Skip to comments.Why federal experts command - and deserve - high salaries
Posted on 01/04/2012 6:18:01 AM PST by Poundstone
The list of the 1,000 highest-paid federal employees released last month by Wikiorgcharts.com must have raised eyebrows. In a country where the average full-time employee earns less than $40,000, salaries ranging from $216,000 to $350,000 appear very high. However, the 1,000 feds profiled earn less than the $380,000 that would place them in the top 1 percent of the nation's income earners. And within the federal workforce of roughly 2.1 million, the individuals on the list account for an extremely small percentage.
Perhaps more important, the list is a reminder that agencies need to compete in a world where top talent is paid well. Government employs world-class specialists in many areas. With few exceptions, the individuals on the list could quickly find jobs paying as much or more than their federal salaries.
By Wall Street standards, the federal salaries are "walking-around money." I recall when I managed a compensation consulting practice in Manhattan 30 years ago, one firm paid many employees a nominal salary of $99,000 that was intended to cover their living expenses until their far larger bonuses were paid at year end. Wall Street pay levels may be down, but federal salaries are far below the levels for senior specialists in the financial community.
(Excerpt) Read more at fedsmith.com ...
Interesting fact-based discussion on salary levels in the federal service for high-value employees. Really cuts through the hyperbole that frequently obscures the facts on this subject.
And what of their other perks, i.e pension, days off, etc. ?
All you have to do to just forget about such things is get yourself into a critical job, or one that requires extraordinary expertise.
Then the fact you worked 40 days in a row, 18 hours a day, just doesn't count. There's no make up for weekends lost.
The only compensatory factor is the feds allow some carryover of annual leave ~ which can add up to months by the time you retire.
BTW, "days off" is not a factor that pays more money to anybody in the federal government! It might in the private sector, but I simply never saw it.
Federal worker productivity less effective than 1969?
“..job performance productivity at the federal level is so lacking in comparison to other business entities in the economy, according to the American Enterprise Institute, that it may not make sense to put anyone else on the payroll.”
I don’t have a problem with high salaries for specialists, experts, and world-class talent in gov’t. What I have a problem with is the cheating, manipulating, and pooch-screwing that goes on at all levels. Here in IL, (yeah, I know)...two state employees worked ONE DAY as substitute teachers in order to nearly double their retirement pensions.
Get rid of the abuse and no one is going to complain about the salaries of the 1%.
The only problem is that these positions are not necessary.
The fact that the “same job” commands much more in the private sector proves that the federal government is largely staffed with left overs and / or incompetents.
From the article:
“The General Schedule may well overpay some employees no one seems willing to develop the facts”
So much for fact-based discussion.
The article fails to deal with whether or not government should be doing things that some of the high-paid employees are doing.
The article fails to deal with the fact that we can’t afford the government we have, nor will we be able to pay for the government employee retirement promises in the future, nor does it deal with the immorality of government benefits being paid for by the productive efforts of citizens who, because of the cost of government, cannot afford the same benefits for themselves.
It’s a mathematical certainty that the government retirement, of which you are so proud, will not be as long or as lucrative as you wish for it to be.
What is unknown is to what degree government employees and retirees such as yourself will be willing to enslave those who do the real work of America before we cut you off.
What has the NIH ever done that is necessary? In theory, it directs money toward health related research. Sounds good but the country is broke and ANY list of federal grants will contain some terrible choices. This is an agency that could easily be cut.
I lost all faith in the credibility of government salary decisions when I found out Linda Tripp was making $98,744 a year.
great source of info (I think?)
Who is doing 'real work' in that circumstance?
A mechanic can't develop a longer lasting safe battery system for an electric car, but a good PhD chemist can. Isn't that 'real work'?
A burger-flipper can't create circuitry to save lives in a combat zone, but a good PhD Electrical Engineer can create them. Isn't that 'real work'?
Some of the people I know in this workforce spend up to 80 hours a week at their jobs. Salaried. Aren't they doing 'real work'?
