Federal workforce grows fatter and richer

While our economy has been sputtering these past two years, with many businesses struggling just to stay afloat, Washington has been gorging itself by dramatically increasing the number of government jobs – 141,000 since President Barack Obama took office – and offering salaries that continue to outpace those in the private sector. 

A report by USA Today found that the number of government workers earning more than $150,000 has increased significantly in recent years. In 2005, 12,399 government workers earned more than $150,000 annually; a number that has since ballooned nearly fourteen-fold to 171,689. Workers who have been with the government between 15 and 24 years have seen their salaries rise by 25% over this same time period, far outpacing the economy’s 9% inflation rate. 

Including benefits, the average federal government employee now earns $123,000 annually; double that of their counterparts in the private sector. It should come as no surprise that seven of the 10 richest counties in the nation surround Washington, DC. 

Salaries of government jobs are outpacing those in the private sector in nearly all professions. For example, the average salary for a chemist employed by the federal government is $98,060; compared to $72,120 for their private-sector counterpart.  The average government-employed janitor will bring home almost $6,000 more than a janitor employed by a private business. Even a clergyman in the employ of Uncle Sam will make almost double that of his private-sector counterpart. While the importance of religion is not in dispute, there is little justification for paying a government pastor $70,460 per year.

Other governments facing fiscal problems are taking the axe to their workforces in an effort to trim their budgets. 

The United Kingdom announced last month it would reduce the number of bureaucrats in its government by 500,000 over the next five years. Russia, home to some of the world’s best bureaucrats, seems to comprehend the need to cut the government payroll in tough economic times. President Dmitry Medvedev plans to trim 100,000 jobs over the next three years; a 20 percent cut in public employment. 

Even Cuban President Raul Castro appears to understand the benefits of a reduced government workforce; announcing in August that he would reduce the official work force by half a million over the course of six months, and by one million over the next five years. 

The Bowles-Simpson commission, which recently released a draft proposal to alleviate the nation’s fiscal problems, suggested that Congress freeze salaries of federal workers over the next three years, while also cutting the number of government jobs by 10%. Additionally, the commission proposed that federal workers contribute half of the cost to their benefit packages; a substantial increase over current contribution levels. Public employee unions predictably are up in arms over that suggestion. 

To their credit, Republicans are planning to make a stand on this, as promised in their “Pledge to America.”  They propose to kill an across-the-board pay increase and the addition of another 125,000 federal workers in the next fiscal year; they also are at least starting to explore ways to trim back the number of existing government jobs. 

No matter how you look at it, the divide between salaries and benefits for federal workers and their private sector counterparts is wide and getting wider. In addition to scaling back the federal workforce, Congress could address this by implementing a market-based approach in determining federal pay. 

Unfortunately, unless Democrats and Republicans can agree in the current lame-duck session to extend Bush tax cuts, businesses are not going to be in any position to offer employees pay raises or invest in expanding into new ventures. Of course, failure to do this would suit the federal work force just fine; as its members continue to rest easy in the knowledge they will have cushy jobs for a long time to come.

-by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

93 comments Add your comment


November 29th, 2010
6:34 am

“Republicans are planning to make a stand on this”…I’ll believe it when I see it. Republicans had a chance to reduce government when they controlled Congress and the White House. What did they do? They created the DHS…a government agency that makes all others look like models of efficiency and competence.

Karl Marx

November 29th, 2010
6:37 am

This is true at all levels of government Federal, State, and Local. Stop voting for tax increases and special bonds people. Cut government off of its drug, Your money.


November 29th, 2010
6:40 am

This is partisan politics, cheap theatrics, and misleading statistics. The GS pay grade of $149,000 in 2008 was increased to $153,200 in 2009 by legislation signed by Bush in late 2008. This had the effect of pushing thousands of employees across this level. The choice of $150k is entirely arbitrary, but makes it seem like there is either a huge surge of highly paid fed workers, or that Obama is dolling out excessive salaries. There are around 2 million Federal employees, of which only about 80,000 make more than $150K. Many of the high earners are VA doctors working at Veteran’s Hospitals (18,000), HHS doctors (2,000), Air Traffic Controllers (4,000), attorneys at the Dept. of Justice, or in the Dept. of Defense (13,000).

And tying this to an appeal to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in the name of job creation is a laughable non sequitur. Alan Greenspan, the Bush era architect of those tax cuts, now admits they were a huge mistake and should not be extended.


November 29th, 2010
6:43 am

The same hackneyed story once again…Bob the studies you are citing by the CATO institute and USA Today have serious methodological flaws (not taking into account comparable, education, location, length of service–using average instead of the median). Once somebody produces something close to apples to apples, then we can have this discussion.

PS–The majority increase in Fed workers is due to contract employees being hired, not technically an increase.
PSS–No, I’m not a public sector worker


November 29th, 2010
6:53 am

Okay, Vet, the $150K mark is arbitrary, so let’s throw that one aside. How do you justify the 25% salary increase for 15-24 year employees since 2005? Or the 141,000 new government jobs?

Call it partisan politics if you wish, but that is a lame defense. (And, remember, Barr quit the GOP.) I don’t care whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat in office; fat government is unsustainable. It seems that the best defense for Obama on any issue is “Well, what about the Bush years…?” Remember, one does not have to be a Bush supporter in order to be a critic of the current administration’s policies and practices.


November 29th, 2010
6:53 am

@ Karl–Actually, state and local governments have terminated 123,000 jobs in the last 12 months.

(BLS Statistics, October 2010)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob Barr, Teresa and Thomas Crafts, Jason Pye. Jason Pye said: RT @bobbarr: Barr Code: Federal workforce grows fatter and richer http://bit.ly/ffV5i4 [...]


November 29th, 2010
7:21 am

VietVet- Air Traffic Controllers (4,000)

Your OK with paying over $150k to someone playing a video game? With the Nintendo generation, your average 12 year old could do that job today. The doctors I can deal with (until obamacare drops the private sector by 50%). Time to drain the swamp and get all these people off the government teet. Doesn’t matter which side they’re on, they need to go.


