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Why Not Work for the Government? Federal Workers Make Twice As Much



Rob Bluey
The Foundry, The Heritage Foundation
April 29, 2010

The Washington Examiner today exposes a dirty little secret about Washington bureaucrats: Federal employees are bringing home twice as much pay as the average private-sector worker.

Data compiled by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reveals the extent of the pay gap between federal and private workers. As of 2008, the average federal salary was $119,982, compared with $59,909 for the average private sector employee. In other words, the average federal bureaucrat makes twice as much as the average working taxpayer. Add the value of benefits like health care and pensions, and the gap grows even bigger. The average federal employee’s benefits add $40,785 to his annual total compensation, whereas the average working taxpayer’s benefits increase his total compensation by only $9,881. In other words, federal workers are paid on average salaries that are twice as generous as those in the private sector, and they receive benefits that are four times greater.

Earlier this year, Heritage’s James Sherk noted that government workers brought home a 2.4 percent raise, while private-sector employees saw their salary increase by half that amount. Private businesses must adapt to the economic climate, but government feels no such pressure. Or, as Sherk wrote, “Government employees can continue getting raises no matter the health of the overall economy, so long as taxes keep coming in.”

The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards attributes the growth in compensation to the increasing influence of public-sector unions, including at the state and local level. The consequences are troubling for America’s fiscal future.

Make no mistake, this is a deliberate strategy on the part of liberals to grow our dependence on government. Look no further than the recently enacted Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which cut private lenders out of the picture in favor of the government.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the big winners in the Obama economy are government unions.

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