Did you ever notice these libertarian types never, ever have a problem with overpaid CEOs in America, or anywhere else, for that matter? It's always the working class, union members, government employees, teachers' unions, etc. that they take aim at.
Frequent Fox guest and regular writer at right wing rags such as the National Review, The Washington Examiner and The Washington Times, Kristin Tate did just that in her recent op-ed for The Hill this weekend, attacking furloughed federal employees as a bunch of overpaid, lazy, impossible to fire, entitled leaches, living lives of luxury mooching off of you hard working taxpayers, griping about how they make more than their private sector counterparts and heaven forbid have benefits like paid vacation, holidays, health insurance and pensions. The horror!
She spent the first half of the column conflating federal workers with members of Congress and complaining about how much they make: Federal employees get perks taxpayers can only dream of:
How many headlines have you read about the government shutdown over the last month? Considering that most of our lives have not really been affected and that federal employees will be receiving back pay, is it possible that the shutdown is not the disaster pundits declare it to be?
The minimal effects on our lives shows that our government is already far too bloated and serves as a reminder that the recipients of our tax dollars enjoy benefits well beyond the average American. Removed from the market forces at play in the rest of the country, federal employees and politicians are insulated from the effects of their own actions, while getting privileges that most private sector workers can only dream of.
Here are some of the many perks that members of Congress receive. They get an ObamaCare “gold plan” for health care and outpatient care, which is subsidized by taxpayers. Congress was also exempted by the Obama administration from paying taxes on their insurance plans, which saves each member $12,000 a year. Members of Congress are enrolled in the coveted federal pension, which is of course a lifelong retirement benefit of up to $139,200, again funded by taxpayers. The federal pension is head and shoulders better than most private pensions and even state pensions.
They have advantages on Wall Street. While stock trades using legislative information is illegal, lawmakers do not have to disclose their stock trades like the private sector thanks to a 2013 amendment. They can also leverage their political influence to sit on corporate boards. There is a reason why members of Congress have historically gained much more with their stock market returns than the average household.
Moreover, members of Congress get death benefits of at least $174,000. That is almost double the death benefits for troops killed in service. The death benefits act as a guaranteed life insurance policy that the rest of us would have to pay into for years to receive. Furthermore, our politicians have a schedule of just 138 work days a year on average. In 2012, it was just 126 days including only one full five day week. Despite the part time schedule, members of Congress receive a $174,000 annual salary, more than three times the average salary for Americans who work full time.
Congress also gets $4 million annually to spend on office supplies as well as $250,000 annually to spend on mass mailings. This includes sending information to constituents about their work and is essentially a campaign contribution funded by taxpayers. Lawmakers enjoy free parking spaces and airline travel on most trips. In 2016 alone, these flights cost taxpayers about $1.5 million for 535 members. Of course, some of the most lucrative benefits of being in Congress come after leaving office, as a significant portion of retired members of Congress become lobbyists. Those who become lobbyists can earn an average of more than $2 million annually.
After that diatribe, she finally moved onto her targets in the headline, those furloughed government workers:
Federal workers also enjoy a sweet deal. Here are some of their perks. They make wildly above market compensation. Federal workers receive pay that is 17 percent higher than private sector employees on average performing comparable work. That is on top of putting in 12 percent fewer hours. Furthermore, a Princeton University study found that when “taking differences in employee characteristics into account,” federal workers actually earn 34 percent more than comparable private sector workers.
They receive “cadillac” federal employees health benefits, 75 percent of which is subsidized. These plans includes medical plus vision and dental benefits. On top of that, federal retirees are eligible for covered health benefits at 57 years old, a rare luxury in the private sector. They also have generous pension plans and Social Security benefits. Such payments are three times higher than private sector 401(k) and Social Security benefits.
It is also worth noting that federal workers face a 0.2 percent chance of getting fired in a given year. That is more than 45 times lower than their private sector counterparts. In some cases, it takes the effort from four different agencies to fire federal employees, and the process often takes years, even in simple cases. This shield protects public employees who are cited for malfeasance or incompetence. Meanwhile, a Brookings Institution study found that 65 percent of federal employees think job security is more important than helping the public, while only 30 percent think their organization does a good job disciplining poor performers.
During this protracted government shutdown, the media would have you believe that federal workers are eating cat food while on furlough. For most of those affected by the shutdown, they get most of January off with guaranteed full back pay when the government reopens. When a private business is affected by a closure or new federal mandates, how many of its employees get time off and full back pay? Washington was envisioned as a respite for public servants, so both federal employees and members of Congress should be saying thanks to their lucky stars for the continued beneficence of taxpayers instead of blaming each other for the shutdown.
So going without a paycheck, maybe losing your house, running up your credit cards, along with all of host of horror stories we've seen in the media about how this shutdown is affecting these people's lives is just like taking a vacation?
And yes, government workers do make more on average than their private sector counterparts, but there are reasons for that and it's not some simple cut and dry issue, as Eugene Kelly discussed in a 2010 article for FactCheck.org:
But any compensation comparison between the average federal civilian employee and average private-sector employee oversimplifies the debate, glossing over the important differences in occupation, skill level, age, and education that determine salaries. The BEA has posted an FAQ on federal pay, providing a number of reasons why the average compensation for federal civilian employees is higher than the average compensation for private-sector employees:
- Federal civilian workers are more educated.
- The federal government has a higher proportion of white-collar jobs.
- “Lower-skilled (and lower-paid) positions have been contracted out to private industries” in recent years, raising the average pay of federal civilian employees.
- Federal civilian workers receive better pension and health insurance benefits on average than private-sector employees, some of whom receive no benefits.
Furthermore, the $123,049 average compensation figure for federal workers is greatly inflated — and several thousand dollars too high. The BEA tells us that total compensation includes an unknown amount for retirees’ health and life insurance benefits. More importantly, it includes billions of dollars that Congress appropriates each year to pay "unfunded liabilities" for retirees and current workers covered by the old Civil Service Retirement System before it was replaced for newly hired workers starting Jan. 1, 1987. These payments for former workers obviously don’t benefit current workers, and should not be included in their average total compensation.
It's also never a problem with people like Tate that we have a race to the bottom going on in the private sector. As Pew Research reported last year: For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades:
On the face of it, these should be heady times for American workers. U.S. unemployment is as low as it’s been in nearly two decades (3.9% as of July) and the nation’s private-sector employers have been adding jobs for 101 straight months – 19.5 million since the Great Recession-related cuts finally abated in early 2010, and 1.5 million just since the beginning of the year.
But despite the strong labor market, wage growth has lagged economists’ expectations. In fact, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, today’s real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers.
And, as Yahoo Finance reported last August, CEOs now make 312 times more then typical workers:
The top executives of the biggest companies in the U.S. make about 312 times more than their workers, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
That estimate is up from 270 times in 2016.
Looking at CEO compensation across 350 publicly held companies, co-authors Larry Mishel and Jessica Schneider found that the average CEO in 2017 received $18.9 million in compensation.
“The ratio reflects the different worlds of CEOs and their workers,” Mishel told Yahoo Finance. “Profits rose a ton, but CEO compensation rose a lot more.”
But in libertarian land, the real problem is that those government moochers are overpaid, not that those in the private sector are underpaid. It's always a race to the bottom with these people. Divide and conquer, pit one class of working people against another, and laugh all the way to the bank while they fight among themselves.