November 29th, 2010
7:29 am

Fat & government is now the same.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Brisand, sean walker, Eva Miranda, Pete Drake, Diana Roberts and others. Diana Roberts said: Federal workforce grows: … of government jobs – 141000 since President Barack Obama took office – and offering… http://bit.ly/f5YjpI [...]


November 29th, 2010
7:32 am

There are no longer federally employed janitors for most government facilities. There haven’t been for about 15 years. Thanks to Fred Grandy’s efforts, the janitorial staff was redistributed (govt speak for retraining employees for other jobs) and Goodwill Industries now provides those services. Then same thing has happened with building maintenance (where most of the retrained janitorial staff went), program support staff, and admin support. So the lower paying GS jobs and wage grade jobs have disappeared or are disappearing. This artificially raises the “average salary”. But you don’t even seem to be aware of these facts. Sloppy research on your part.


November 29th, 2010
7:38 am

wow. I hope the Republicans do address this issue. Although, I have my doubts.


November 29th, 2010
7:44 am

Every penny earned must first be stolen from the productive sector so there is no justification. There is not a single task provided by the federal state or local governments that could not be provided better and more inexpensively by the private sector and that includes defense.

Time to roll the government back to at least the limits of the constitution as a start. We can work on more once that is achieved. As most people have said, don’t look for the Republicans to do this. It will take Libertarians to achieve such positive outcomes.

Road Scholar

November 29th, 2010
8:23 am

SmittyATL: If workers worked 15-24 years, do you think that they had promotions and higher managerial or other responsibilities? if they are in the same job, I agree with you. if they were promoted, this doesn’t indicate increased responsibilities!


November 29th, 2010
8:26 am

I’m not going to spend all of my morning on this, I’m a small business owner, but I’ll do one more round. PolitiFact checked Scott Brown’s claim that federal workers were overpaid in February of 2010 and they found that in comparable private and public jobs, the public sector employees are paid on average 26 percent less than private sector counterparts. They called Brown’s assertion false. Maybe the 25% increase in fed salaries was trying to close that gap.

My concern is that between 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of the total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent. In that time period the top one percent’s income went from 9% to 24% of the nation’s income. The working and middle class is being ground down by trickle down economics and tax cuts for the rich. Why do Republicans say $150,000 is outrageous for government doctors and lawyers, while also claiming people making north of $250,000 are too poor to pay the tax rate they paid in Reagan’s day?

And please point out where I defended Obama or said “Bush did it too.” My “defense” was the fact checks I did. Calling this partisan politics is just stating the obvious. But I am glad to hear you’re not trying to defend Bush, and in fact, would love to see some of the outraged posts you made while Bush and the Republicans turned the government surplus they inherited from Clinton into the biggest deficit of modern times.


November 29th, 2010
8:50 am

@ Patriot–Define “better”.

“Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.” – George Bernard Shaw

The above quote rings even truer when it is self anointed, as in your case.

Road Scholar

November 29th, 2010
8:52 am

VietVet: Good posts. What type of business do you have?


November 29th, 2010
9:20 am

I’d sure like to know how these people got their federal jobs. I have above average job qualifications. I’ve applied to many federal job openings over the past 2-3 years – enduring their arduous online forms, questionnaires, essays, verifications, rating scales, follow up, etc.). Twice I was selected for a “second” round toward the final job, but didn’t make the cut. Who in the world are the people getting hired then? Federal jobs are incredibly hard to get, and I never could find information on the “Obama jobs” that were supposedly created. So this hiring issue conflicts with the salary information reported here. Don’t understand it.

Common Sense isn't very Common

November 29th, 2010
9:24 am

Interesting to note that a lot of the IT functions of government are let on a contract basis CDC,etc.

These contract companies are then allowed to use H-1b contractors to fulfill the work requirement cheaply.

This work can easily be done by the existing workforce (US citizens) who have been unemployed because of this ridiculous visa program.

The H-1b visa holders supposedly pay taxes (who knows how many deductions they claim) and some of these contracts are even given to Indian owned companies (Ohio – TATA).

The salaries need to come into line with the private sector, but until they start comparing equal jobs and experience we will not know how they match up.


November 29th, 2010
9:30 am

“…unless Democrats and Republicans can agree in the current lame-duck session to extend Bush tax cuts…”

How we gonna pay for the tax cuts? Or, to re-phrase the question, if you cut revenue where will you cut a like amount of spending?

You know, we started cutting taxes in 1981. We started refusing to cut spending in 1981. The result is the $13.8 trillion National Debt.

Will we continue to do the same thing over and over and continue to expect a different result?


November 29th, 2010
9:54 am

@JKL…So, you think the average 12 year old can do my job of making sure thousands of airplanes in and out of ATL arrive and depart safely and efficiently? I am a 19 year verteran of this profession you see as “pork barrel” spending by our government, however, I dare say a 12 year old of the “nintendo generation” or you could do what I or thousands of my colleagues do on a daily basis. Unless you have first hand knowledge of what we do or what it takes to do it I suggest you keep your comments respectful. Furthermore, If you were the one doing this job, you would be the one “you” would be getting rid of…try walking a mile in those shoes.

Trapped in a Red state

November 29th, 2010
10:03 am

Do not make the mistake of assuming Federal and state employees are paid the same. The Ga state employees make less than all other states. The average state worker makes around $25,000 per year with no annual raises built in. Before the hiring freeze due to the recession, The state could not fill vacant position across the board due to these low salaries. I just heard on this morning news that the State Patrol was down 168 positions out of a 700 man force and that’s not because of any hiring freeze. The feds make way more than they deserve.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

November 29th, 2010
10:05 am

There is an obvious cure – abolish all taxpayer funding for non-military agencies. Let them sink or swim in the real market. SEC, FTC, FBI, FDA, OSHA, EPA, FHLMC, FNMA, FHA. If they provide a product with a market, pay them appropriately, even millions per year. But no taxpayer funds for elephant stampede insurance.


