Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Good To Be The King

For those of you who might recognize the phrase but not the source, it is a memorable one from what I consider an otherwise forgettable cinematic effort by Mel Brooks, "History of the World, Part I". The line is spoken by Mel himself, while playing King Louis XVI during the French Revolution (one of the many roles he played in this movie), as he takes any number of liberties while using the quoted line as only his excuse for these acts. We don't have any kings in this country currently (in spite of claims to the contrary), but we certainly seem to have a less than excusable elite capable of taking liberties. 

Surprisingly enough, I'm not talking about Congress this time however, but instead about some of the minions and myrmidons that namelessly work in the federal bureaucracy, public sector employees. Now I have written on this subject and these people before, but the sheer magnitude of the facts of the situation have never been so clearly illustrated as they have in a recent Heritage Foundation piece by James Sherk. Now for those of you are are either unable or unwilling to read the entire piece supplied in the link, let me pull a couple of salient bits of information out for you education and edification.
  • The federal pay system gives the average federal employee hourly cash earnings 22 percent above the average private worker’s, controlling for observable skills and characteristics.
  • Including non-cash benefits adds to this disparity. The average private-sector employer pays $9,882 per employee in annual benefits, while the federal government pays an average of $32,115 per employee.
  • Overall, controlling for other factors, federal employees earn approximately 30 percent to 40 percent more in total compensation (wages and benefits) than comparable private-sector workers.
  • Federal employees enjoy job security irrespective of the state of the economy. Since the recession began, federal employment has risen by 240,000—12 percent. The unemployment rate for federal employees has only slightly risen from 2.0 percent to 2.9 percent between 2007 and 2009.
  • Federal employees demonstrate with their actions that they receive better compensation in the public sector than in the private sector: They quit their jobs at one-third the rate of the private employees.
  • Bringing federal compensation in line with private-sector compensation would save taxpayers approximately $47 billion in 2011.
Overall, the article illustrates (as shown in the chart at the beginning of the post) some even more startling numbers (though getting past the whole saving $47 billion in 2011 is hard for me at least), that federal civilian employees earn an average of $78,901 annually compared to $50,101 in the private sector, a difference of 57%. Add the generous benefit packages that public sector employees get in comparison to their counterparts in the private sector, and the difference is $101,015 to $60,078, a difference of 85%. 

Now the study does point out (and it's worthwhile to note), that public sector employees tend to be better educated (33.4% in the public sector to 21.9% in the private have bachelor degrees) and are higher skilled as well; both of which can account for some level of higher pay. The study also points out however, that, "Many federal employees in highly skilled occupations receive market wages. However, semi-skilled federal workers earn substantially more than they would in the private sector." Such a statement would seem to mitigate some part of the education argument as justification for the vastly different levels of compensation, as it hardly seems likely that the more highly educated would be taking the lowered skilled positions. 

Ultimately, we must conclude from the information supplied by the Heritage Foundation that at a time when the only discernible job growth in this country appears to be that of the federal government, these statistics and conclusions are more than alarming. At a time when the federal deficit has all of the appearances of a runaway train, this kind of compensation disparity seems at the least irresponsible and at worst, all but criminal. As Mel Brooks says, "It's good to be the king"; but it appears that if you can't manage to sign up for that gig (it is tough job market after all), the next best one for those desiring of the taking of financial liberties is to work for the federal government.


Roland Hansen said...

If only I were King!
Then you could call me Elvis.

Tim Higgins said...


Or as Paul Simon said:

"I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me you can call me Al."

No, that seems just wrong, doesn't it?