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  • Are Federal Workers Overpaid? Watch Heritage vs the Unions Wednesday

    The Federal Times calls it a “steel cage match” in which “two wonks enter, one wonk leaves.” Congressional hearings are never that exciting, but Wednesday’s House Oversight Committee hearing on federal pay does promise some spirited debate. At issue is how the federal government pays its civilian workers—and, more importantly, whether it pays them too much. Leaders of the Office of Personnel Management and National Treasury Employees Union will confront critics of federal pay for the first time in public. Those critics – “in the red corner” as the Federal Times puts it – are Heritage’s James Sherk and Andrew Biggs of AEI.

    Defenders of the federal pay system will have a difficult task during the hearing. They must explain the following:

    • (a)    why federal workers earn 10 to 20 percent higher wages than private workers with the same skills
    • (b)   why private workers who switch into the federal government see a larger wage increase than private workers who find another private sector job
    • (c)    why federal workers earn benefits more generous than even workers in large private sector firms
    • (d)   why much greater job security in the federal sector is never part of pay comparisons
    • (e)    why federal workers quit their jobs at just one third the rate of private sector workers
    • (f)     why most federal jobs have waiting lists

    With the weight of scholarly evidence bearing down on them, the smart money is not on the government or the unions in this “cage match.”

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Are Federal Workers Overpaid? Watch Heritage vs the Unions Wednesday

    1. soopermexican says:

      like a good masked wrestling match – "and whoever loses… will be UNMASKED! In the ring!!!"

    2. Big E says:

      When Mr. Sherk testifies, he needs to address one point I rarely, if ever hear brought up in the debate over government pay. Salaried government workers work 40 hours a week, maximum. Salaried workers in the private sector commonly work more than 40 hours a week, even though they get no overtime or extra pay. When you break down the pay on a per hour basis, the difference between public and private pay is even wider than if you only look at the total amount of pay.

      • DoD - Wash DC says:

        You could not be more wrong. I am a first level supervisor for DoD and I have 10 direct reports. We average approximately 10 hours per pay period per employee of uncompensated overtime. During a crunch much more. I have an employee detailed to the middle east for 6 months. His bonus $8,650.00

    3. Mike McGahan, Washin says:

      The pay is a problem, but the real major problem is the growth of Burearcracy. When it happens in the private sector (and it does) the company wither re orgainizes or goes broke. In government – they first become inefficient, then incompetent and finally corrupt. Can happen pretty fast too.

    4. Pingback: Are Federal Workers Overpaid? Watch Heritage vs the Unions Wednesday

    5. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Mike – you said it!

      We are way passed inefficient, light years into incompetent and now they are fully corrupt. Mostly in lining their own pockets with extreemily high salaries and even higher benefits.

      What they pull down is criminal and has long broke the public trust.

    6. Mary, NY says:

      The public anger toward over-compensated public employees is legitimate, but it is not necessarily the public sector unions that have led to the salary bloat. For example, in the Federal government, approximately 30% of the Federal workforce receives ‘administratively determined’ (i.e., AD) salaries. Their pay does not rise in lock-step with COLAs and step increases, and they are rarely members of a public unions. However, their salaries are by far some of the highest in the Federal sector.

      Each federal agency may set its own AD pay rules, and protected from public scrutiny, some agencies have allowed their top salaries to rise to the maximum allowed under law: $400,000, the current salary limit for the President of the United States! That’s more than 2 times higher than any Congressional salary, or any listed in the readily available pay scales for GS, WG, and even executive service (ES) Federal workers. One example of these excesses is to be found at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). Until 2008, its top salaries were limited to $192,000, about the top limit of executive service employees. In that year an administration and faculty concerned about how ‘low’ their salaries were compared with private universities, requested that Congress raise the pay limit at USUHS to $400,000. (Latest salary schedule is at http://www.usuhs.mil/chr/som-sep-2010.pdf). Hiding it in the middle of a Defense appropriations bill, Congress obliged. The culprit here is not the public unions, but good old-fashioned cronyism, plain and simple. No collective bargaining necessary, just ‘you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”, a simple rule that is applied with equal frequency in both the private and public sectors.

    7. ID Epi Doc, Birmingh says:

      While I tend to agree with most of what is said above, I do think there may be one factor in the specific USUHS example provided fails to recognize. The review of university salaries most probably identified that the civilian faculty (primary physicians and very senior and well externally funded PhD types) were well under their contemporaries in the universities reviewed. One might think about how difficult it is to retain top talent at a university medical school and just because this is a publicly funded (federal) university does not mean the individuals should be denied comparable compensation. The average highly funded senior Physician Scientist at a major university makes well over 200k and frequently those in senior administrative positions administrating major divisions and research activities often make greater than 500K. This does not include those faculty who are also practicing physicians in specialties such as OB, Surg, Cardiology and Neurology, who also average above the 200K mark. Finally, it is also important to recognize the offset of two factors, 1) the % of faculty at USUHS which is made up of Active Duty Uniformed Services personnel which is much less costly than in general than civilian faculty., 2) the fact that the overall cost to train physicians and scientist is much lower via in-service training (via USUHS) verse out-service training (public or private universities other than USUHS), a sizable savings. That is just my opinion, I could be wrong

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    10. William A. Bogardus says:

      Would love to know where these guys get their information. I currently hold a position with the government that does not even pay half of what my counterpart would start out at in the private sector. There is certainly something to say for job security. Not sure what that would be worth if calculated as a dollar amount. As for health insurance. I do pay 75% of what I payed in the private sector but the insurance is not as good. As for a 401k for retirement, the government does not match as much as the private sector but i can put more of a percentage of my own money in then i could have in the private sector. Again, don't know where they come up with this info but it is not correct for the average civilian working for the government. Maybe at the congressional level, or ES & SES levels of government. But anything below a GS-15, its simply un-true. Certainly makes a good arguement to get votes for elections though.

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    12. Vickie-Ambler, PA says:

      As a current federal employee, who was previously employed in the private sector for 25 years as an Information Technology Project Manager in Higher Education with a Master's Degree in Computer Science; I can attest I am not overpaid.My current federal position is in Customer Service at $41,383. The government should do a better job of matching individuals in federal positions based on skill set, education and experience–I am hoping to secure a federal position which will utilize my IT background. I am not a Veteran, therefore I do not receive hiring preference/priority for positions to which I have applied. My health insurance payments are the same as what I paid in private sector–understanding my private sector pay was close to three times my current salary. Federal 401k (TSP) match does not compare to what private sector offered.

      Pay grades should be based on acquired skill sets, education and professional experience.

    13. Johta says:

      " Federal workers make less than comparable workers in the largest US companies. (Let's make a fair comparison based upon the size of the organizations involved.)

      Companies with more than 50,000 employees have an average salary of $75,015.

      Federal Gov't workers make an average of $67,954.

      This is according to the non-partisan payscale.com (see payscale.com/research/US)

      BTW… for medium to small companies the average is around $55,000 (depending upon company size)

      State & local gov't average salary is around $52,000

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