Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sharing the Sacrifice

Seems like when the economy is bad, federal workers are some of the first targets Congress and the general public take aim at.

It is getting old.

You know the story...we are all overpaid and lazy. And when the economy was great, we were told how stupid we were for serving the country at a much lower salary than we could make in the private section. But now that the economy has turned south, everyone is all about freezing our pay so we can share in the pain. There was a great letter to the editor by a federal worker who said she looked forward to sharing in the bonuses all the private sector folks will get once the economy recovers.

There was a also good article in the Post today about Five Myths about Federal Workers.

They are myths that really need debunking. Myths like that we are overpaid compared with the private sector.

According to the Post:

"federal employees make on average 24 percent less than their private-sector counterparts. The Congressional Research Service reported in 2009 that private industry pays higher salaries than the government for PhD-level employees in computer science, information science, mathematics, statistics, biological sciences, environmental life sciences, chemistry, economics, and civil, architectural, electrical and computer engineering. In addition, the average private-sector salary in 2010 for a recent college graduate was $48,661. Entry-level federal workers start at $34,075, or $42,209 for candidates with superior academic achievement.

On the other hand, some federal blue-collar and clerical workers are paid more than those in the private sector. The ongoing debate about federal pay, however, does not address the root problem: The government does not have a pay system flexible enough to recruit the best talent and pay in accordance with the market."

Myth: That we are paper-pushing clerks

"The vast majority of federal workers hold white-collar professional, administrative and technical jobs, and aren't just college dropouts archiving triplicates of your tax return. Approximately 20 percent of federal workers have a master's degree, professional degree or doctorate, vs. 13 percent in the private sector. Fifty-one percent of federal employees have at least a college degree, compared with 35 percent in the private sector.

Remarkably, more than 50 current or former federal employees have received Nobel Prizes. In fact, about one in four American Nobel laureates have been federal workers. Their contributions have included the eradication of polio, the mapping of the human genome and the harnessing of atomic energy. Federal employees protect our food and drug supplies, manage airline traffic, foil terrorist attacks, care for our wounded veterans, and make sure the elderly and those with disabilities get their Medicare and Social Security benefits. This is hardly paper-pushing."

And finally, the Post points out that freezing our pay won't necessarily help with the budget. First, the amount saved is tiny compared with the deficit. And if they cut 200,000 jobs like the Debt Commission wants, even that could COST MORE money if the tasks performed by federal employees are contracted out.

But yeah, go ahead and cut my salary so I can share in the sacrifice. I hope you'll share your bonus when the time comes.


ForeignObsession said...

I agree...

Connie said...

I have never been surrounded by more educated AND experienced folk than when hanging out with a group of federal workers (or their spouses for that matter). Federal workers also tend to have this drive to serve, which is lucky for all of us, as most aren't paid what they are worth, and if these good folk worked only to earn, not just to accomplish good work, then they'd all leave for the private sector and higher salaries. Just my two cents, not much of a bonus though, sorry...

Anonymous said...

As a professional, I make what others consider to be a good federal (just bumped 6 figures) salary. I live in DC where a one bedroom condo can cost $400,000. I made 2-3 time more in private practice, but I much prefer the service aspect of working for the government. I am not overpaid and YES, like all FS workers, I regularly work overtime without compensation. Freezing the salaries is all about optics. I just hope I can get comp time - ha.

Anonymous said...

I just hope it doesn't get worse and they go after our locality pay...