Government Spending

Better Pay? Better Benefits? Why Not Have Both?


A good piece in today's Wall Street Journal explains why the generous benefits offered to public sector workers can't last forever in an era when We Are Out of Money. But the article contains this passing assertion and quote:

The more generous benefits given to government workers are part of a larger trade-off, according to economists. Unable to match private-sector salaries for their most valued workers, governments instead offer more-attractive benefits packages.

"It's certainly the case that, for higher-skilled workers, the more generous provision of benefits, especially retirement benefits, is a compensation for lower pay," said Gary Burtless, an economist at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "It also is a deterrent to your more senior and older workers from leaving."

This may be narrowly true for the most valued and/or senior workers, but they're not the only ones getting the moolah and Cadillac plans. And in many jobs—as I blogged in March—the pay and benefits are both better on the public side than on the private.

A refresher:

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  1. My ire grows with each passing instant.

  2. My works in broadcast TV, and if those salaries scale, holy fuck she is in the wrong end of that industry.

    1. My works in broadcast TV

      Your comment does not appear to be written in human. Please try again.

      1. No, sage, you missed the point. He’s playing Match Game ’77: “My _______ works in broadcast TV, and if those salaries scale, holy fuck she is in the wrong end of that industry.”

        Contestant: “Gene, I have to say ‘wife’.”

        Gene Rayburn: “Wife! Good answer. Charles Nelson Reilly, I see you shaking your head. Did you say ‘wife’?”

        Charles Nelson Reilly: “Sorry, Gene, I got thrown by that reference to ‘wrong end.’ I answered ‘penis’.”

        1. They need to bring back Match Game, but I dont think there are any “stars” today that could pull it off like CNR and Brett Somers.

        2. A handful of potential answers were prohibited, the most notable being any synonym for genitalia.

          According to wikipedia, “penis” was a prohibited answer.

          1. TBS commissioned a pilot for a revived Match Game as part of an overhaul of its late night television programming. On June 21, 2008, Andrew Daly hosted a pilot episode with Sarah Silverman and Norm MacDonald as the regular panelists, filmed at the same set as the Gameshow Marathon episode was filmed. TBS eventually passed on the project in favor of Lopez Tonight.

            I dont know which is worse. Lopez or a Match Game with Daly/Silverman/McDonald.

          2. First of all, by Match Game ’77, I was referring to 2077. The old celebrity guests were revived in robot bodies in 2076. The FCC no longer exists then.

            Second, you left out Richard Dawson, who is still among the living.

        3. Dude, that was dripping with awesome.

        4. I applaud your awesomeness.

          You sparkle in sunlight don’t you?

          1. Thank you, thank you. I credit sage and hmm with the assist.

            Oh, and years of watching Match Game as a kid. To this day, I think Richard Dawson is psychic.

        5. Holy hell, that was funny. I need to close my office door when I read this site – people walking past are going to wonder why I’m sitting here giggling like a mental patient.

        6. That’s funny.

    2. My wife…

      The retard escaped.

  3. Why do we have federal dental assistants? VA?

    1. They’re to assist the federal dentists.

      1. I’d have though to assist the federal teeth.

    2. My guess, VA and military bases. Clergy is probably chaplains, which is why they are paid more.

      I wonder if some of the federal versions of the jobs are so specialized that this is an apples and orange comparison. For example, the federal chemists are probably bio and chem weapons experts for the DoD and FBi, as well as researchers for the CDC and the like. Chances are they have more education, on average, than a generic private sector chemist.

      Though I don’t understand why the federal government needs to have graphic designers, rather than contracting that shit out.

      1. I agree about the chemists. From my experience, the ones in the employ of the federal government have a vastly disproportionate share of PhDs. Since the government is largely focused on R&D and out-sources any production, it doesn’t need the large number of BS/MS chemists that are needed to actually get things made and QA’d.

        I would guess that a lot of these comparisons may be Granny Smith vs MacIntosh.

        1. value versus merit, dude. I’d take a BA chemist over a PhD any day. And I’m a PhD chemist.

