Another report highlights disparities in federal pay

Drawing considerable interest is a new report that some 77,000 federal employees across the United States drew higher salaries in 2009 than the governors of the states they worked in.

The data, from the Congressional Research Service, was requested by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who argues federal workers should be paid less as the nation reins in its deficit.

The research service reviewed civilian salary data in the executive branch provided by the Office of Personnel Management for 2009, the last year available. Of the 77,057 federal workers who make more than the governors of their states, 18,351 were physicians, the highest percentage, The Washington Post reports. Air traffic controllers came in second at 5,170. The government employs about 2 million.

Colorado topped the list with 10,875 federal employees making more than Gov. Bill Ritter, whose pay was $90,000. In Maryland, 7,283 civil “servants” made more than Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was paid $150,000.

“Federal employees deserve to be paid adequately, and no one would argue against paying skilled engineers or top-notch doctors and nurses to care for wounded soldiers and veterans,” Becky Bernhardt, a spokeswoman for Sen. Coburn, said in a statement. “It seems to defy explanation, however, why recreation planners, an interior designer and many other public servants are receiving higher salaries than state governors when our nation is $14 trillion in debt and many taxpayers are struggling to pay their mortgage and make ends meet.”

And raw salaries paint only a part of the picture. Federal workers have generous pension plans, health benefits and get more paid time off than most private-sector employees.

An official with the American Federation of Government Employees, said politicians would be better off scrutinizing the salaries of federal contractors.

But the fact that government — and especially the “untouchable” Pentagon — has demonstrated it can waste more money elsewhere hardly answers the questions. Are government salaries out of control? Does Uncle Sam retain too many workers, costing taxpayers more than they can afford, not only through their salaries but through the regulatory snares of red tape they weave? How much is too much? Would they ever admit it?

And most importantly, are we erecting a new class of Marie Antoinettes, who believe that if the peasant class who fund their extravagant lifestyles are running out of bread, they can always eat cake?

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