NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 25, 2010

Government employees have turned themselves into a coddled class that lives better than its private-sector counterpart, and with more impunity.  In effect, the public's servants have become our masters, says Steven Greenhut, a columnists with the Orange County Register. 

There was a time when government work offered lower salaries than comparable jobs in the private sector but more security and somewhat better benefits. These days, government workers fare better than private-sector workers in almost every area -- pay, benefits, time off, and job security: 

  • According to a 2007 analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Asbury Park Press, the average federal worker made $59,864 in 2005, compared with the average salary of $40,505 in the private sector.
  • Across comparable jobs, the federal government paid higher salaries than the private sector three times out of four, the paper found.  

The Obama administration has extended the hiring binge started by President Bush: 

  • The executive branch employment (excluding the Postal Service and the Defense Department) slated to grow by 2 percent in 2010 -- and more than 15 percent if you count temporary Census workers.
  • The average federal salary (including benefits) is set to grow from $72,800 in 2008 to $75,419 in 2010, CBS reported.

But the real action isn't in what government employees are being paid today; it's in what they're being promised for tomorrow, says Greenhut: 

  • Public pensions have swollen to unrecognizable proportions during the last decade.
  • In June 2005, BusinessWeek reported that more than 14 million public servants and 6 million retirees are owed $2.37 trillion by more than 2,000 different states, cities and agencies, numbers that have risen since then.
  • State and local pension payouts, the magazine found, had increased 50 percent in just five years. 

People who are supposed to serve the public have become privileged elite that exploit political power for financial gain and special perks.  It is a two-tier system in which the rulers are making steady gains at the expense of the ruled.  The predictable results: Higher taxes, eroded public services, unsustainable levels of debt, and massive roadblocks to reforming even the poorest performing agencies and school systems.  If this system is left to grow unchecked, we will end up with a pale imitation of the free society envisioned by the Founders, says Greenhut. 

Source:  Steven Greenhut, "Class War: How Public Servants Became our Masters," Reason, February 2010. 

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