The benefits after Jan 1 are no longer any incentive to attempt to find a job in the Federal system. Pay freeze, a diminution of medical benefits both for employed and retirees, 401K contributions and a number of other items have been reduced or eliminated entirely, moreso than the public sector.
Making broad generalizations such as yours, doesn't accurately describe reality in a lot of the circumstances.
Those at the government sponsored Federal Reserve, Freddy & Fannie should be in jail.
Please see post no 6. Thank you.
I do not care what any of you think or say... WE NEED FAR FEWER FEDERAL EMPLOYEES OF VERY SIZE AND SHAPE... savvy?
“Making broad generalizations such as yours, doesn’t accurately describe reality in a lot of the circumstances.”
Every job you list can and should be done in the private sector.
The private sector is where the overwhelming majority of all work gets done.
It’s the way a free country operates.
Your assumption that these jobs MUST reside in the federal government is the real problem. You do not understand, and won’t until you are relieved from your federal job and have to actually rub elbows with the people that pay for it all.
You WANT the best people in those jobs, and should be willing to pay them.
“The benefits after Jan 1 are no longer any incentive to attempt to find a job in the Federal system. Pay freeze, a diminution of medical benefits both for employed and retirees, 401K contributions and a number of other items have been reduced or eliminated entirely, moreso than the public sector.”
Based on the above, you are completely out of touch. You had best hang on in the federal system as long as you possibly can. You will find that the real world is harsh in comparison, and that you cannot hide in the crapper reading the sports page half the day and still keep your job. (this example came from an actual federal employee....he was bragging)
Psst....I have worked in the 'private sector' as you call it.
I got hired into the Federal system BECAUSE of that experience and expertise gained there.
I earned my way here.
1,000 Federal workers make less than 340,000. Well 435 of those people are part of Congress. Then you add the President and Vice President and you are at 437. You add the President’s Secretaries and that is another 30 people for a total of 467. It leaves about 33 others who make that much. I don’t think this is overly bad.
I was wondering about that, too. Just how many of these “experts” are truly needed by the government?
I guess you missed the part where it is NOT the same in the private sector.
Yes, Days Off.
Federal holidays are worked by most people, while they are paid days off for federal workers. Most people consider a paid holiday to be a benefit.
If in doubt, ask someone if they would rather earn $150,000 a year and work 5 days a week, or earn $140,000 a year and work 4 days a week.
I’m curious as to which federal position outside of the military requires working 40 days in a row. Please enlighted me.
I've done that myself MANY TIMES.
There are two kinds of federal holidays. Those widely observed and those not widely observed.
Just about everybody gets those widely observed ~ but whether or not you get any of them it depends on your state and/or local laws.
Federal employees presumably get the ones designated for them as part of their employment but that doesn't mean they get them. For example, even though I worked for USPS whose workforce was behind the shift of a February holiday to January (MLK day) I never got off on that day ~ never.
You imagine a lot of things about federal employment that don't happen.
Some of you people will believe anything.
Your typical private sector worker would think squealing on the boss was inherently stupid.
You pay for honesty, or you don't get it.
Of course you got paid for it though, didn't you? And you were paid extra or comped with a different day off.
I will work MLK as a standard work day. No time off, no comp, no premium time.
Let's see ~ one day they discovered Swine Flu vaccine wouldn't work ~ yet, the side effects would be the same as with any other flu vaccine.
What that means is if you give out 100,000 units of a vaccine a certain number of people would be killed or injured.
So, if Swine Flu vaccine was no good and would harm people if administered, they needed to reach every physician and registered nurse in America by MONDAY MORNING.
There's a registry of such folks, but the CDC doesn't have all the phone numbers that will get to them, but they do have all their addresses ~ home, work, etc. and can also send them a card notifying them of an emergency situation.
So, who did they call at the Postal Service to MAKE SURE they could send out those cards and other notices?
