2-million-person federal workforce, Obama asked for a 1.4% across-the-board pay hike in 2011, the smallest in more than a decade. Federal workers also would qualify for seniority pay hikes.

So there will be a drop-in-the-bucket freeze accompanied by pay hikes for everyone else. Big deal.

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