Government Spending

Government Workers Are Earning More than You. Sucker.


janitor gets terrorist fist jab

There are two million civilian federal workers. 1.1 million of them have direct private sector equivalents. And they are laughing their asses off at those private sector suckers, who are doing similar jobs for less pay—often a lot less.

"Accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector," according to a USA Today report. In jobs where there are private equivalents, the feds are earning $7,645 more on average than their private counterparts.

(Private sector beat out feds in jobs where there are very high barriers to entry due to licensing requirements or powerful unions, such as lawyers, veterinarians, and airline pilots.)

These figures so depressed the folks at USA Today, they couldn't even be bothered to whip up one of their usual gratuitously colorful charticles. But here's a chunk of the side-by-side comparison. Click on it to see the whole list.

Damn, it's good to be a government laundress

Note that the figures above are salaries and don't include the value of benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker.

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  1. So, who are the public servants again?

    1. You are. I just lost half of my $600,000 retirement fund to an investment scam, and you’re going to cover the gap. Suck it private sector bitchez.

      1. You might want to watch your where you stick your backside, Teach – I hear little Johnny has a brand new box of thumb tacks.

  2. WTF?!? “Computer” workers with Federal jobs make more than private? Holy shit, those people are the fucking worst IT/Software people on the planet. It’s widely known in the software community that only the shittiest programmers work for the government, and now they’re making more.


    1. I was amused during my fellowship at how lost the government seemed to be on technology issues. And how eager policymakers were to impose standards and requirements on software ans systems.

      1. Its a series of tubes

        1. the federal court system still uses Word Perfect.

    2. I just read a few days ago that the CIA uses mainframes from the 1970’s.

      1. That’s because vacuum tubes have subtle quantum interference properties that facilitate code-breaking. They also allow you to navigate through parallel universes. This is why the CIA has disseminated misinformation that vacuum tubes are inferior to transistors.

        Ironically, transistors were then found to generate psychic resonance fields that can be exploited in various ways. But the effect shrinks to negligible levels with miniaturization.

        And here we are today with our apparently much superior desktops, even though they can’t manifest tiny wormholes or anything. WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

    3. For Social Security purposes, a person born on the 1st of a month is treated as if they were born the previous month. Im completely convince that this was a programming fence-post error that they worked around instead of fixing.

    4. Got a call from the county who shares a data closet with us in one of our spaces. Called me to ask if anything was “wrong”. I said no, that all of our clinics were up, data was moving, packets were moving, no incoming reports of failed connections.

      Then he asked me what might be wrong with his stuff. I allowed a long pause for irony, then said, “short of me driving in my car out to the closet and looking at your equipment, I couldn’t possibly say”.

      Not sure if he “got it”.

      And yes, he makes more than I do.

    5. Just the thought that all those kludged VB apps are put out by people making that kind of salary makes me physically ill.

  3. There are federal dry-cleaning laundry workers?

    I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

    1. Yes and if they had done their job properly, we would never have heard about that blue dress.

    2. I hear they are looking for people who like to iron shit.;-)

      1. Just had my +2 cherry popped yesterday. Never had a 3-way!

    3. I’m trying to figure out the Public sector Clergy.


      1. Who else is going to bless the weapons and water for the Anti-Vampire Special Forces? Can’t leave that up to some silly civilian.

      2. May the Lord have mercy on your private-sector soul.

      3. Military chaplains, most likely

        1. They’re noncombatants, but I don’t think they should count as civilian federal employees.

          1. Military chaplains are generally military members, get commissioned as officers etc. I think these may be chaplains in federal prisons.

  4. Private sector beat out feds in jobs where there are very high barriers to entry due to licensing requirements or powerful unions, such as lawyers, veterinarians, and airline pilots.

    They’re not private-sector jobs then, are they? Would they exist as they are in the absence of mass coercion? No.

