Some Surprising Data on Federal Wages

Conor Clark posted one of these two graphs on his blog yesterday. They were sent to him by the Cato Institute. Take a look.

Both Cato and Connor offer their interpretations. Connor makes some reasonable points about the relative skill level of federal workers and rightly points out that many live in high cost areas of the country. He also does a good job of refuting the notion that federal wages are ripe for a freeze. Maybe someday but not in the middle of a recession. I suggest that you read both posts.

As for me, I am the son of a man who worked for the federal government as a VA pharmacist all his life. Therefore, I’ve never fallen for the conservative notion that most are low productivity workers living off the fat of the land, when most that I grew up around were in fact honest, hard working men and women who put in their hours just like private sector workers. That doesn’t mean that I take these charts lightly, however.

The meme that because of their job security and benefit packages, federal workers, or for that matter any government employee, should be paid less than a comparable private sector worker has some validity but is an overused argument in my opinion. It might hold true for, say, attorneys in the justice department who have the option and skills to transition to private practice but the same isn’t true for a mid-level management worker. Nevertheless, to see both base compensation and total compensation so totally our of sync with the private sector begs the question as to whether sufficient discipline is being employed in managing the federal employment budget.

I suppose one could argue as well that this should be a wake-up call to private enterprise. If they want the best and brightest coming to them perhaps they need to reassess their compensation policies as well. Perhaps more private profits need to go to the workers who are producing them as opposed to the owners.

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About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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