November 29th, 2010
10:12 am

Thanks, Road Scholar, I’ve also enjoyed your comments here and other places on the AJC site. I make exhibits and videos for museums, which is why I’m so rigorous about research. Nothing hurts my business and pride more than someone pointing out an error in my work.


November 29th, 2010
10:13 am

It is interesting how Bob Barr mixes reasonable columns with hogwash. This column is in the latter variety, the numbers cited indiscriminately without a moment of thought. To compare “ average federal government employee (who) now earns $123,000 annually; double that of their counterparts in the private sector” is totally misleading and even deceiving, because the comparison is not one of “counterparts,” just of average employees. How many burger-flippers or garbage collectors does the federal government employ?. Even comparing real “counterparts,” people with similar titles, is misleading. For instance, government scientists generally are “cream of the crop,” as compared with both excellent as well as mediocre and substandard scientists in the general scientific population.

Trapped in a Red state

November 29th, 2010
10:15 am

A former co-worker got a job with the FBI. It took 9 months and $80,000 to pass the background check (They use retired FBI agents for these investigations). He resigned, then a year later applied with ATF, who is also a Homeland Security agency. They did another 6 month $80,000 background check. Unbelievable waste of $$$. He did not get the ATF job because he exceeded the age limit by the time the 2rd background check was completed… true story.


November 29th, 2010
10:18 am

jconservative: “paying for a tax cut” is backwards thinking. That presupposes that the money belongs to the government in the first place. It doesn’t. The federal government is bloated, and has taken on a slew of functions that oversteps the authority granted by the Constitution. The federal government should be concentrating on defense, national security, and public goods such as infrastructure — not on retirement planning, medical insurance, and home ownership. Unfortunately, this is a one-way street; once the public becomes accustomed to suckling the government teat, it is painful to wean. But, as evidenced by the $14 trillion national debt, wean we must.

The government has more than enough revenue to cover its Constitutional obligations. We do not have a revenue issue; we have a spending issue.


November 29th, 2010
10:24 am

I am one of those “government employees” and will admit that I am fairly compensated for what I do. I do want to make one very important clarification. Those making $150,000 or more (and I am certainly not one) are almost all political appointees or members of what is called the Senior Executive Service rather than the regular employees who are paid on the GS-1 through GS-14 pay scales. They also do not have to compete for those jobs through the regular government hiring process.

So my suggestion is to leave the GS pay scales alone and go after the Senior Executive Service (who in addition to those salaries get five digit “performance bonuses”.

Big Jim

November 29th, 2010
10:44 am

Great idea! What if we allow only rich people to be excluded from paying taxes. That way,Rush Fatbaugh will be happy. Or will he?
All rich,established politicians will like this plan as well. They won’t be paying into a “tyrannous” governments’ system. The same big,bad
government that employs John Boehner,Joe Tater Wilson, etc.

I have an even better idea, all politicians that agree with the TeaBaggers and hardline republicans should find other employment. No need working for such a bad company!


November 29th, 2010
10:48 am

Reduce the number of direct federal employees by 5 percent per year for 10 years, Reduce the number of contract employees by 10 percent per year for 10 years. The would reduce the numbers to 60 percent, and 35 percent of current employment respectively.


November 29th, 2010
11:00 am

This is irresponsible “journalism” at best, a known lie with a political agenda at worst. In what sector, other than this government, do we use the phrase “including benefits”? Yes, government emplyess have medical, dental, TSP (sort of like 401K), and leave benefits. It is very fuzzy math to put a hard number on those. How about we stick with salary, which is more of an apples-apples comparison?

To say that the average salary of a government employee outpaces that of the average private sector employee is also very simplistic, and again, a misuse of statistics. Are you talking skilled or unskilled labor? Do you bundle the aveerage salaries by locality, or are you compatring a government chemist’s salary in New York with that of a civilian chemist’s in Tuscon, Arizona? Basic research skills are needed here.

I know that in my sector and locality, the civilian workforce (typicall government contractors) make 10-25% more than government employees. I recently left the private sector to join the government as a GS 13. I took a $60,000 pay cut to do that. I am talking cold hard cash, not this “pay and benefits” garbage. You see, in the private sector, they still gave me benefits. I had several reasons, and as a GS 13, nobody need throw me a charity benefit, but my point is that all these “studies” and “facts” are usually run by people who have no idea about the industry. Sadly, the public takes these bombastic pieces as researched fact. This clearly was not researched, nor well thought out.

It’s interesteing that congress and Mr. Carr, has decided that it is the government civilian pay that is our problem, not the reckless spending on things such as self-serving earmarks (for the sole purpose of re-election).


November 29th, 2010
11:01 am

Big Jim: no one should be excluded from paying taxes. I certainly am not rich; but I cannot justify seizing even more from the “rich” just because they have more than I do. As of 2007 (according to CBO statistics reported by the American Enterprise Institute), the top 10% of earners brought in 44% of revenue, and paid 68% in taxes. (If you have more recent data that tells a different story, please share.) I think a good argument could be made that there are too many loopholes, so some rich folks legally avoid a lot of taxes. That’s because lawmakers decided to use the tax code to create incentives for certain behavior, rather than simply to collect revenue; the tax code has become incredibly complex.

We should simplify the tax code, and set rates that optimize revenue in an equitable manner. That doesn’t necessarily mean jacking up rates, which could retard economic activity and thus reduce tax revenues. (Unfortunately, it’s necessary to optimize revenues because of our huge debt.)

Meanwhile, we need to drastically reduce government spending. Once the debt is paid off, we can reduce taxes even further, to the point where revenues cover only our spending on necessities such as defense, national security, and public goods such as infrastructure.

This course would omit government spending on many current programs — some of which support worth objectives but could be better (and more equitably) served via private investment and charity.