    1. I’m not sure why that precludes them from being “private sector.” Maybe its not the “private sector” working as ideally as possible, but its still “private.” A “private” company that is corrupt does’t suddenly become “unprivate.”

      Plus, the mere existance of unions doesn’t, on its own, indicate coercion.

  5. In fairness, the $31,213 difference for the clergy makes sense. You do a lot more sinning when you work for the government.

    1. Also, there’s probably a lot of part-time clergy out there, with their congregation of ten, who skew the statistics downward. On the other hand, the military chaplains tend to be milquetoast types who would never go anywhere in the private sector (though on the third hand, that’s probably good for taxpayer-funded chaplains). Still, $70K/year is much too high for them, and the average of $40K/year should be plenty for someone who is not pursuing worldly riches – especially when $40K of benefits are added.

      1. Military Chaplains start as 1st Lieutenants and make Captain pretty quick-so that accounts for the $70K base pay.

        I was wondering if maybe the clergy they were talking about were Federal Prison chaplains.

  6. 2 NYC officers charged in $1 million perfume heist

    Two New York City police officers are among five people charged with robbing about $1 million of perfume from a northern New Jersey warehouse.

    According to a complaint, the officers entered the warehouse in Carlstadt on Feb. 9, brandished guns and badges and yelled, “NYPD! Hands up!”

    Federal prosecutors say 11 employees of In Style USA’s warehouse were held at gunpoint.…..z0hK1UyExv

    1. Is this really a crime? They aren’t called pigs because they smell pretty. I think of this as a win-win.

  7. It’s preposterous that a federal clergy even exists, let alone makes that much $$$.

    1. Hey, there ain’t nothin too good for the government.

    2. Military chaplains. Which is why they make so much.

      1. So they are also members of the military? What’s their principal responsibility? If it’s clergy-related, then I don’t see how the $$$ difference is justified.

        1. Military chaplains are officers. They’re paid according to their rank (major, for instance) and years of service.

          There is at least one nun who is employed by the military. She is a colonel, as well as a surgeon. Talk about a resume.

        2. They also are required to have an advanced degree, usually a Master of Divinity, sometimes more. Also, there’s a pretty set pay scale. With private sector, you also have a whole lot of small town ministers, which bring down the average wage.

        3. “So they are also members of the military? What’s their principal responsibility?”

          You must be the ONLY person who has never watched M*A*S*H.

      2. The US Senate employs a chaplain, as I recall – perhaps the House of Representatives does so as well.

  8. What the hell is a federal broadcast technician? Certainly not PBS or CSpan personel, as they make shit pay. And networks usually alternate providing pool feeds.

    1. Voice of America perhaps?

    2. Someone who makes more than an electrical engineer evidently.

    3. A FCC censor with a title made to sound like something other than “FCC censor”

    4. Even larger churches now have full time broadcast staff. It is no surprise that an operation as large and as image conscious as the federal government have a well paid broadcast team including everything from cable installers to lighting techs to directors and producers. If you think about it, all our elected officials really are anymore is what we in the broadcasting industry call “talent.”

      1. K-Y, somehow I don’t think you have been inside one of those large churches. OTOH, you could be one of the pastors.

    5. “What the hell is a federal broadcast technician?”

      An employee of MSNBC

    6. Federal broadcast technician?

      Look up “Commando Solo”

  9. But you don’t understand! These selfless public servants work for low pay and crappy benefits, because they just want to make the world a better place! That’s what they taught me in school, and teachers would never lie; they don’t get paid enough to lie.

    1. Yeah, they don’t get paid enough to ever seek tenure either – do they?

  10. I wonder about some of these averages, especially in occupations where there are very few in the federal government and thousands in the private sector. Remember the example of the average starting salary for 1986 University of North Carolina graduates with Forestry degrees was over $1 million; there were only three of them, and one wore #23 at his job.

  11. Not one of the jobs listed is a legitimate function of government. Not only are we suckers for making less, but also for allowing these jobs to exsist and funding them.