  4. My works in broadcast TV, and if those salaries scale, holy fuck she is in the wrong end of that industry.

    Every public TV station I’ve been in the lobby of looks like a German architectural magazine with a lot of Apple ads in it. Supposedly, PBS grunts are underpaid vs. other-network grunts (I doubt that), and the equipment they work with is ancient garbage (plausible, judging by what they produce), because the money all goes to the executives, their personal staffs, and whatever their visitors from foundations and megacorps might lay eyes on. Y’know, lefty style.

    So, maybe not.

    1. Maybe Bell, CA is the new normal.

  5. Federal clergy are some of most overpaid. I wonder if these are cushy White House jobs, or if they are counting military chaplains in dangerous areas. Not that the feds should be employing any religious workers, but maybe hazard pay would explain some of that huge differential?

    1. How can there be federal clergy? I thought there were separation of church and state.

    2. Chaplains are all officers. I believe they come in as O-2s at minimum. The lowest pay grade for an O-2 is $57.

      1. Depending on the person’s level of experience I’ve seen them commissioned anywhere between O1 and O3 (2LT-CPT in the non-navy branches)

  6. Sanitation workers (garbage haulers)in Seattle make $74,000 per year IN SALARY ALONE with an hour and 15 minutes of daily overtime.

    Yeah yeah, I know, they could get so much more money anywhere else throwing out garbage. Lo the sacrifices!

    1. What do they have, graduate degrees in civil engineering?

      1. Size 4 hat, size 18 collar…

    2. It’s probably because being a garbage collector sucks. You’d have to pay me more than $74K to pick up people’s garbage.

      1. You probably have options. I’m sure lots of people would be overjoyed to have that job at $50K.

  7. You right-wing Adam Smith worshipers will never understand public service. People in the private sector are greedy and work for money. People in the public workforce don’t care about money; they are serving the common good! Workers in the public sector deserve more money because they don’t care about money!

    1. You’re right.
      Why Kerry was only keeping his yacht in Maine because he felt for the Maine yacht-workers.

    2. Meh, C+ trolling. B- if that was sarcasm.

      1. Pitiful either way. Not even Max can do THAT badly.

  8. Head in private sector: $50
    Head in public sector: free!

    1. Shouldn’t that be:
      Anal from private sector: $50
      Anal from public sector: Free

      1. No head for you!

    2. Having a clue and not being a spoofer -priceless!

  9. I’m thinking I, the Sun, should expand my horizons into The Clergy, Federal. $70,460 just for shining bright and putting a happy face on the people’s daily despairs? I can do that. Where do I sign up?

    1. The US military, I believe.

  10. Lobster and cracked crab for everyone!

  11. What do federal proctologists make?

      1. You’ll find out soon enough.

    1. They make you cry.

  12. I have a very hard time believing that financial analysts make more in the public sector on the whole. On an hourly basis maybe…It may also be the ratio of entry level to senior people is much lower in the public sector. I imagine government analysts are mostly in their 50s, while financial analyst in the private world is an entry level job and you move up from there. Still, my firm has never lost an analyst, even not so capable, to the public sector.

  13. This is apples and oranges, clearly.

    Anytime there’s a big eye-popping disparity the first thing to check is methodology. DoD is the biggest chunk of federal workers so should weigh most heavily… but it clearly doesn’t. E-1s to E-4s in the military make peanuts to do dangerous/highly technical work. There’s far more enlisted than there are Colonels and Generals, yet somehow this isn’t incorporated into the numbers?

    This is pretty clearly a Red Team attempt to stir up the same type of emotional (but similarly not-reality-based) ire as the Team Blue talk about “Cadillac” health care plans. I remember when everyone hated doctors because they made too much money, then it became lawyers, now it’s going to be gov’t peons.

    Team Blue or Team Red, everyone has to have somebody to hate…

  14. What is surprizing is the lack of listing of most Federal jobs:
    chief slacker
    assistent slacker
    senior slacker
    sundry screw-offs, screw-ups, etcetera

  15. This is apples and oranges, clearly.


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