Government Spending

The Class War: Public Employees vs. the Rest of Us


Nick Gillespie pointed earlier to the latest evidence that federal workers have long since lapped their private sector benefactors in salary and job growth, in addition to their traditional advantages in job security and benefits. (Fun fact! Back in February 2008, before Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and George W. Bush's disaster socialism, The New York Times reported that Dubya was "in line to be the first president since World War II to preside over an economy in which federal government employment rose more rapidly than employment in the private sector.")

Here's an anecdotal sign that conventional wisdom is turning against those who are using the guaranteed revenue stream of tax dollars to pad their paychecks and pensions: A scathing piece from L.A. Times metro columnist Steve Lopez. Excerpt:

A reader sent me a posting for an executive secretary position at the [Department of Water and Power], and the salary range is $68,089 to $97,864, with great benefits. […]

I checked with the personnel department and found that the same position in other city departments starts at $54,000 and ranges up to $72,000.

Forget it, Jake

Top pay, in other words, is $25,000 more at the DWP, and the gravy train is not limited to secretaries.

A DWP custodian can make $50,000, compared to $36,000 in other departments. A DWP gardener tops out at $56,000, versus $46,000.

And it gets even better for the utility's employees.

Today, as my colleague David Zahniser tells me, the L.A. City Council is expected to approve a five-year deal for DWP employees that includes a bonus the first year and raises every year thereafter.

And as world-weary Reason readers know, the real action is in pensions:

It's not getting better

I'm hoping to have a talk with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before he leaves for the climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, about his pal Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist who the mayor appointed to the Fire and Police Pensions board.

Broidy pleaded guilty last week to what New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo called "an old-fashioned payoff" involving $1 million in gifts to that state's pension officials.

OK, let's think about this: In New York, he had to pay off pension officials. In L.A., he was one.

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  1. Well, until the sheeple (thats us) finally say ENOUGH, the abuse will go on!


  2. In fairness, it’s not as if there are thousands of people who are both unemployed and qualified to be a janitor or secretary.

  3. Public Employees deserve it. They are doing God’s work.

    1. God’s work is done by good people everywhere who are kind, generous, understanding, helpful, etc. and has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of work you do.

  4. I had to work for a government bureaucracy before I understood why they only get larger. It is all about the incentive structure. Every organization exists to aquire resources. A business exists to create revenue. At a base level, if the business doesn’t generate revenue it doesn’t survive.

    There are two key differences between a government agency in a business. First, the government agency gets its revenue from the legislature. So, its motivation is to serve the legislature. Second, a government organization doesn’t get to keep its profits.

    This means that a government manager’s only motivation is to increase the size of his organization. In the private sector, if a manager takes over an office and says “I can do the same job with four less people” he is rewarded. In the government sector, someone doing that just lowered his budget (and thus revenue) and made himself less important. The motivation is to say “I need four more people to do this job”. If he gets more people, he gets more revenue from the legislature and more prestige for himself. No government manager ever has an incentive to do anything efficiently or to ever reduce his staff. To become more efficient and reduce your staff is to have failed as a government manager.

    1. John, the intrinsic problem with the majority of people is that you don’t understand economics! Government is supported by the private sector only.

  5. A DWP gardener tops out at $56,000, versus $46,000.

    That’s horticulturalist to you, Buddy.

    1. You can lead a whore to culture, but…

  6. Is there a ruling class? Hell yes! It’s the people who tell us, every day of our lives, that they rule us: it’s the government and its dependents.

  7. My favorite pension gripe. Is watching middle management and employees close to retirement collude to raise the retiring employees yearly pay with overtime and bonuses by as a much as 10-20K a year for the last few years. Why do this? Pensions were based on the last three years of the retirees total yearly salary. I always wanted to dig through records and see just how much this practice raided the municipalities pension where I worked. I know it happened in just about every department. The rough math was a little disturbing.

  8. Please don’t let these salary stats become widespread knowledge in the private sector. Our exec. secty. in Philly only gets $45,500 and works for the most demanding boss you can find.

  9. Bill Simmons on wrote a collumn about his father. Now Simmons is a typical sportswriter, meaning that he is a thoughtless lefty. That is just the air he breaths. So, in the collumn he mentions that his father worked as a high school principle in Massachusetts. He is retireing after 30 years with 80% of his salary for life. That is unbelievable. To give you some perspective, if you serve 30 years active duty in the military and spend your life moving around and potentially having to go to war, you get 60%. If you do 30 years in the federal service, you get 30%. And those are the generous public retirements. Eighty percent is just outright theft.

