Federal employees: Have a pulse, get a raise

When you are forced to deal with an agency of the federal government, you expect to stand in line or be placed on hold for hours on end, only to be “helped” by a worker who is grumpy, bored, or has “an attitude.”

I’m generalizing, to be sure, but there is a reason that you get a knot in the pit of your stomach before dialing or visiting a branch of the federal government.  It’s not a pleasant experience.  It’s on my list of least favorite things to do, somewhere between going in for a colonoscopy and having a root canal.

The reason is quite simple.  On average, these folks are coddled, overpaid spoiled brats that enjoy
benefits and vacation time most of us can only dream about.  On top of that, all they have to do is show up for work on time and keep breathing in order to keep those cushy jobs.  Once hired, they are automatically promoted up the government ladder to the next pay scale and they are impossible to fire.  The public employee unions will rain down fire and brimstone on anyone who tries to dump some of the dead weight.

Never has the gap between the public and private sector been in a sharper focus than during the current economic recession.  A number of recent studies bear that out.    On Monday, the Commerce Department announced that personal incomes fell across the U.S. last year except in areas with a high concentration of federal government and military jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, in the big metro areas with populations more than a million, only three showed a net rise in personal income.  Not surprising, Washington, D.C. tops the list.  In fact, the sprawling federal government added 250,000 workers in the past 1 ½  years.  The other two metro areas to show a net gain in personal income have a large military presence: San Antonio, Texas and Virginia Beach, Va.  In all three of these areas, the gains went to government workers, while private sector compensation fell.

Just how big is the gap in compensation between the public and private sector?  It is huge!

Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in 2009,  the average pay for civilian government workers was $81,258, compared to an average only $50,462 for the nation’s private sector employees.  The gap is even worse when you add in the cost of benefits.  The average federal worker’s total package was a whopping $123,049, more than double the private sector average of $61,051.

Last week, President Obama tried to impress us by ordering a freeze on bonuses for his 2,900 overpaid political appointees.   At the same time, he had the gall to request a 1.4 percent across-the-board pay hike for the other two million federal workers, who are also eligible for additional seniority pay hikes.   Yikes!

The Heritage Foundation produced a new study that reveals how these seniority pay hikes are killing us.  The basic federal pay scale known as the “GS” covers roughly 70 percent of federal civilian employees.  It consists of 15 pay grades and 10 steps within those pay grades.  Employees advance through the steps by essentially staying alive, so that 1.4 percent across-the-board pay hike masks the true extent of the recommended pay increase.

We need a freeze (not an increase) on federal wages that includes the seniority hike until we get these wages in line with the private sector.

The Heritage study also found that since the start of this recession in December 2007, private sector employment has fallen by 6.8 percent, while federal government employment has actually increased by 10 percent.    Even if you factor in government job losses at the state and local level, governments have added a total of 64,000 jobs while the private sector has lost 7.8 million.

Companies have downsized.  Why not expect the government to do the same?

This week, Nancy Pelosi added insult to injury by ordering Congress back from the August recess, at great expense, in order to pass another bailout package for states that refuse to trim their payrolls and balance their budgets.

When governments grow the private sector withers.  These bloated governments suck the very life out of our economy.  Last week, I encountered a nervous friend who told me that his company had 18 employees two years ago.   Now it’s down to one, him.

Obama and the Democrats who control Congress are too out of touch to feel our pain.  Most have spent little or no time in the private sector.  They throw out a few crumbs to the unemployed and expect us to return them to power.   Fat chance!

9 thoughts on “Federal employees: Have a pulse, get a raise

  1. What a terrible misinformation of facts you have stated in this article.

    You are partially right when you say it is difficult to deal with gov agencies. I know ,I work in it. But strides are being made and there are many changes occurring.

    I do not consider myself nor those in my agencies to be spoiled brats. I work with many hard working and dedicated people who strongly believe in what they do. Yes, like any organization, we have our share of lazy slugs, whiners, and excuse making babies but now you put all of us on trial for others actions. And FYI, there are those employees that do in fact get terminated for just cause.

    Your portrayal of the pay scale is grossly inaccurate. If one is hired for a position as a GS-9, they start as a GS-9 step one. Then for one year, that person then goes to a GS-9 step 2. They get annual raises until they reach step four. For step five and six, they have to wait two years to get a raise. At step seven and eight, they have to wait three years, and finally at step nine and ten, they have to wait for four years until they max out at the GS-9 step ten level. They then get no more raises nor do they go to the next GS level.

