Watchdogs keep an eye on federal pay, bonuses

Perhaps the Agriculture Department could do its part to bring federal salaries more in line with the private sector by opening a few hamburger franchises and paying the employees at minimum wage. And if that doesn’t do the trick, maybe it could put some illegal immigrants to work at below the minimum wage.

The problem, you see, is that on average federal employees earn 22 percent more in hourly wages than workers in the private sector, according to a recent report from the Heritage Foundation.

As it turns out, feds are costing the taxpayers money by having too much education, which translates into higher pay, and staying too long on the job, which means better benefits. Would a commercial firm tolerate so many well-educated employees with institutional knowledge?

Nevertheless, the report has struck a chord with people who contrast the stability of federal employment with the tumultuous state of the private sector.

“The federal government has added almost 200,000 jobs since the recession started, while private employers have pared some 8 million net jobs,” writes Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, in a column at “Federal employees seem to have been protected from the recession.”

Analysts at the foundation believe the federal govenrment could save $47 billion a year by adjusting compensation to prevailing market conditions.

But federal compensation data is trickier than it might seem. For example, the size of the federal workforce has been shrinking relative to the general population — from one fed for every 78 residents in 1953 to one per 155 residents in 2008, writes Tony Pugh for the McClatchy Newspapers.

“A big part of that decline stems from the loss of lower-paid and lower-skilled federal workers whose jobs have been farmed out on a contract basis,” Pugh writes.

Federal bonuses also have come under public scrutiny. According to data from the Office of Personnel Management, the federal government ponied up $408 million in employee awards in 2009, up more than $80 million over 2008 bonuses, writes Paul D’Ambrosio for Gannett New Jersey. The data, obtained by the Asbury Park Press, covers approximately 65 percent of the workforce.

“One wonders how much money would be available for many noble and meritorious projects if the government were to be reduced in size to a level corresponding to the powers granted the national government in the Constitution,” writes Joe Wolverton II for the New American.

Like some hamburger stands, perhaps?


About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications:, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

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