    1. The typical sportswriter is a thoughtless lefty? John, you are livin’ in one strange universe, dude.

      1. Dave Zirin’s the worst. I think he may actually be a communist.

        1. Ah, but he’s not a typical sportswriter, is he?

      2. Most sportswriters are very lefty. They go to journalism school which is very left. And then they feel very insecure around other journalists for being just sports writers. They want to be considered serious. So they do that by being very mainstream left. Find me a sportswriter who is not a lefty? I can name a ton off the top of my head

        Tony Kornheiser,
        Mike Wilbon
        John Feinstein
        Peter King
        Stewart Mandel
        Rick Reilly

        all of those guys make no secret of their political views. They are still good writers. But they are all liberals.

        1. How can you forget Keith Oberman and Mike Lupica?

          Fortunately, they know almost as much about politics as they know about the sports they cover.

        2. Al Michaels is known for being to the right. I used to hear him call into Kornheiser’s radio show and bust Tony’s balls a little over politics.

          Not actually a sportwriter, but higher up the ladder.

          Bob Costas has admitted to be a lefty on his program.

        3. Gregg Easterbrook. Maybe not a sportswriter, per se, but definitely not a typical lefty. He devoted a substantial portion of TMQ about a month ago to why Congress’ health care reform won’t work. I skipped it the first time, because I didn’t want to get my blood pressure up. Turns out his solution is to have people pay for their own health care, rather than have insurance do so, coupled with allowing people to make price comparisons between doctors. He thinks that public health care would be a disaster. This coming from a man who was a fellow at the Brookings Institution and is a senior editor at The New Republic. He might lean left in a broad sense, but he’s definitely not a reflexive progressive.

      3. Keith Olbermann.

        I rest my case.

    2. Actually, in the military, if you do 30 years, you get 75% of your high-3 average. It used to top off there, but it was recently changed to where for each year over 30, it adds 2.5%…so at 40 years, you get 100%. On civil service side, you get a monthly pension check worth about 1.1% of the high-3 average (for some folks, it can be a bit more).

  10. The Department of Water and Power has a gardener?

    1. That’s nothing. I was watching This Old House last night and learned that Harvard has 80 acres of lawn, which costs millions to maintain each year.

  11. Maintenance supervisor at the VA makes $28.00+/hr which is about $58,240/year –assuming no overtime or other special pay.

    A Veterans Affairs police lieutenant starts at GS-9 (IIRC), which is about 41,000 per year without locality adjustment.

    So, the guy supervising the mops gets almost $20,000 more than the guy supervising the guns.

  12. Has anyone else noticed that John needs to be smacked in the rhetorical chops a couple of times each morning before he starts to make any sense?

    1. Really? Only because you have no idea what you are talking about. Do you read newspapers? Sportswriters are very lefty. I am compulsive sportsfan and notice these things. Just because you don’t, doesn’t mean it is not there.

      1. Not only do I read newspapers, John, but some of my best friends are sportswriters. Not that I’d let one marry my daughter, of course.

        1. I just gave a list of some pretty prominent ones that all make no secret about their beign liberal. Name one prominant one who is an open conservative?

          1. John, I wouldn’t even begin to pretend to know the political leanings of most sports writers. You certainly got me on that one.

            1. if you read them a lot, it comes out. Once in a while, King will drop in some anti-gun rant or an I love Obama rant. things like that

          2. It does seem a lot of sports writers are to the left. One possible notable exception is Terry Pluto in Cleveland. He’s a bit of an institution and has gained noteriety in recent years. He’s also a frequent religion writer for the paper and has written much on his faith. I really don’t know where he comes down on party politics, but judging by what I have read he does not seem to be far-left and may even be to the right.

        2. Racist!

  13. Fed Workers Enjoy Boom Time; Average Pay Now at $71K……..titialskip

    1. NO! Everybody knows that federal workers are severely underpaid, after all, that’s what they keep telling us.

      I’m so sick of hearing about all the poor underpaid government workers, police officers, and teachers out there, when in reality most people in these professions are very well compensated, and are almost always compensated at much higher rates than their private sector counterparts, not to mention the job security involved.

  14. Leave John alone, you fanatical subversive America-hating Lefties!

  15. As a public service, I will reveal that I am one of these highly compensated federal employees (although I have yet to make it into the 100K range, c’mon WIGI’s!).

    You may now take out your class resentment against me.

    I don’t mind. I’m also lighting a Davidoff with a $100 bill I got from one of you taxpaying chumps.

    1. Federal employee is a class?

      1. During an economic down turn some years back I looked into applying for a government job. Someone in the process took me aside and told me I was wasting my time since able bodied white men were simply not being hired.

        So I guess there is something like that going on.

  16. I am compulsive sportsfan and notice these things. Just because you don’t, doesn’t mean it is not there.


  17. It’s good to be connected:

    Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, gave a nearly $14,000 pay raise to a female staffer in 2008, at the time he was becoming romantically involved with her, and later that year took her on a taxpayer-funded trip to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, though foreign policy was not her specialty.…..30478.html

    1. Sounds like said staffer should be the one named “The Gobbler”

    2. Sounds like the definition of a hostile work environment for the rest of Team Baucus, no?

      I await the coming lawsuits.

