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The myth of the underpaid public employee :: Jeff Jacoby

September 30, 2009


The myth of the underpaid public employee

by Jeff Jacoby

The Boston Globe

September 30, 2009

THOUGH IT HASN’T BEEN TRUE for years, many people believe that government employees receive such lavish employment and retirement benefits in order to compensate for their meager paychecks. The reality is that their paychecks aren’t meager at all: Government jobs pay more than those in the private sector, and the difference between the two is growing.

Consider the lucrative lot of the men and women who work for Uncle Sam. In 2008, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 1.9 million civilian employees of the federal government earned an average salary of $79,197. The average private employee, by contrast, earned just $49,935. The difference between them came to more than $29,000 — a differential that has more than doubled since 2000.

Take account of total compensation — wages plus benefits — and the disparity is even more striking. In 2008, total federal civilian compensation averaged $119,982 — more than twice the $59,908 in wages and benefits earned by the average private-sector employee. Chris Edwards, a scholar at the Cato Institute, has documented the steady widening of the gap: In 1960, federal workers averaged $1.24 for every $1 earned by a private employee. By 1980, the federal advantage was up to $151; in 2000 it was $1.66. Now it is $2 — and climbing. When ranked alongside 72 industries that span the US economy, federal employees take home the seventh-highest average compensation. Among the workers they outearn, Edwards shows, are those in such fields as computer systems design, chemical products, and legal services.

via The myth of the underpaid public employee :: Jeff Jacoby.

  1. Ronald Amerson permalink
    September 30, 2009 11:32 AM

    My only comment is that you should use the terminology of “federal government” employee rather than “public”.

    I work for a public university which in my state makes me an employee of the state government, which is also “public”.

    Believe me, we are not paid anything close to what the federal employees get; and, in most cases (Academia aside) we are paid far less than the private sector.

    The main reason for this is that everytime the state legislature and governor digs themselves a big hole by overspending other peoples money (taxes) – It is the state employees that end up paying for it with little or no wage increases. This year and next we get a 3% cut each year. These dry years are never made up as our wage increases even in good times are far below what the public sector gets.

    Thank You.

    Ron Amerson
    Sun Prairie, WI

  2. September 30, 2009 5:35 PM

    Oo, Oo, let me guess: Affirmative Action Managers are more valuable than software engineers. LOL. This is too rich. If not for affirmative action, these folks would be working at McDonald’s based on their intelligence and actual value…just like NEA protected teachers who can’t teach. Do we really want these clowns running health care.

    I can see it now, as I call for a doctor’s appointment…and I had better have the right attitude with the receptionist doing the absolute minimum required…and, as you know…you can’t fire even the grossly incompetent.

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