Economics, Taxes and Spending

The ‘abused’ federal employee?

12.14.12 Upset Businesswoman

The National Interest’s Paul Pilar dedicates a column to debunking my recent Washington Post op-ed on the supposed federal employee “pay gap,” co-authored with the Heritage Foundation’s Jason Richwine.

Pilar says that we “question the methodology used in the government calculations, saying for example that federal jobs ‘could’ be assigned higher grades than what is taken to be their nonfederal equivalents. Well, yes, they could—or they could be assigned lower grades than their true equivalents.” Actually, our work cites studies from the CBO, GAO, and academic economists indicating that, on average, federal employees are overgraded, creating the appearance of a “pay gap” even where none exists.

Pilar also says that our analysis of federal employee benefits omits in-kind benefits, such as lunches at conferences which federal employees supposedly are not allowed to consume. (Full disclosure: As a federal employee, I often ate lunch at conferences. Sorry.) Our work analyzed all benefit types recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, a 2012 CBO study found that the federal retirement package is 2.7 times more generous than private sector levels, equivalent to receiving about an extra $10,000 in annual salary. That’s a lot of lunches.

Finally, Pilar claims “the largest difference that Biggs and Richwine ignore” is the chance for the most skilled federal employees to make the really big bucks in the private sector. Sure, but federal employees also have very little chance of being laid off or fired for cause. Most people would give up the small chance of really high pay for the security of not becoming unemployed.

Pilar argues that we “abuse” this “exploited, under-compensated and under-appreciated workforce.” Not based on any evidence he cites.

2 thoughts on “The ‘abused’ federal employee?

  1. Keep in mind when you’re talking about Civil Service employees that by far the biggest agency in Govt is DOD – not only govt employees but contractors.

    Anything you do to change the way the govt deals with employment will have the greatest impact on DOD – and perhaps that’s a good thing.

    It’s not the GS-5 Army Corp guy, it’s the 10-20 GS-12/13 Civilian DOD employee that are costly.

  2. Like my old Drill Sargeant liked to say” If you are looking for sympathy, you will find it right in the unabridged dictionary; somewhere between s**t and syphillus!”

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