Why it was ME, and I worked late into the evening making sure the folks in the field would accept that mail Saturday Morning and get it out for processing ~ even though all of our major acceptance units were normally closed on Saturday and Sunday.
I succeeded. Nobody died. I'd guess the salary of the people I worked with at CDC and NIH was triple my own, and the salary of the postal guys in the field was just under half mine.
Maybe your own mother's life was saved by my efforts.
So go get screwed, OK?
We had a couple of folks around with a UNION attitude, but they were the exception. You want a professional job with exacting requirements you do that job. If you want to tamp asphalt into a chuckhole then you go get that other job.
“I earned my way here.”
How can you be so clueless about the private sector - especially when it comes to benefits?
You need to stay where you are for as long as you can. You won’t like life as one of the people who pays for everything.
“Some of you people will believe anything.”
It’s your favorite subject, my friend.
“You pay for honesty, or you don’t get it. “
Only in government can you try to buy that which is virtue.
You are either honest, or you aren’t.
Those that don’t know the difference find welcoming arms in the federal employment system.
USPS benefits as stated by the USPS:
10 holidays + 26 days paid vacation + 13 sick days = 49 paid days off per year. Yea sounds brutal.
The following 10 days are observed as holidays by the U.S. Postal Service.
1. New Year’s Day - January 1
2. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday - 3rd Monday in January
3. Washington’s Birthday - 3rd Monday in February
4. Memorial Day - Last Monday in May
5. Independence Day - July 4
6. Labor Day - 1st Monday in September
7. Columbus Day - 2nd Monday in October
8. Veterans’ Day - November 11
9. Thanksgiving Day - 4th Thursday in November
10. Christmas Day - December 25
Annual Leave Accrual - Full Time Employees
Less than 3 years - 104 hours (13 days)
3-15 years - 160 hours (20 days)
15 years or more - 208 hours (26 days)
Annual Leave Accrual - Part Time Employees
Less than 3 years
104 hours, or 13 days per 26-period leave year or 4 hours for each bi-weekly pay period.
1 hour for each unit of 20 hours pay in status.
160 hours, or 20 days per 26-period leave year or 6 hours for each full bi-weekly pay period, plus 4 hours in last pay period in leave year.
1 hour for each unit of 13 hours in pay status.
15 years or more
208 hours, or 26 days per 26-period leave year or 8 hours for each full biweekly pay period.
1 hour for each unit of 10 hours in pay status.
Maximum Leave Carryover Amounts
Bargaining Unit Employees
440 hours (55 days)
Postal Career Executive Service (PCES) Employees
Greater of 560 hours or 16 days (128 hours)
560 hours (70 days)
Sick Leave is provided to employees for paid time off from regularly scheduled work hours due to illness, injury, pregnancy, and medical examinations and treatment (including dental and optical). Sick leave is accrued and credited at the end of each bi-weekly pay period in which it is earned.
Sick Leave Accrual
4 hours for each full biweekly pay period: 104 hours (13 days per year)
1 hour for each unit of 20 hours in pay status up to 104 hours (13 days year)
Folks save up sick leave for the time that will be spent off with heart attacks and strokes after dealing with carping, whining customers who think they own the place.
You start with 13 days annual. The 26 days comes after many years of putting up with customer BS.
No doubt you understand that your typical Postal worker is simply not allowed to take any leave for any purpose for the months of October, November, December, January ~ like the private sector people.
In the private sector, and I was there brother, I was there, in jobs so nasty they make "Dirty Jobs" look like "Inspector of the Clean Room", people regularly steal your lunch, and even your dirty blue jeans soaked in oil and caked with steel shavings.
You still pay for honesty ~ show up with your felony convictions for a postal interview, and you'll never hear back from them.
THAT'S the American way. THAT'S the CONSERVATIVE way.
Funny, it doesn't appeal to you that some one would do that. Sure you're not a closet lib? Not happy you didn't take the chance? Not smart enough to work at the education? Or is there something in your background that would preclude you working in the Federal system?
