More Highly Paid Federal Employees

November 14, 2010

Here we go again with another report on federal government employee pay outpacing pay in the private sector. A recent analysis from USA Today notes the following bit of information:

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office.

For example, the report notes that the number of federal employees making $150,000 in 2005 was 7,420; in 2010, it is 82,034. This is in light of previous news that the average federal employee was making double the compensation of the average private sector employee.

All of this occurs at a time of economic stagnation where the unemployment rate remains near 10 percent and the federal debt is near $14 trillion. Never forget the fact that taxpayers, the same taxpayers who are making less on average, are the ones paying for all of this.

The term ‘public service’ has often been used in the past to imply that government employees are making a sacrifice to serve the public. Perhaps, in light of these trends, the term should be scrapped.

Stopping ‘Discovery’

August 26, 2010

With the recent court order blocking certain expanded federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research (expanded last year by President Obama), comes inevitable criticism from those who warn of stifling ‘scientific progress.’ But such attempts typically rely on a rationale justifying the means by the ends.

Take for example a recent USA Today article noting how the head of the National Institutes of Health was “stunned” by the ruling:

“I was stunned, as was virtually everyone here at NIH,” agency director Francis Collins said. … “Stem cell research offers true potential for scientific discovery, and hope for families. This decision has just poured sand into that engine of discovery.”

Not mentioned in the article was the obvious fact that these scientists have a vested monetary and career interest in seeing federal funding continue. The report noted that the ruling would halt 143 grants worth $95 million and 22 grants totaling $54 million.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=stem+cell+research+funding&iid=4202180″ src=”″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]What this order, in reality, does is stop an unethical and unconstitutional use of federal taxpayer money. The ruling was based on the fact that such extended funding necessarily goes against a ban on using taxpayer money to fund the destruction of embryos. And though the Constitution gives power to Congress to “promote the Progress of Science,” it limits this promotion to “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” It doesn’t authorize the federal government to subsidize questionable research.

Even leaving aside the ethical and constitutional reasons for blocking this funding, a side benefit of this injunction is to freeze one area of federal spending. That alone is a desirable outcome given our mounting debt.

Bailed-out Banks Reduced Lending, Gave Raises

April 22, 2010

Want another example of the unintended consequences of government policies? Here’s this revelation from a USA Today/American University study:

Banks that received federal assistance during the financial crisis reduced lending more aggressively and gave bigger pay raises to employees than institutions that didn’t get aid, a USA TODAY/American University review found.

Here’s a graphic from the USA Today story displaying the lending gap:

What’s particular disturbing about all of this is that one of the major intended purposes of the bailouts was to increase lending on the part of banks — however dubious that intention might have been. Leave it to a government program to result in the exact opposite of its intentions.

Bad Track Record on Deficits

April 17, 2010

Here’s an interesting graphic from a recent USA Today story displaying the unfortunate rarity of a non-deficit year for the federal government in the last nearly 70 years (click on it for a better view):

Another Government/Private Sector Pay Comparison

March 5, 2010

Still not convinced that government workers make more than their counterparts in the private sector? A new USA Today report may help convince you. The paper’s recently released analysis of federal data notes some interesting details.

I’ve written on the pay gap several times before (here and here and here), but this new report explicitly shows a side-by-side comparison of like jobs. It found that in 83 percent of jobs, the average federal pay is higher — not to even mention the disparity in benefits. For example, the average secretary working for the federal government made $44, 500 in 2008, while the average private-sector secretary made only $33, 829 — a disparity of more than $10,000.

Here is a sample from a chart from the report:

Job Federal Private Difference
Airline pilot, copilot, flight engineer $93,690 $120,012 -$26,322
Broadcast technician $90,310 $49,265 $41,045
Budget analyst $73,140 $65,532 $7,608
Chemist $98,060 $72,120 $25,940
Civil engineer $85,970 $76,184 $9,786
Clergy $70,460 $39,247 $31,213
Computer, information systems manager $122,020 $115,705 $6,315

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, USA TODAY analysis

As I’ve noted before, free from market forces, government (particularly the federal government with its ability to print more money) manages to escape the need to actually provide services in an efficient manner. The taxpayers are stuck paying for the bloated payroll and benefits.

Can any of this be justified in a time of recession when the unemployment rate is still near 10 percent? Can it even be justified in a time of economic boom? Doubtful.

Federal Government Pay Up Amid Recession

December 17, 2009

Here is yet another article reporting on the growing size of government’s payroll, even in the midst of recession: For feds, more 6-figure salaries. And here are the most notable quotes from the USA Today story:

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

The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

Free from the pressures of competition (and voluntary customers), government continues its growth.

Top Source of State Revenue = Federal Aid!

May 7, 2009

This article from USA Today, notes that for the first time federal dollars outweigh other categories of internally-collected money in terms of state and local government revenue. That’s right, the federal government now is the chief source of income for the states and localities!

Here’s the article’s breakdown of sources of revenue for the states:

Top revenue sources for state and local governments in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year:

Federal grants: 15%

Income taxes: -11%

Property taxes: 2%

Sales taxes: -2%

Other taxes: 2%

Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

Anyone else worried about this?