    1. Not one of the jobs listed is a legitimate function of government.

      Are you serious?

  12. I just read a few days ago that the CIA uses mainframes from the 1970’s.

    You can’t hack punchcards.

    1. You can with a hacksaw.

    2. No hackers here – just me and my little ol’ hole punch. 😉

  13. My math is rusty, but this looks like $8.4 billion per year being spent on just the difference between private and public salaries.

    How very depressing.

  14. Seems like contracting out to private industry isn’t so evil, now is it.

  15. Unfortunately, we can’t really expect the revolution to come until the collapse of society.

    Which reminds me – godsdammit, when is my .308 ammo gonna get back in stock?

    1. Market failure!

  16. This proves once again that the so called “competition” in the private sector mistreats its workers and underpays them horribly. Marx was right: There is a race to the bottom.

    1. A voice of reason in all these posts!

  17. I for one would like to welcome our new public servant overlords….

  18. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley says the comparison is faulty because it “compares apples and oranges.” Federal accountants, for example, perform work that has more complexity and requires more skill than accounting work in the private sector, she says.

    When you’re cooking the books as bad as these a-holes you need some incredibly skilled accountants.

    “When you look at the actual duties, you see that very few federal jobs align with those in the private sector,” she says.

    *slack jawed* What?

    She says federal employees are paid an average of 26% less than non-federal workers doing comparable work.

    Um. No. We just saw the facts. From the government itself. Unless those were lies too.

    “Office of Personnel Management spokeswoman Sedelta Verble, says higher pay also reflects the longevity and older age of federal workers.”

    Because, of course, Project Logan’s Run is taking care of older private sector workers astonishingly well.

    The highly-paid clergy are there to help these morons repent after spewing this garbage.

    1. “Office of Personnel Management spokeswoman Sedelta Verble, says higher pay also reflects the longevity and older age of federal workers.”

      That’s because no one can fire the bastards or lay any of them off.

      1. Not only that, but their children and grandchildren will often be government employees as well. It’s like a hereditary aristocracy or nobility.

      2. It’s actually a poorer proposition than that. It implies that nobody in the private sector works long enough to get a raise or a promotion.

        You just work your whole career for the same pay you got when you started.

        Meanwhile, in the government, everyone just keeps getting raises and promotions.

        Sounds like Ms. Verble didn’t think this through, but that difficult when you don’t have any sort of nervous system.

    2. “When you’re cooking the books as bad as these a-holes you need some incredibly skilled accountants.” I wondered where all the Enron employees ended up.

  19. If it’s depressing to all of you that government employees make more money and receive better benefits, consider the fact that they are also net non-taxpayers. That is, they don’t pay enough in taxes to cover their salaries; they’re essentially just giving the government a rebate on their pay. Isn’t that special?

  20. “These figures so depressed the folks at USA Today, they couldn’t even be bothered to whip up one of their usual gratuitously colorful charticles”


  21. Seems like contracting out to private industry isn’t so evil, now is it.

    You wouldn’t say that if you were a member of AFSCME.

    1. I do!

      I’m really happy to see this article. Usually comparisons only treat agreggates, without taking into account factors like the different mix of professions in the public and private sector.

      I’d still like to see a geography-specific comparison. Federal employees aren’t evenly distributed across the country, and pay differentials between different parts of the country can be large. Unfortunately, the data are likely sparse.

      Also, these data still apparently don’t include employee benefits, which even conventional wisdom admits would skew things even more between Federal and private sector employees.

  22. If you want to see the biggest discrepancy, look at my former profession. Well over $150k at some places with differentials and working a few Holidays and overtimes.

    1. …and it’s so easy a 10-year-old can do it.

  23. How do I get a job as a dry cleaner for the Federal Government? George Jefferson don’t pay with a shyt!

  24. For entry level lawyers, the most prestigious jobs (short of elite clerkships, etc.) are with either large law firms or federal government agencies (such as an Assistant US Attorney).

