Group takes aim at feds, suggests $47 billion in pay cuts


The saga of the “overpaid fed” took a new turn with a conservative think tank’s report suggesting that federal pay could be cut by $47 billion next year.

Heritage Foundation labor policy analyst James Sherk suggested that federal salaries and benefits are 30 percent to 40 percent higher in the federal government than in the private sector—and that better aligning compensation in the two sectors could cut the federal payroll by $47 billion in Fiscal Year 2011.

According to Sherk, the federal pay system gives the average federal employee hourly cash earnings 22 percent above those of the average private-sector worker, and the average annual federal benefit package comes to $32,115 per employee, compared to just $9,882 in the private sector. In the white paper posted July 7, Sherk said federal employees also enjoy a reduced risk of losing their jobs in this sour economy: Since the recession began, federal employment has risen by 240,000 (12 percent), and the unemployment rate for federal employees has risen only slightly from 2.0 percent to 2.9 percent between 2007 and 2009. 

“Claims that this dramatic discrepancy in compensation is warranted because of government workers’ high skills are unjustified,” the white paper said. “Equally unjustified is the fact that federal workers can rarely be fired, no matter how poor their job performance.”

Sherk said that Congress should implement a pay-for-performance system with pay bands based on market priorities, expand the contracting of federal work to private companies and reduce the scale of federal benefits.

The paper did acknowledge that some segments of the federal workforce are not overpaid, such as engineers, employees who work in the physical sciences, and lawyers and economists. Others are underpaid, it said. John Roberts, for example, makes $223,500 a year as chief justice of the Supreme Court and would earn more in private practice, Sherk said.

To see more go to: www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/07/Inflated-Federal-Pay-How-Americans-Are-Overtaxed-to-Overpay-the-Civil-Service.

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Reader comments

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 Bill Louisiana

This think tank is nothing more than bean counters thinking on how to cut dollars. They look at a job title and cross it over to a similar job title bewtween govenment and private sector. They don't consider the same job titles require different education and work experience. For example all Government Electrical and Electronics Engineeing jobs requre an ABET accredited degree in Engineering. A lot of private sector jobs do not. The government requires advanced graduate education in Engineering, Engineering Management, Communication Skills, etc... And in many jobs learning additional sciences such as Oceanography and Geology and combat systems and Marine Engineering. Finally the experience must include preparing and monitoring multiyear million dollar contracts. Being a Project Engineer requires maintaining multi million dollar budgets and leading a Project Team of engineers, technicians, and scientists to complete critical life cycle replacements and new techniology upgrades to DoD systems. I worked for 12 years in the private sector for a process control company and for the government for the past 25 years. I had to start from the beginning entry level and work my way up by the same route above. It is not easy being a DoD Project Engineer, but it has its rewards in pay, Loyalty, and patriatism. I am also a Viet Nam Veteran. So the bean counters need to stop thinking beans and realize they are compare apples to oranges and that does not even do the job justice. I am ticked we did not get the same annual percentage cost of living raise as the military did considering I work along side those fellows.

Thu, Jul 29, 2010 Frank

Right on! Should have been done a long time ago.

Fri, Jul 16, 2010

"Sherk said that Congress should implement a pay-for-performance system with pay bands based on market priorities, expand the contracting of federal work to private companies and reduce the scale of federal benefits. "

Or in other words, get rid of government workers and give the people who paid for this study control of the work so that they can rake in the tax payer dollars instead of Joe Slob Worker. And the Union and Obama hated the NSPS system, it allowed the anti-union person to work harder and get paid for it instead of sleeping on the job and getting periodic step increases just like the worker. And who determines the market priorities? A job in Wyoming has a different priority than the same one in the DC sweat house, do you pick the one that is the cheapest so you can pay the lowest wage nationwide and maximize upper management/owner bonuses??

Also "John Roberts, for example, makes $223,500 a year as chief justice of the Supreme Court and would earn more in private practice, Sherk said."

Yeah, but the power and perks Roberts has far outweigh what he would earn as a common lawyer or bench judge. I know a shyster who took a pay cut for a bench job, and his reason? The long term potential for influence and profit later on, and the top of the feeding trough is where Roberts is.

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 Dr. Bob Hacker Texas

Don't tell me, let me guess. The clowns at the Heritage have a new idea: outsource the gov to India! Too late, it has already been done and is led by Indian Business Machines, aka IBM!

Thu, Jul 15, 2010

I work for a government body. It is sad to see some people routinely "loafing" on the job as they know their job is secure. It would be refreshing for any government employee who does not do their job to be dismissed (everyone's tax dollars go to those inept people). It would also be refreshing to see those who do an outstanding job, or perform above their job title, or try to do the work of 2 to 3 people, to get promoted or otherwise compensated for the work they actually perform. So many of these inequities are built into the governemnt structure of employment - and that needs to be much more like "private" firms handle staff and staffing issues.

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