I didn't have ANY benefits until I began working in the private sector for 30 years. Now, all my costs have nearly tripled in the new Federal system. So, don't bark unless you know what you are talking about.
Sounds like a job. Have you heard of nurses, doctors, truckers, retailers, HVAC repairmen and plumbers? The list goes on and on.
And 13 days off (in addition to the 13 sick days and the long list of paid holidays) is unheard of for a new hire in the private sector.
I’m doing very well, and I get 15 days personal time. If I get sick, its personal time. New hires get 10, not the 23 the USPS gets.
Yep, Federal employees get boatloads of paid time off and if you don’t understand that, then you just haven’t seen enough of the private sector.
Poor thing. You had to put up with the citizenry? How did you mangage?
Per the USPS data, a new hire gets 13 vacation days + 13 sick days. That is over a month of work days. Kinda puts the lie to the "many years to build up" statement.
“You still pay for honesty ~ show up with your felony convictions for a postal interview, and you’ll never hear back from them.”
So Postal Service Honesty = “No felony convictions”?
You do not pay for honesty in the federal workforce. You don’t pay for competency either.
To the extent that you get those in a federal employee, it’s got nothing to do with what you pay them.
Poor guy, you had to go to classes AND get a security clearance. The stress on you must have been horrible.
All of us poor little felonious liberal plumbers, mechanics, and electricians stuck here outside of government couldn’t possibly know the burden under which you must labor.
If only we had done did our cypherin’ and writin’ we too could be government employees - just like all the other good conservatives in the world.
We should really appreciate all you government employees do for us more. Really, no tax burden is too high for the important things that government has to do.
Ok, Austin Milbarge, I suppose you really did earn that promotion to GLG-20 afterall.
Keep up the good work.
Regarding putting up with "the citizenry", neither "the citizenry" nor "the taxpayers" paid for my salary or benefits ~ the RATE PAYERS ~ folks who paid postage ~ paid.
The citizenry, who didn't pay, were, in general, obnoxious. How dare I, a mere civil servant, stand in the way of some greed ball after another government subsidy, or more service for no payment.
I know you people better than you imagine.
You all want a government subsidy and no competeition!.
I'd like to see ALL of government put on the USER FEE basis ~ not just the post office. It perfectly clarifies who does what to who with which and who is deserving and who's a moocher.
No. Its the same thing exactly. Its paid days off for not working. The money to pay for it comes out of the same pocket and the inefficiency of paying a new hire to take over a month off every year might just help explain the USPS's dire financial straights.
I know you people better than you imagine. You all want a government subsidy and no competeition!.
Er, what? What me people want are federal salaries and benefits to reflect the market, not congressional vote buying. Per the USPS, they are in a huge financial hole, yet doling out 36 paid days off a year to new hires (that is over 7 work weeks).
Going back to the original point of my comment. If you get 36-46 paid days off a year and a healthy pension for an early retirement, you should expect to make substantially less than someone doing the same type of work, who goes to work without all of the benefits.
Federal employees always justified the lavish benefits by stating that they were underpaid. When they got the benefits cemented, they then ensured that their salaries increased far past the national average. It is no coincidence that the highest average per capita income counties in the United States all surround Washington, D.C.
Then you sidestep my proposal to put the WHOLE government on a user fee basis ~ that's where the customers who make use of a government service pay for it.
You want a war, fork over the bucks. You want your river dredged, pay for it. There are a gazillion things we could do here.
It is required by law that postal wages and benefits MATCH the private sector. Whatever you pay for someone without a criminal record who can read, write, walk and lift a 70 pound sack, and has a driver's license WITH NO POINTS ~ who is willing to work nights, split shifts, split weeks, etc. ~ that's what they get paid. The time off is considered in the development of the wage and benefit package.
Regarding the dire financial straits, your Congresscritter and your Senators decided back in 2006 (last gasps of the Bush regime) that, lo and behold, USPS should be charged something to balance the budget.
