Nice work, if you can get it

A common retort from those defending the generous compensation packages and iron-clad job security enjoyed by government workers is that these employees could easily earn far more for comparable work in the private sector.


A USA Today analysis of federal data — published Friday — found that in more than 80 percent of job categories, “federal employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers.”

And this doesn’t include the value of pensions and benefits. According to the review, federal worker pension and benefits averaged almost $41,000 per employee in 2008, vs. less than $10,000 per private worker.

Even those on the high end of the wage scale do well in the public sector. Surgeons on the federal payroll made an average of $176,050 compared to the $177,102 earned by the average private-sector cutter. For attorneys, the comparison was similar: $123,660 in the government job vs. $126,763 in the real world. Toss in benefits and guess who comes out ahead?

In fact, the “federal pay premium cut across all job categories — white-collar, blue-collar, management, professional, technical and low skill,” the newspaper reports.

Nor was this finding limited to the federal government. While state government workers earn about 5 percent less on average than those in comparable private-sector positions, they come out ahead when benefits and pensions are added.

Meanwhile, city and county workers earn an average 2 percent more than those with similar jobs in the private sector — and again enjoy far superior benefits.

The problem of runaway public-sector compensation is reaching the boiling point, as states and local governments struggle with budget deficits and demand that the private sector contribute more and more to keep the party going.

The day of reckoning looms. After all, who’s working for whom?


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