Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Working for Uncle Sam

Neither my husband nor I have ever worked for a government entity. Consequently, we have no pensions (which are becoming rare, unless you work for a public employer). I am not whining; this is not a surprise to either one of us and my main retirement plan is to have Bruce keep working until he drops dead and then to throw myself on the mercy of our son. I have a back-up plan, of course. It involves me dying first. And my Plan C is a complicated program that begins with me sending out broadcast emails to all my friends and asking them for recipes involving cat food.

Funny thing, government jobs. The average federal employee earns a salary of $79,000. The average private-sector worker? About $50,000. Controlling for educational differences, federal employees are still paid an average of 22% more per hour than those in the private sector. And I haven't mentioned benefits. Once you add those in, federal workers earn about 40% more than private-sector suckers. (Did I type that out loud?)

Job security? Bruce, who regularly has recruiters and CEOs beating his door down to try to get him to come and work for them, has lost multiple jobs. The economy, office politics, you name it. Federal employees, of course, don't have to worry about the economy and civil service rules make it almost impossible to dislodge a federal employee for anything, including bad behavior, after they've passed their probationary period. From 2007 to 2009, unemployment in the private sector rose from 4.2 to 9.4%; the percentage of federal employees who lost their jobs peaked at 2.9%.

Allow me to walk a tightrope here. I believe I can claim that I am not whining about the salary and benefits that Bruce and I receive and yet still gripe that feds are, for the most part, overcompensated. After all, Bruce produces a product that people want and are willing to pay for. I provide a desirable service for which I am compensated. Federal employees, on the other hand, are paid from money that comes right out of my pocket (and all too often perform services that I wish they wouldn't). If the bloated bureaucracy that is the federal behemoth is overstaffed and if that staff is overpaid, I believe I can stomp my foot and point a finger without there being a reflection on me. And that is what I am doing.

I have not mentioned non-federal public employees--those employed by state and local governments. The feds want to shell out another $50 billion to keep "firemen and teachers" employed. Really? If things are bad at the state and local levels are the first cuts made going to be to get rid of firemen and teachers? (Although, in all honesty, education is another area of great bloat and could use some selective cutting.) Let 'em fail, I say. I want to stop shoving the hard choices forward, putting off until tomorrow what we ought to do today. If your government has grown beyond your means, the solution seems clear (well--clear to everyone outside of Washington). I know this means pain and suffering. Better pain and suffering now, though, than a crash of inconceivable proportions tomorrow. And better for us to take our medicine than to push it off on the generation now in high school who have done nothing (yet) to deserve what we're creating for them.

More later...

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