Federal Workers vs Private Sector (Taxpayers Get the Shaft)

In my “Crazytown” column, I celebrated Trump’s most recent accomplishments.  These are things other presidents should have done, but most didn’t.  They just kept making the same old mistakes, hoping for different results.

One of the president’s recent moves was to cancel the scheduled pay raise for federal civilian employees.  When I pointed out that recent studies have shown that federal workers, on average, are paid 80 percent more that their counterparts in the private sector, some took exception.

President Obama also recognized this disparity and instituted a partial federal wage freeze between 2011 – 2013.

It has been said there are three kinds of lies:  lies, damn lies and statistics.   You don’t have to look very far to discover studies on this subject that come up with widely different results.  Therefore, it is useful to know who is conducting the studies and how they get their statistics.

The one I used was produced in 2017 by Chris Edwards, director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Insitute, a libertarian think tank.


Let’s look at one on the opposite end of the scale:  By far, the largest disparity was an outlier done by the Federal Salary Council which found that, in 2015, federal workers were underpaid by 35%.


Edwards study was transparent.  He used figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that compared average wages and benefits for our federal civilian employees to their private sector counterparts.  The FSC study, on the other hand, was based on complex and nontransparent calculations that many consider deeply flawed and heavily biased.

Cato, to be sure, advocates for individual liberty and limited government.  It is one of this nation’s most respected public policy organizations and, as such, doesn’t play games with statistics.

The FSC is a different story.  It was created in 1990 as an advisory body of the executive branch by an act of Congress for the purpose of normalizing wages of federal employees working in different localities — a worthwhile purpose.  However, from the start, it was doomed to be nothing more than an advocacy group for federal employees by its very makeup:  three members are to be experts in labor relations and pay policy.  The other six are to be representatives of federal labor unions and other employee organizations representing large numbers of GS employees.

Federal employees are well-represented.  Why create another body to advocate for them on the public’s dime?  Who would waste our money like this?  Surprise, surprise!  In 1990, Congress was firmly controlled by the Democrats.  George W. Bush was president and could have vetoed this bill.  However, Bush 41 was often rolled by the Democrats.  At the time, I asked someone who knew him well if the Dems had something on him or was it simply a case of wanting to be liked?  This person, who shall go unnamed, believed it was the latter.

This is the classic inside-the-Beltway mentality of the political class.  They forget the people who sent them to Washington and seek the friendship and approval of the people they see everyday.

That is why Trump has been so effective in his short time in Washington.  He doesn’t care what the political class thinks.  He was elected, largely on the votes of everyday, working-class individuals, to drain the swamp, and has worked steadily toward that end.  Trump doesn’t need the friendship of the political class because, once out of office, he’s leaving town.  He doesn’t need his position to get rich.  He’s already rich.  Unlike other presidents, he isn’t even taking the salary to which he is entitled.

Many other studies on the federal-public pay gap show different results.  However, almost all show that federal workers have a huge advantage.  Those that show a private sector advantage fail to calculate in the benefits package, which is 47 percent higher for federal workers than in the private sector.

Interestingly, the biggest gap occurs among less-educated, lower-skilled federal employees who earn, on average, 53 percent more than their private sector counterparts.  In fact, those with higher degrees earn 18 percent less.  However, federal professionals don’t have to worry about being laid-off when they reach their max salaries or being replaced by imported H-1B workers.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe the majority of federal workers are hard-working and dedicated.  However, the system is rigged against them.  They are the ones who must put up with disagreeable co-workers or pick up the slack for the incompetents.

Do them a favor.  Ask Congress to reform the rules for eliminating the deadwood.  President Trump tried but an Obama-appointed judge recently blocked this effort.

One thought on “Federal Workers vs Private Sector (Taxpayers Get the Shaft)

  1. When I was younger I worked for 13 years for the federal Social Security Administration and over six years for the Sacramento County Welfare Department. Both jobs were very stressful, and many of the management people were dishonest and abusive. Even in those days heterosexual White men were looked on with some disfavor, and political conservatives were despised. I was all the above, and was fired by each employer, later winning a partial settlement with the feds and a total victory over the county. Interestingly, I was so efficient that I was assigned extra work in each case, and was doing extra work each time on the day I was fired.
    The county had to give me back pay and a small pension, and I then got my first and only white collar private sector job, grading standardized school tests. The pay was low, but there was no stress, and we workers were decently treated by management. I eventually chose to retire completely.
    When I worked for the government our pay and benefits were reasonable, but not excessive, and that is as it should be.


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