Out of Control Policy Blog

Public Perception and the Public/Private Employment Gap

Some interesting findings from a new Rasmussen poll on public vs. private sector employment:

Compared to the average government worker, most Americans think they work harder, have less job security and make less money.

In fact, 59% of Americans say the average government worker earns more annually than the average taxpayer, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 15% don't believe that to be true, while another 26% are not sure. Among those who have close friends or relatives who work for the government, the belief is even stronger: 61% say the average government worker earns more than the average taxpayer. Feeding that belief is the finding that 51% of all adults think government workers are paid too much. Only 10% say they are paid too little, while 27% say their pay is about right.

What I found even more interesting was a later section that discusses the boom in federal employment and the use of stimulus spending to prop up public employment in cash-strapped states.

USA Today reported last week that "federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time in pay and hiring during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector." In the first 18 months of the recession, the number of federal workers earning $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19%, not counting bonuses and overtime. That means, the newspaper says, that the average federal worker earns $71,206, compared to $40,331 in the private sector.

Other data shows that government workers are more likely to stay with their current employers for a long time. Fifty-five percent (55%) of government workers expect to have the same employer in five years. Only 27% of those who work for someone else expect such longevity.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters say tax cuts are a better way to create jobs and fight unemployment. Only 21% believe that additional stimulus spending is a more effective tool.

President Obama hopes to use money still unspent from the $787-billion economic stimulus plan to fight the nation's 10% unemployment rate, and one of the ideas on the table is to channel money to states to keep them from laying off public employees. But just 22% of Americans favor providing federal bailout funds to states with serious financial problems.

This federal hiring spree and commensurate push to insource (de-privatize) federal positions currently contracted out are indeed troubling, as I elaborated here, here and here.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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