November 29th, 2010
11:11 am

Government waste, inefficency and fraud cost us taxpayers billions of dollars each year. If we cut the number of Federal and State Government jobs by one third this would save more than enough money for all our other urgent needs. I have talked to people who formerly worked for the State and Government. They told me stories about people spending most of their time on personal phone calls, lenghty breaks and many people doing a job one or two could do. Is anyone really supprised by this?

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

November 29th, 2010
11:12 am

Fascist plutocracy, through its paid minions in Congress, must maintain “civil servants” as a further buffer caste to protect it from the once sovereign People. How else should they expect to contain outrage against their treasonous faction, yet to be brought to justice for financing Hitler, killing Kennedy and King to send us to Vietnam, cheating into office a draft-dodging closet-queen to commit 9/11 to send us after non-existent WMD’s to maintain the Rockefeller-client Saudis, PNAC’s corrupt group of false Jews in the State of Israel, to restart the Afghan heroin trade, while stealing Our Nation’s wealth?

make up your minds

November 29th, 2010
11:18 am

Create Jobs, oh no but wait, not government jobs….fix the unemployment rate but cut back on government jobs….fix the deficit but don’t raise taxes on income above $250K…people are truly conflicted and don’t even realize the doublespeak that comes out of their mouths, it’s sickening


November 29th, 2010
11:32 am

Create an environment in which businesses hire more workers. Set a tax rate that enables economic growth, thereby increasing the taxable base. Limit federal government to the roles defined by the Constitution, thereby reducing spending and reducing the deficit. I don’t feel conflicted at all.


November 29th, 2010
11:42 am

True, the average salary of government workers is probably $123,000, but I’ll tell you right now that the majority don’t make even close to that amount. If you take out those in the government who are making a hell of a lot more than that and are skewing the mean, then you’re probably going to be looking at a number much less than that for the average salary of a government employee.

My father has worked for the IRS for 30+ years and has only now hit the $100,000 mark. He’ll never reach $123,000 in his lifetime and his private sector counterpart job has always been about twice of what he’s making right now.

VietVet posted typical government jobs that are the top earners skewing the mean for government salary; all of which are top earners in their respective private sectors as well. They’d probably be making more working private sector than in the government anyways!

So sure, we’ve seen an increase in salary for government workers over the last few years, but they’re still, on average, making far less than their private sector counterparts.


November 29th, 2010
11:46 am

Good point Viet Vet

Why do Republicans say $150,000 is outrageous for government doctors and lawyers, while also claiming people making north of $250,000 are too poor to pay the tax rate they paid in Reagan’s day?

A classic example of the hypocrisy of all these republican arguments for granting/extending tax cuts to the top elite wealthy in this country while pretending to be concerned about the average family. Just a bunch of hog wash as they are only interested in serving their big corporate business and wall street masters.

Unpainted Huffhines

November 29th, 2010
11:47 am

Yeah Bob, the Bush tax cuts have worked wonders. Show me one shred of evidence that corporations use tax cuts to create jobs with decent living wages and benefits. Just one! Airlines? nope, Banks? nope; Computer manufacturing? nope…. However, tax cuts have resulted in a large uptick in low-wage retail sales jobs and jobs that only pay full commission. People in the public sector, to my knowledge, have a cap on their wages. Private sector does not. Additionally, no mention by you of a disparity in wages among private sector employees. In the private sector, the gap is far, far wider.

If government is run like a business all bureaucratic functions will be outsourced to places like China. Your “income-security” envy is very unlibertarian. If you don’t want a job as a bureaucrat, then work in the private sector! If businesses didn’t waste so much money on advertising, marketing, lobbying efforts, and bonuses to executives who downsize, outsource, and slash stock values, then maybe they could pay higher wages. Until then, stop blaming business’ failure on government. Wal*Mart is doing just fine, go work for them as a greeter.

[...] View original post here: Federal workforce grows fatter and richer | The Barr Code [...]


November 29th, 2010
12:13 pm

Unpainted: you’re acting as if a tax cut is some type of federal grant, and that “recipients” owe something to the government. In fact, the upper 10% earns 44% of revenues and pays 68% of taxes. (Again, I invite anyone with more recent statistics to share.) Is that not enough? How much more should the government take from that top 10%? I am not in the upper 10%, but I just can’t see how it’s fair to ask them to foot even more of the bill, when instead we should be looking for ways to cut spending.

For those who are well-to-do and want to fund even more federal programs, have at it! Or, you might consider investing in businesses that will hire more workers, or donating to charities that help the less fortunate. I believe that you have earned your money, and should have the choice of how to put it to work.


November 29th, 2010
12:13 pm



November 29th, 2010
12:19 pm

It just came on the news, President Obama is freezing federal salaries for the next two years, saving 5 billion dollars. I knew he could do it.

That means the custodians at the White House will have to get by on $37.00 an hour. I would not mind that job, vacuming the Oval Office, look ing out the window and seeing all the tourists looking through the wrought iron fence. Or beign down in the gym mopping up the blood after a basketball game. The moral of the story is ” you are either on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out”.
The custodian is an insider, maybe not privy to the secrets that are encrypted by U.S. diplomats, but still, an insider.

All in all, making it to the top out side of the federal government is still the American ideal. Making it to the top in private enterprise will always be the goal.

A little known fact today, federal employees can use their federal health insurance plan to buy coverage for their cat or dog. Same sex partners are still prohited from purchasing insurance for their partner. The reason being to preserve the sanctity of the more traditional unions.


November 29th, 2010
12:21 pm

Looks like Obama agrees with Bob.

‘Citing deficit, Obama to freeze federal worker pay’ — AJC: 11:52am



November 29th, 2010
12:25 pm

“Republicans are planning to make a stand on this, as promised in their “Pledge to America.” They propose to kill an across-the-board pay increase and the addition of another 125,000 federal workers in the next fiscal year; they also are at least starting to explore ways to trim back the number of existing government jobs”

Does that include the recent high raises that a good number of congressional staffers just received? Does that include the elected members of Congress, who routinely give themselves raises that the average worker in private industry receive?