    Large law firms start pay, other than in DC/NY/LA, at about $120,000. For this, their new associates are expected to work about 60 hour weeks. Over a 40 hour week, this would equal $80,000.

    Government attorneys can start, very modestly, at $60,000. They work a 40 hour week. Not bad at all.

    1. AUSA’s work a hell of lot more than 40 hours a week.

  25. I am irritated by the faulty assumptions, poor methodology, and incomplete data in this report. That said, I wish the feds would follow the near-universal custom of the private sector and get rid of the defined pension plans. The whole private world is on 401-K – the feds should be too. If not, then federal workers should be taxed in the present calendar year for retirement benefits that they are acquiring for the future. I also wish the feds would do away with the step scale in the GS system. Step increases seem to be associated more with seniority than any actual worker skill improvement. I’d also do away with the GS scale altogether and have a more individualized determination of pay, though I recognize that this might be bureaucratically difficult to pull off.

    Either way, federal salaries are not a big quotient of the long-term deficit problem. All the unfunded liabilities that are growing exponentially and that we cannot afford are basically in three programs: social security, medicare, and medicaid. One of the main points of re-thinking these programs is to have a more effective federal government, including a more effective and skilled workforce, regulatory system, space program, and national defense. I don’t like to see the media going after these vital national functions.

    1. “Either way, federal salaries are not a big quotient of the long-term deficit problem.”

      Are you serious?

      “The federal government spends about $125 billion annually on compensation for about 2 million civilian employees. ”

      I realize that on the Insane Federal Money Scale (IFMS) that $125 billion is a pittance, but to the sentient universe that is an unbelievable amount of money. Bigger than Microsoft and J&J put together.

      Take half out. There, I just saved $63 billion per YEAR.

      Disclaimer: I jest. 99.9999% should be taken out.

      1. And saving $63B per year does pretty much nada in terms of helping the long term deficit problem. You’re proving his point. Medicare alone eats up that kind of money in about a month and half. SS spending that money in one month. And their growth rates are far higher.

  26. You know who’s really laughing? The author of this article. She gets *paid* to present half truths to halfwits who just lap it up. The commenter Dellis, above, provides more useful info and analysis. For free.

    (And Pendulum, it’s rather common for entry-level attorneys to start in gov’t service in the low 40s, not $60k. Better than nothing, for sure, but it’s not a life I’d want to face if I had any law school debt.)

    1. “to present half truths to halfwits who just lap it up”

      Do tell – which parts are half-truths?

  27. “The whole private world is on 401-K”

    You do know that some in Congress are contemplating the end of the 401(k) tax exeption?

    “We’ve invested $80 billion into subsidizing this activity,” he said, referring to tax breaks allowed for 401(k) contributions and savings.

    With savings rates going down, “what do we have to start to think about in Congress of whether or not we want to continue and invest that $80 billion for a policy that is not generating what we ? say it should?” Mr. Miller said.

    Congress should let workers trade their 401(k) assets for guaranteed retirement accounts made up of government bonds, suggested Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at The New School for Social Research in New York.

    When workers collected Social Security, the guaranteed retirement account would pay an inflation-adjusted annuity under her plan.

    “The way the government now encourages 401(k) plans is to spend $80 billion in tax breaks,” which goes to the highest-income earners, Ms. Ghilarducci said.

    That simply results in transferring money from taxed savings accounts to untaxed accounts, she said.

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  29. Government people may be receiving more than I, but I doubt they’re “workers” and I double-doubt they’ve “earned” it!!

  30. I’m thinking it’s time for “They Live 2 – A New Hope”

    people will first notice the faces when watching government press conferences

  31. No joke, have a family member working for the feds for the past 3 years as a G-I-S a n a l y s t. No previous experience. They get a annual 20% cost of living increase right off the bat worked into their check. They have also enjoyed $10k+ annual raises during this time. Current salary is over $85k. Private sector pays out $45-50k for this position with an average of 4-6% annual raise. WTF

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