The concept of the public “servant” seems to be a concept of the past now that the federal government has beefed up wages and benefits to eclipse private-sector compensation. This is the supreme irony: The well-paid public sector depends on the relatively lower paid private sector to generate the wealth that can be taxed to pay for their salaries and benefits. In the process, we have established government work as an elite class in the labor market.
A USA Today analysis (August 10, 2010) of wage and compensation date from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that federal workers can earn as much as twice their private sector counterparts when benefits like retirement and health care are factored in. According to reporter Dennis Cauchon:
Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.
The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.
Public employee unions say 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.
“The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison,” says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks otherwise. “Can’t we now all agree that federal workers are overpaid and do something about it?” he asks.
And some pundits still wonder why the Tea Party movement is so active!