You seem to think that $150,000 dollars is a lot – not if one has a master’s degree or a PhD or an MD or a JD. A large percentage of folks who work in the federal government, have professional degrees and licenses that would allow them to earn more than $150,000/year if working in private industry.

That also includes all the lawyers and judges in the Justice Dept, commissioned officers, especially in command ranks and any number of MD who work in the various agencies, such as NIH, VAMC, military MD, public health services, etc. Cutting their salaries just puts these programs in jeopardy – but, then again, you Repugs do not care. And, not everything in the private sector is just hunky-dorry. I fail to see the benefit of slashing salaries and benefits and making the average worker anywhere poorer, when the rich do not suffer the same treatment. After all, our current recession had more to do with greedy bankers, financiers and real estate mogels than the average citizen, yet you seem hellbent on make the 97% of us below the rich, to pay for their mistakes. Shame on you.

make up your minds

November 29th, 2010
12:32 pm

@ SMITHYATL Create an environment in which businesses hire more workers.

You mean versus sending them out of the country? As you typed that Corpate America is seeing record profits (missed that bulletin?) but alas they are not hiring due to “uncertainy” Yeah yeah right…..


November 29th, 2010
12:54 pm

Headline: The Freeze is On.

About time. Notable comments by the AFGE union chief, indicative of why unionization of government employees should be prohibited.

A two-year freeze on Federal salaries may just seal Obama’s fate in 2012. I’ll give credit where it’s due; regardless of the motives this action is a step in the right direction.


November 29th, 2010
12:59 pm

Rockerbabe: Using your own figures, the typical 2-worker household with at least one $150,000 Federal employee would likely be part of the 3%, not the 97%.

Unpainted Huffhines

November 29th, 2010
12:59 pm

Smitty. the upper 10% controls 90% of the money and their cases take up 90% of our federal and municipal courts work. Their tax should be in proportion to their use of the commons. Last year, for example, Boeing spent $2 billion to settle fraud claims. They should be hanged, drawn and quartered. What does it take to prove to you that the wealthy hoard money for themselves?


November 29th, 2010
1:04 pm

Boeing is a PERSON???? I never knew.

Aging Federal Worker w/2 Years to Go

November 29th, 2010
1:06 pm

Twice I was selected for a “second” round toward the final job, but didn’t make the cut. Who in the world are the people getting hired then? Federal jobs are incredibly hard to get, and I never could find information on the “Obama jobs” that were supposedly created. So this hiring issue conflicts with the salary information reported here.

The answer, Eric, is that many are called and few are chosen. When I was hired, I had a PhD in my subject field and 22 years of successfully practicing in it. And my starting salary here wasn’t even 40% of $150,000. I was told that I was one of 176 who applied for the position.

This entire $150,000 figure is bogus, selected arbitrarily. I can walk through the building next door to mine and count 172 work stations occupied by people holding the MD and medical licensure in their fields. Do people really think that an MD is going to start work at $40,000? And this supposed “increase” in the number of federal jobs? Another smoke-and-mirrors illusion. You see, when the Bush administration put hundreds of thousands of Civil Service jobs out for private bidding, the contract workers who got them technically worked for Boeing, Lockheed, Perot Systems, etc. But the money to pay for the workers and their benefits—along with the profit that was to go to the contracting companies—came from the federal budget. In most cases, the contract workers were costing the taxpayer more than the Civil Service employees they replaced.

But here’s the kicker: the hundreds of thousands of contract jobs did not count as part of the federal work force. Now those contract workers are being replaced by Civil Service workers. The number of workers is remaining the same, except for new positions in the procurement areas in DC. But somehow, the replacement counts as “a huge increase in the federal work force.”

So freeze the pay raises. I’m retiring in two years, and it won’t affect me that much. And I don’t currently make even 60% of $150,000. Whatever makes people feel better. This cut won’t amount to a flea-bite on an elephant when you consider the deficit.


November 29th, 2010
1:07 pm

Nelson – I’m a fed and would like to know how I can get my dogs/cats on my health plan. Would save a lot on vet bills.


November 29th, 2010
1:17 pm

VietVet, who cares if a few public employees make 150k plus. The problem is that there are simply too many people working for or contracting with the government at all levels. Ultimately, all of the pay for all government employees and contractors comes from that part of the private sector that is not directly associated with publicly funded projects. I’ll bet the rhetoric regarding earmarks shakes your world since it seems that most museums are at least partly funded by public money.


November 29th, 2010
1:34 pm

I always love it when someone wants to “cut the workforce by 10%”. They already whine and bit*h when they have to wait three minutes on hold to talk to someone. When you drop that office from 50 employees to 45 just think how long the wait will be.

Cut everyone’s salaries and jobs…but their own.


November 29th, 2010
1:37 pm

No…Boeing is NOT a person. That’s why I’m so appalled by lobbyists and so called “conservatives” who champion corporations as “private citizens” and seek to endow them with the same rights as individuals.

Ravi-The H-1b

November 29th, 2010
1:55 pm

Please cut the federal staff. We H1b’s will take up the slack. We work cheap and do cheap work.


November 29th, 2010
2:01 pm

Self_Made: I suspect most fiscal conservatives favor eliminating corporate welfare (subsidies, not investment tax credits) and significantly reducing or eliminating corporate income taxes. Not at all sure where you get the impression CONSERVATIVES want to treat corporations as “private citizens”; I’d think that’s more the liberal line.


November 29th, 2010
2:04 pm

Self: Noting that most small business ARE taxed as private citizens, in addition to paying some corporate taxes.


November 29th, 2010
2:16 pm

The second most important thing Republicans should do but won’t is go through every agency, every program, every grant, and every contract and eliminate the one’s that are not Constitutional, are not effective, and are full of waste and fraud. Billions of wasted tax dollars could be saved by getting rid of this pork and the federal employees that exist because of it.