Everybody's favorite RINO, Olympia Snow came up with this deal where USPS would pay the US government $5.8 billion each year for 10 years to pay for employee health benefits 75 years from now.
Does that make sense to you?
Obviously it does because you and everybody else who ever posts on this issue claims that Snow is both a horrid RINO, crazy as a loon, but at the same time it's something USPS did that's bringing about the financial problems.
No, I think it's something the crazy old RINO lady did!
The Postal Rate Commission evaluates USPS requests for postage rate changes. They allow costs for Postal salaries, buildings, gasoline, trucks, heat, electricity ~ but they don't allow costs for just throwing money away to Congress to subsidize gonorrhea epidemics in Canada (for example).
So, the PRC rejected a price increase to cover the cost of that $5.8 billion payment. The USPS had to borrow the money. They have limited borrowing authority, and they used it all up paying Congress for a reduction in the federal deficit that never occurred.
Plus, there's the $78 billion USPS paid into the retirement fund ABOVE what was required.
I think the PMG would be happy for the US government to simply return the money.
The USPS has a federally mandated monopoly, federally mandated wages (hardly comparable to REAL going rate), and federally mandated fees. You get to count federal work years toward USPS retirement. To say it isn't a federal job is semantic at best.
Postal service is mandated by the Constitution, but the “how” part is totally up in the air.
Yes, I'm all for user fees where they are conceivably possible. It is hard to determine a user fee for the State Department and CIA.
Per Sen. Snow and retirement funding issues of the USPS, is the retirement plan over-funded? “more than the minimum” doesn't equate to over-funding. In fact, if its not over-funded, the whole issue rather reinforces my point concerning extravagant benefits.
You appear to like the idea of the USPS being governmental when it suits and not being governmental when it suits.
Delivering paper to people's businesses and homes is a technologically dying endeavor. The USPS needs to change substantially if it isn't going to simply exist as a giant, costly, anachronism. If I am right, and the USPS becomes a shadow of its former self, then prefunding those pensions might be the only way they'll ever pay out.
Regarding how I think of USPS, that's the state of the law today. Congress set it up ~ under Nixon ~ as what is called an Independent Executive Establishment. What that does is give it an independent budget and borrowing authority.
Concerning "federally mandated" anything, that particular term is like "buffer zone" when proferred at a planning and zoning board meeting. It really doesn't have a LEGAL meaning so it's just a term. obviously USPS as a government agency is going to be involved in "federally mandaed" stuff ~ but operating under the Postal Reorganization Act, it has certain obligations and standards ~ and as the Chief Rino Boyich in Charge, Olympia Snowe was soon to discover, OTHER government agencies such as the Postal Rate Commission (the regulatory authority over postage rates and service standards for the classes of mail) that doesn't mean USPS gets to charge postage for non-mail related services, e.g. balancing the budget.
Except for that the organization is fiscally sound ~ the overpayment on retirements actually involves taking perfectly good money from the employees and handing it over to the wastrals at Office of Personnel Management (the agency that manages the federal employee retirement systems) Since we've found out that money wasn't due, I'd kinda' like to have it back ~ there are bills to pay!
BTW, the federal income tax is "federally mandated" and so is "Daylight Savings".
It's another way of saying "pass a law".
Next time I expect you to join me in condemning RINOS like Olympia Snowe who screw with government like they're just a sandbox bully who suffers from encephaly.
Regarding your comment on “contracting out”, sure, they do that too. The US government pays more for contract work than it does employees.
The only experts the federal government needs is professional military, and experts in shutting down departments.
“The US government pays more for contract work than it does employees.”
As in all things government, they neglect the large cost of future “entitlements” when calculating these costs.
A federal employee has literally a multi-million dollar cost tail that any honest enterprise would have to include. A contractor has a current budget year cost that may exceed a federal employee, if you ignore the future obligation that every other enterprise that is not government must account for.
So if you truly believe this, you are either stupid or dishonest. Which is it?
Postal employee retirements are FULLY FUNDED, even considering COLA.
Been that way for several decades in fact.