Welcome to the real life Lake Wobegon — where everybody is “above average.”
It’s called the federal government.
According to recent reports, more than two-thirds of senior Washington bureaucrats received bonuses designed to reward high performance. Merit pay, if you will.
“It seems those who administer this bonus program at the various agencies think all the Senior Executive Service employees are above average,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who has called for an investigation from the Government Accountability Office.
The numbers are amazing, but not surprising:
— At the Office of Personnel Management, 97.2 percent of the senior executives received performance bonuses.
— At the General Services Administration, the number was 97.1 percent.
— The Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor and Defense awarded merit bonuses at a rate of 93.1, 91.7 and 91 percent respectively.
On the bright side, at least the rewards are one-shot payments, rather than salary hikes that add to annual baseline personnel costs.
At the same time, it’s obvious that without proper oversight, allowing federal bureaucrats to hand each other “performance” bonuses is, with apologies to the great P.J. O’Rourke, akin to giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
“I think taxpayers would agree, this is not how this program was intended to work,” Sen. Dorgan said. “We need to figure out how it got so far off track and fix it.”
But coming from lawmakers who brought us the recent farm bill, why are we not optimistic?