November 29th, 2010
2:24 pm

Amos, Next time try reading the article before you comment on it. It was Bob Barr who made big stink out of fed employees making $150K, not me. And right off hand about the only Georgia museums I know who live on government money are the Hall of Fames, funded by your Republican legislature. And I’ve never set foot inside one of them. And even those don’t do as well as Sonny Perdue’s $20 million “Go Fish” giveaway.

More generally, freezing fed pay or even downsizing by 10% hardly makes a dent in the deficit. Bush tax cuts and the 12 years of Republican congressional mismanagement have fubarred this country beyond belief. Want to see how bad it is, goggle the NY Time’s Fix the Budget and try to balance it yourself just on spending cuts. And when was the last time a Republican president balanced a budget, anyway? Try Eisenhower. Last Democrat? Clinton, and before him, LBJ.


November 29th, 2010
2:37 pm

Shame on you Bob Barr for all your misleading and boorish commentary. Federal Employees growing richer?! Weren’t YOU a Federal employee? Weren’t YOU getting paid by “We The People?” I noticed that you drove a nice car, lived in a nice neighborhood and ate well (probably due to some “special interest” groups that had you on their dole), yet here you are decrying someone else, other than a fat cat CEO, making some money? How ridiculous.


November 29th, 2010
2:38 pm

Clinton only balanced the budget when a Republican congress forced him too.


November 29th, 2010
2:39 pm

Barr: To their credit, Republicans are planning to make a stand on this, as promised in their “Pledge to America.” They propose to kill an across-the-board pay increase and the addition of another 125,000 federal workers in the next fiscal year; they also are at least starting to explore ways to trim back the number of existing government jobs.

When are these same republicans going to make a stand on THEIR pay increases? I noticed they vote themselves to have one yearly. Pot. Meet. Kettle.


November 29th, 2010
2:41 pm

Noticed you didn’t keep my comment about how you used to be a “goverment employee”. Wonder what happened to it……????


November 29th, 2010
2:52 pm

Sorry, Cekker, the facts say otherwise. Clinton forced restraint on the Republican congress. When Bush took over the Republicans went on an unrestrained spending spree, funding two wars, a huge new federal bureaucracy, Homeland Defense and the TSA, and a gigantic Medicare increase, all entirely borrowed.


November 29th, 2010
2:59 pm

Why…VietVet…obviously you have it wrong! Where have you been? History has been rewritten! All that came about when the Dems took control in the last two years of Bush’s administration. Read you rewriten history (there should be a new chapter any day now…)


November 29th, 2010
3:01 pm

and speaking of rewrites…how do you like the “treat corporations as “private citizens”; I’d think that’s more the liberal line.” The “Liberal line?????”


November 29th, 2010
3:03 pm

Everyone still for downsizing government work force and control over the states? Hell yes! Go Tea Party.


November 29th, 2010
3:10 pm

Make Up @ 12:32: I am glad corporations are earning record profits. That will help my 401(k). I will need a good retirement plan, since Social Security is such a disaster and I can’t count on the federal government to pay me back what I put into it.

Sluggish demand and uncertainty regarding 2011 tax rates are two factors that are currently preventing businesses from adding more workers. Business owners have no obligation to hire more workers just because today’s profits are solid. If they are confident they can improve future profitability by expanding and adding more workers, they will do so.

Ravi-The H-1b

November 29th, 2010
4:06 pm

SmittyATL@3:10 pm

If they are confident they can improve future profitability by expanding and adding more workers, they will do so.

They are confidant and they did add jobs (just in India). My country loves America


November 29th, 2010
4:15 pm

clay- So, you think the average 12 year old can do my job of making sure thousands of airplanes in and out of ATL arrive and depart safely and efficiently?

Yes, I think I could. I believe my term would be highly overpaid if you are one of the 4,000 making over $150k. I’m sure we could find millions of unemployed computer programs who could take your job in a week for $30k.

You’re at the big airport, and it’stressful. I get it. On the other hand, we have people getting shot at on a regular basis making 1/5 as much, living in deplorable conditions, far away from home, and not complaining about anything.

So take your frapachino mocha latte back to your cushy chair, in your air conditioned office and cry me a river. Where’s Reagan when you need him. He knew how to handle air traffic controlers.

PS: I am from Oshkosh. Your not impressing me….


November 29th, 2010
4:45 pm

JKL2…I would think if you’re from Oshkosh, having steps to your mobile home would impress you.

Ravi-The H-1b

November 29th, 2010
5:26 pm

JKL2@4:15 pm

I’m sure we could find millions of unemployed computer programs who could take your job in a week for $30k.

No need to hire computer programs. Outsource to TATA we will bring H1b visa holders in to do job. Much cheaper. what’s a few crashes when it will be so much cheaper

Atlanta Native

November 29th, 2010
6:02 pm

There is nothing misleading about this. It’s a problem that even the president’s fiscal commission realized.

Great article, Bob.


November 29th, 2010
6:10 pm

Ravi: I agree that outsourcing jobs to India (and the Philippines, and other nations) is a real issue. This is a global economy, with overseas suppliers and customers. We all like it when our products cost less, and most of us don’t want to pay a fee for technical support; so businesses that do not use offshore labor where practical will be left in the dust.


November 29th, 2010
6:20 pm

Unpainted @ 12:59: You say “the upper 10% controls 90% of the money and their cases take up 90% of our federal and municipal courts work.” What is your source for these statistics? I think we all know that you’re just making this stuff up.

As I pointed out, according to CBO statistics, the upper 10% earns 46% of income, and pays 68% of taxes. If you can show evidence that they are use a substantially higher portion of federal services than the rest of us, perhaps you could make a logical argument that their 68% is not enough. What have you got?

[...] evaluate their needs for offshore outsourcing and determine if they really need one or the local workforce can satisfy their company requirements. Scott Miller – About the [...]