    Why did you play the numbers to make it look like I am gong to get a GS-15 pay? That is so incorrect and unfair to portray it that way….maybe you should be terminated.

    Furthermore, if you did your homework which is evident that you have not, you would see that federal employees have never received accurate cost of living increases. They have always been one to one and a half points below the posted rates..e.g.Clinton and Bush were notorious for shortchanging employees.

    As for the benefits, they are not as glamorous as you are trying to sell them. I have to pay a very large amount towards my health benefits and they are really not that good. I pay all this money so that when I use my benefits, I still have to pay a very large deductible before hand.

    And as for my pension, it is very bad. Lucky for me I was able to contribute to a 401k plan because I would not be able to sustain myself upon retirement.

    I will agree with you that our government is “OVERLY BLOATED” and needs to be downsized. If that was the basis for your article you could have done so by stating the truth. Not distorted facts.

    You want integrity out of your government but yours seems to be missing…who casts the first stone??


  2. The federal payroll increase is not adding to the deficit since it is being funded by the freeze in Social Security indexing. Though I do not recall any freeze in the increases in the amounts that I paid into the Social Security system?

    November will not get here soon enough.


  3. You are not comparing apples to apples here in your generalizations.

    The government hires more college educated people then the private sector.

    The government doesn’t operate a fast food industry of minimum wage earners. To say the average pay is $81k for Fed employees and $52k for the general population is misleading.

    How many PhD’s are employeed by Burger King, McDonalds or work as dishwashers etc?

    I am not saying all Fed employees are smart but they did get a degree which results in higher salaries.

    You should compare Fed accountants with private sector accounts, or engineers to engineer, contracting officers to contracting officers.

    Then you would be comparing apples to apples. What does the average Boeing, Chrysler, General Motors employee make, including benefits. I would bet more than a Fed employee.


  4. Hi Jane,

    I’m one of those federal coddled, spoiled brats who chases drug traffickers trying to sell their product to kids in your neighborhood. Although there is always someone to fit every stereotype, have you thought that your sterotyping of federal workers might not be unlike that of the stereotyping of minorities, Republicans, lawyers (everyone hates them until they need them), and, for that matter, journalists?


  5. George,

    I said I was generalizing, okay? Columns are limited by word count. That’s why I have the blog.

    If I could be king of this country for one day, I would begin by cutting the federal workforce in half and completely eliminate several federal agencies. Then, I would increase the size of our military and dramatically increase the number and pay (based on performance) for ICE workers. Also, I would allow you to do your job without one hand tied behind your back.

    The new Heritage study is quite revealing. There are a FEW jobs that do not receive enough compensation but very few.


  6. Re: The basic federal pay scale, known as the “GS,”…

    Why do you think they changed it from “Civil Servant” to “Government Servant”, anyway? GS serve the government, not the civilians.


    civil adjective 1 [ attrib. ] of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters : civil aviation. . (of disorder or conflict) occurring between citizens of the same country. . Law relating to private relations between members of a community; noncriminal : a civil action. . Law of or relating to aspects the civil (or code) law derived from European systems. 2 courteous and polite : we tried to be civil to him. 3 (of time measurement or a point in time) fixed by custom or law rather than being natural or astronomical : civil twilight starts at sunset. DERIVATIVES civilly adverb ORIGIN late Middle English : via Old French from Latin civilis, from civis ‘citizen.’


  7. In defense of Agent Officer Talos and Ms Chastain and to generalize even more:

    1. The closer the Federal employee is to DC, the less productive.

    In DC there are entire buildings of Federal employees who produce almost nothing.

    2. The (insert Federal agency) has many non-productive employees who could be removed with no effect.

    The military has copious non-warriors who could be removed with no effect. (The mission is to kill bad guys and break things, what have you done towards the mission, today?)

    The FBI and ATF and most law enforcement agencies have many non-agents who could be removed with no effect.

    (With certain exceptions) If you ‘serve’ 30 years without spending a day on the front line, how much did you actually serve the people?

    A good rule of thumb is the support-to-front line ratio. How many support personnel are there to every person on the front line? If S2FLR is more than 1:1, there is a problem.

    3. Since we expect the most from them because they do the important work, we should equip them and pay them appropriately.

    I think that we should shower money and equipment on front line warriors, front line spies, front line law enforcement officers, front line teachers (not educators, if you know your Latin), front line firemen, and front line emergency medical personnel. They serve the citizens, the citizens should pay.



  8. NOT FAiR. NO COLA (cost of living allowance) for Senior Citizens this year but Federal employees get raise. Why? Don’t both groups have the same cost of living increase?


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