  18. gave a nearly $14,000 pay raise to a female staffer in 2008, at the time he was becoming romantically involved with her,

    I’m wondering if the other staffers in the office have some kind of sex discrimination claim against Baucus for this.

    1. Qualified immunity, RC.

  19. “I’m hoping to have a talk with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before he leaves for the climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark”


    Why is Tony V Going to the Climate Conference?

    Free Hookers?

  20. Fun fact: Public employee unions destroyed the wage compression model in the Nordic countries. Skilled steel-workers were willing to take lower wages in order to make their industry competitive, but Dopey at the DMV sure isn’t.

  21. Fuck anyone who works for the government.

    1. Don’t we all? At least for about half the year we do.

      1. Ah…no. They fuck us.

        1. Work, not fuck, Epi. *Work.*

          1. Well, you can see where my mind is at.

            1. It wouldn’t be if you saw some of the puddin’ pop civil servants that come out of federal buildings at lunch.

              Chubby chasin’ nirvana.

  22. I’m hoping to have a talk with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before he leaves for the climate conference in Copenhagen,

    Why is that guy going to Copenhagen? What is he supposed to do there – hook up with the hookers? What, are L.A. hookers not good enough for him now?

  23. A DWP gardener tops out at $56,000, versus $46,000.

    Holy fuck… I’m so fucking underpaid.

  24. DWP not only gouges common decency (their outrages hyper-salaries w/pensions at taxpayer expense), but they greatly harass the taxpayers as also all citizens and consumers. Long story short, DWP as with all LA city agencies/employees is not respectable.

    1. We’re all DWP consumers now…

  25. 2 Stories on National Review Online that are relevant to this rape and pillage of the taxpayer by Government uhmmm… workers…
    Boom times in the Beltway…..c5NWU3ZWI=

    the Highest Tax Increases Ever

    We need to get the word out and turn this Governmental tax/spendong/pension debacle around..quickly.. They are bleeding us dry…

  26. Villaraigosa got his start in politics as a union organizer. Stalin rose to power as a union organizer in the oil fields of Baku.

    The sickness of communism is leaking from the SEIU. Many members are good people. But the core of this organization has infiltrated our political system and has already played a major role in the bankrupting of California.

  27. The model they are following is France, where the government worker/peasant class system is so well ingrained since such a long time, that over 80% of french students dream of becoming government workers. If they can pass a test and meet qualifications, they are set for life (or so they think..France will not be able to meet its public pension obligations). If they don’t make into a government job, they’re out. They know they’ll be “exploited” in the private sector, living out “precarious” lives, while those in the government sector enjoy higher incomes, better pensions, total job security, and so on. Let’s not let it go that far here.

    1. Vive le fonctionnaire!

  28. I’m a conservative and a public servant. I agree with many of the comments above.

    I’ve worked for a mid-sized city for about 13 years, working a desk(payroll) for the fire department here. I make less than 35k a year. Not here to bellyache about that, I chose my path and try to make the best of it. Got a second job at a local gun range sweeping up and doing go-fer work as needed. My wife took our daughter and left me because of money, and she has since remarried to a well off fellow that is trying to weasel me out of my little girl’s life.

    In my experience there are few folks as reviled as a government employed conservative. Many co-workers can’t believe I don’t support big-spending programs even though it might result in more money for employees. Most conservatives in the private sector routinely paint us all with one brush as lazy, inept, and corrupt. Again, I know it comes with the turf and I accept that.

    Stories of public employees with such benefits and salary mentioned here today burns me up and really makes it harder for people like me. I’m against such excess because I too am a taxpayer.

    Thanks for reading. I know I am in the minority, but just wanted to let you know that not everyone who takes a public check is a good-for-nothing bum. I won’t retire wealthy that’s for sure. Best wishes to all of you.

    1. Public employees are NOT taxpayers. The private sector gives you the money to pay the taxes. I worked two jobs for 15 years and never complained, but always was thankful that I didn’t get sick so I couldn’t work. It doesn’t mean that you don’t work for your pay; but you are not taxpayers per se. The Wall St Journal wrote several years ago because of bloated government, that the taxpayer should stay home one day and it would ‘cripple’ the world’s economy. Think about that!

  29. All you LAUSD teachers who may be laid off–maybe DWP is hiring!You could be a custodian & get more than you are earning now.

  30. But you have to consider what a plum assignment working for the perenially mistaken David Freeman must be. But then again some might consider the extra compensation for when the public finally tires of his act and decides to string him and his acolytes along Gaffey St so he can watch the oil tankers arrive and depart. The extra K’s must be viewed as merely lightning rods in hopes of deflection.

  31. Only the private sector is the taxpayer all public employees are economic parasites. Not to excoriate them, but truth is hard to swallow. Ain’t it?

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