John Johnson

November 29th, 2010
10:58 pm

Proof in Law
– You are a Pauper –
You Lost your Rights/Immunities

Read the Articles of Confederation
article 4 section 1

Article IV.
The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse
among the people of the different States in this union,
the free inhabitants of each of these States,
paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted,
shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States;…..


paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted,
Notice how law views how Paupers.

What is a Pauper?

One so poor that he must be supported at the public expense.

Vide 16 Vin. Ab. 259;
Botts on the Poor Laws;
Woodf. Landl. & Ten. 901.
A Law Dictionary,
Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States.
By John Bouvier. Published 1856.

The definition of Pauper is:

One so poor that he must be supported at the public expense.

another way to read this:
One supported at the public expense.

Having defined the necessary circumstances of evidence
and the mode of proceeding thereon,
the act concludes by giving to all free inhabitants of other States,
except paupers and fugitives from justice,
the same rights, privileges, and immunities,
as belong to the free citizens of the Commonwealth,
and the liberty of free ingress and egress to and from the same;


Are You a Pauper?

Federal Law

US Code 5 USC 552(a) 12

§ 552a.
(12) the term “Federal benefit program”
means any program administered or funded by the Federal Government,
or by any agent or State
on behalf of the Federal Government,
providing cash or in-kind assistance
in the form of payments, grants, loans, or loan guarantees to individuals;

Payments, grants, loans, or loan guarantees to individuals;

(13) the term Federal Personnel
individuals entitled to receive immediate or Deferred retirement Benefits
under Any retirement program
of the Government of the United States (including survivor benefits).

Retirement Benefits
SSA Publication No. 05-10035, January 2010
ICN 457500,

Your retirement benefits
This booklet provides basic information
on Social Security retirement benefits

( http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10035.html )

payments, Grants, loans, or loan guarantees to individuals;

The Federal Pell Grant Program
Pell Grants
If you received a Pell Grant in College
You were Bought Cheap

( the average Pell Grant award will be $2,770,

payments, grants, Loans, or loan guarantees to individuals;


Student Loans

Feds Takeover Student Loan program from banks
March 30, 2010
President Obama will sign a bill today
that ends a 45-year-old program
under which banks and other private-sector lenders such as Sallie Mae receive a federal subsidy
for making government-guaranteed college loans.

Instead, the U.S. Department of Education
- which already makes roughly a third of these loans
through its direct-lending program
– will make 100 percent of them starting July 1.

payments, grants, loans, or Loan Guarantees to individuals

Loan guarantees to individuals

The FHA and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
have been financing more than 90 percent of U.S. home lending.


Proof in Law
- You are a Pauper –

You Lost your Rights/Immunities.


November 30th, 2010
2:17 am

Ok forget about the salary crap, because it is smoke and mirrors. It is a simple game of three card monty. They are talking about this, because they do not want you to settle down enough to think about the real problem.

All these 2 million Federal employees are paying federal income tax right? Well, do the math. if the average salary is around $81k and the presumptive tax bracket is 25%, then guess what that is about $40.5 billion a year in tax dollars. And where do the dollars come from that pay that 40.5 Billion? Yes, you guessed it, tax dollars.

So now ask yourself why the Feds would hire in a recession? Could it be to artificially inflate federal revenues and keep the dollars line up for them to spend? Nothing would surprise me from the Obananation Assministration.


November 30th, 2010
5:59 am

*One timeline/life of a federal worker, perhaps this could put it in focus a bit, I’m not saying my story is typical but I’d bet there are quite a few along my lines…I retired in 2002 after 21 years of service in the military and 9 deployments to the middle east, including both Gulf Wars. I am also now a 40% service connected disabled vet, no waste to be pointed out here please-my health/life are at most times a living hell. The last 6 years of my career, besides doing my 3 military duties onboard a ship of standing 8 of the 24 hours on watch as primary weapons controller in defense of the ship, being in charge of the main missile battery and a leader of one of three Visit Board Search and Seizure Teams, was spent in college and correspondence classes to obtain my degree in IT. After I got off ship for my last year and a half or so on “shore duty” is where I really hit the books hard-finished it all up and tied my education/degree up, while still working as base security 5X12 hour days. After getting out I took a temporary 2 year Federal appointment I found through the grace of god, luck, timing and so many other things (the process started 6 months before then actually, and I beat out 14 other *certified/qualified applicants). Then during that time I went to night school 3 times a week for a year from 5-10 PM to gain my IT certifications, by all accounts, I was “stellar” performer before all this, but I wanted to be permanent and you must keep competing, besides that, I was just “temporary”. I applied for a few positions during my schooling/2 years, being turned down for them I kept trying, finally I found one at the VA, 30 minutes from my house and was selected/hired for $68K in the LA Area, a scam of a salary don’t you agree (yes over the last 6 years my salary has grown to $74K)?! But it doesn’t stop here folks, I must now continue to compete, because they are reorganizing the entire VA IT structure, and even though I have proved myself time and time again (coming up on 10 years now) things are looking bleak for a new position for me and I very well may be “phased out” or RIF’d-”reduction in force”. In the meantime, my health has continuously spiraled downwards, I have and immune system disorder-sick all the time/Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD, five or more other things, but I think you get the idea. I still perform, as well and as often as I can, still great in most everybody’s opinion, but the point is…well, I will let you garner your own, okay?

The Turkey Diaries

November 30th, 2010
8:26 am

The federal workforce grows “fatter and richer”? Is Bob Bar suggesting that the constitution is a Cookbook?

Run for your lives! DOn’t register to vote! The million man march was just some reality tv version of a cattle drive like depicted on “Rawhide”.

Stay away from freezers!! Don’t use suntan oil! Starve yourselves. Stay with the bony butts!!

If not, we’re all a la carte kaput! (another great chance to use an unlaut missed).


November 30th, 2010
8:50 am

ncgreybr- I would think if you’re from Oshkosh, having steps to your mobile home would impress you

I don’t know of more than a hand full of mobile homes in the entire town. It does have the busiest airport in the world one week a year(EAA air venture). If Carl is so good at his job, he might be nominated to go work there some time.

The AJC Stinks

November 30th, 2010
9:09 am

The King’s lackeys are well paid, treat them with contempt, I do.


November 30th, 2010
9:46 am

I don’t seem to remember Mr. Barr fighting to make things equitable for Gov’t workers when the economy was booming. This private sector salary is misleading. Private sector job equivalents include bonuses based on company performance. Many include stock options and other incentives. In a bad economy, the bonuses go away. Several years ago when my private sector friends were bringing home Ipods and laptops given away as incentives, or going to Hawaii on a company retreat; or cashing in stock to purchase their homes, I don’t remember anyone feeling bad about federal workers at the time.

Gov’t workers know they will never get rich or be able to cash in a bunch of stock but they work for less risk. Private Sector workers have unlimited potential but greater risk.

Stop whining.


November 30th, 2010
10:45 am

Hmm. Your infomration is outdated. There are no janitors in government service anymore- they are all contracted out. Same with the Army cooks in Iraq- the contract was given to a French company, Sodexho. Several generals tried to get them to take hot food to the troops up front, and they said “No!” and sent MREs instead. They are hired as cooks, not to expose themselves to gunfire. Why don’t you try comparing government salaries to the contractors’ salaries- Oh! I forgot! We can’t do that, because it might pop a bubble someone has.

Government pastors (called chaplains) often end up in uniform and in interesting places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where evil people shoot at them for being Christian or Jewish. That’s why the military no longer places a cross on printed Bibles or New Testaments given to the troops. I think they earn their extra pay.

Commercial chemists check the production quality of toothpaste and deodorant. Government chemists look for anthrax killers and look through bomb debris for evidence they can produce in court, and stand up to cross examination.


November 30th, 2010
11:35 am

Do not forget that in the 1980’s (30 years ago) Ronald Reagan with David A. Stockman knocked Federal Employees with a year without a raise. Then he moved the effective date of the Salary raise from the 1st full pay period of October to January of the the follwoing year, then he added the “7″ to our dividing our annual rate by hours. They figured we worked 2087 rathar than 2080 in a year and the cream on the cake was charging Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employee with the “Responsability Act”, which meant we would pay Medicare Taxes :) . Please do not forget :)


November 30th, 2010
12:16 pm

Gulfvet, how could you have participated in BOTH gulf wars when the 2nd one started in 2003? A year after you retired?

Oh say, ma, been lame, ma?

November 30th, 2010
3:36 pm

I participated in all three Gulf Wars. I keeled Osama Bin Laden. You see, I took a troop of cub scouts on an annual pilgrimmage to the petrified forest in Oman. There we busied ourselves disquising our uniforms and ties to appear like the garb that the Imams wear when they make public appearances. nobody suspected a thing. The problem was, that the CIA………….


November 30th, 2010
7:53 pm

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Dr. Pangloss

November 30th, 2010
10:45 pm

The 141,000 worker increase is rated as half-true at http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2010/nov/24/reince-priebus/wisconsin-republican-party-chairman-reince-priebus/

It depends on counting replacement hires as if they were additional hires. That’s not an increase.


December 2nd, 2010
7:03 pm

The AJC Stinks: Why would you treat working people with contempt? Does that include the police, fire dept, social security/medicare program workers, military personnel, NIH/CDC/FDA workers, may of whom have PhD and do research and surveilence? How about the public health depts? What about all of the people who work in the various VAMC centers? Why would you be in contempt of secretaries, janitors, clerks, program directors, intake clerks, administrative officers, park rangers and all sorts of other people to serve the American public? You have a bad attitude and it needs to be checked at the door – you are the very definition of an ugly American.


December 3rd, 2010
2:52 am

I don’t know what government agency he is going off of but 123k is way high. I’d love to transfer to that department. I work for the DoD and there is very few 100k+ base salaries in tech jobs in my org, those would be management types(which were cut in my org 2 years ago) or maybe some very high vis cutting edge tech projects but even in the departments that work on those projects only the project lead might be at that level. If they did an average in my organization I’d say about 70-80k. Comparable to engineers in our industry. Nor do I know of any government janitors, we have a contracted service in our buildings, they even brought in contracted security, and contracted maintenance, contracted IT. They reduced the number of admin/secretarials over the 5 years I’ve been. Took away a lot of the training and advanced education incentive awards. The only unskilled government employee I know of in my org is a disabled vietnam vet, and I’m sure he got in on one of those step up programs years ago, do you want to fire him?. I know the government employs a lot of physically and mentally disabled people in their warehouses but I highly doubt they are far along in the GS scale or even on it, I expect any unskilled or labor government jobs are reserved for disabled vets, and I think their previous government service counts toward their salary in years in service, so a corporal who gets brain damage from a grenade would be eligible for a simple gov job starting at the rate he left the military, or at least close to it. Its not like someone can walk into a government office and apply for a janitor job which is the way the article makes it sound. I mean why does the government have to match industry? Like any business you want to attract talent, and any Private company would pay more for it if the economy was good. Plus, many private sector companies treat their employees like garbage, sounds more like a call to spread the misery, not lessen it for everyone else.Why couldn’t companies provide raises and hire more people in the last three years with the tax cuts in place? Sounds like these tax cuts did jack squat for the employees and more for the employers. Expiring tax cuts won’t change that, the execs will protect their golden parachutes and bonuses before investing in employees.

We don’t have it as cushy as this story makes it out to be. We have our deadlines like everyone else and the responsibilty to counter all the PRIVATE SECTOR companies that try to work the loop holes to squeeze more money from the government. Everyone works the loop holes, especially come tax time. Only if you have never made a stretch to justify a deduction do you have the right criticize how government works. YOU are contributing to the problem.