Government Spending

Their Needs Are More, So They Give Less


Model employee.

The National Institute for Retirement Security's "Out of Balance?" study—which I discussed earlier today and which was the source of much debate back in May—should not be allowed to escape into the memory hole.

The study's major claim—that public employees are at par with or slightly below private sector counterparts when you control for their higher levels of education—becomes less persuasive the longer you look at it.

Now along comes AEI's Andrew G. Biggs to blow up another piece of NIRS' messaging. While it's true that government employees are often also graduate students (Who would have thought those two groups of highly motivated world shakers would overlap?), the difference in compensation is actually more pronounced the less educated you are:

"The pay gap difference between federal and private jobs is not uniform," says Biggs. "In general, the pay premium is very large for low skilled workers, and small or negative for highly skilled workers, like your SEC regulators. But most people don't have MDs or PhDs. Up through a Masters, you'll find on average that people make more in the federal government, especially at the low end with folks like paper clerks."

This comes in an interview that raises other methodological questions regarding relative pay of public and private workers:

You're aware that some studies have come the opposite conclusion: that federal workers are underpaid. Why are they wrong?

The government has produced numbers where they claim that federal workers are underpaid by 22 percent. We say they're overpaid by 12 percent. The difference is in the methodology. We looked at the same person—based on age, education, all those things—and put him in the federal government or the private sector. The government looked at the same job in the federal government vs. private sector.

They looked at jobs. You looked at people. Why does the distinction matter?

Because government promotes faster, and at a younger age, than the private sector. The federal government is saying "our senior accountants earn less than a senior accountant in the private sector." But somebody who might be a junior accountant in the private would be senior in federal government. For many people, getting more responsibility at a younger age is a reason to go to the government.

Title allusion unpacked:


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  1. We looked at the same person — based on age, education, all those things — and put him in the federal government or the private sector. The government looked at the same job in the federal government vs. private sector.

    The government, purposefully skewing their statistics to look better? Say it ain’t so!

  2. ” for highly skilled workers, like your SEC regulators”

    Which skill are they referring to? Looking at porn? Ignoring informants?

  3. How much do the oil regulators make for banging chicks the oil companies send over?

    “Wait, wait, wait. What are you going to do, punch him in the face, throw him, going to maybe work the body a little? That’s not going to help. No, no, it’s not going to help. I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t unbang your mom.”

  4. I have to know what that picture at the top is from.

    1. I’m guessing “Naked Lunch”, but it’s just a guess.

      1. It looks like bureaucrat from the Mugwump Central Office from, but if it were from “Naked Lunch”, I suppose the alt text would have read “Surely you realized that eventually we’d be contacting you?”

    2. I believe it’s one of the vogons from the awful 2005 Hitchikers Guide movie.

      1. It’s a Vogon.

        1. As long as he keeps the poetry to himself, we’ll be fine. Oh please, no poetry…

          1. This isn’t a Presidential release form. Those are blue.

      2. Aren’t Vogons supposed to be green???

        It looks like one of the creatures from The Dark Crystal crossed with a Gorg from Fraggle Rock to me…

    3. It is from my local Post Office, and I’m not even joking.

  5. I think it would be interesting to look at private vs. government workers from a productivity standpoint…

    How many government workers does it take to do the same amount of work?

    1. Two. One to hold the light bulb, the other to turn the chair.

      1. You’re forgetting the guys waiting at the 4 corners of the chair in the event the guy holding the bulb falls, the guy with the sweat rag for the guy turning the chair and the 68 guys the lightbulb went through before it got to guy changing said lightbulb.

      2. You left out the union shop stewards.

  6. I have a theory that Bond intros are the single reason why amine intros are so fucked up, long, and nonsensical.

    1. Proof

      Here is the ending credits for Evangelion.

      A mid 90s giant robot anime with strange christian mythology underpinnings

      Here is the cowboy bebop intro from the late 90s

      The bond influence is unmistakable.

    2. For your enjoyment, one of the funniest sendups of Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E/the Avengers:


  7. I have to know what that picture at the top is from.

    Sonia Sotomayor’s bathroom mirror, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie.

  8. I assumed the illustration was from some version of Animal Farm which I had not seen.

    I’m pretty sure the guys at your local school district’s bus barn work less and earn more than the guys at the local truck stop. By a lot.

  9. “I’m pretty sure the guys at your local school district’s bus barn work less and earn more than the guys at the local truck stop. By a lot.”

    Doubtful. Most school districts contract their busses out to private firms for just that reason. Their drivers were making almost as much as the teachers were in my town so the voters got rid of the school board on that issue alone and the new board contracted it out and saved the taxpayers $700k per year.

    It was beautiful until we realized they spent the money on themselves and a new “media and arts center.”

    You win some/you lose some, I guess.

  10. Why do so many grad students end up in government? Where else they gonna go? They spent 12 years in government indoctrination center, then another 8 to 10 years in the equivalent of a Marxist summer camp, and then at age 26 they finally get their first glimpse of the real world. It’s fucking scary! They expect results! You are supposed to fend for yourself! Aaaargh!

    1. You have raised assholeness to an almost cosmic level.

      1. I love my Mommy’s asshole.

    2. The astounding aspect is the suggestion that people who don’t do anything to generate any wealth get more than people who do.

      It is a shocking development for a lot of rich kids, when they get their first job at a fast food restaurant or wherever, and they find out that although they’re infinitely precious to Mom and Dad, on the open market, they’re worth a few bucks an hour…

      That’s what people used to call “learning the value of a dollar”…

      I have to admit I’m still not used to the shock of the idea that the most unproductive employees in our society, who do the least valuable work, get paid more than people who do similar work for productive companies that actually earn their money from willing customers…

      In other words, I understand that bed bugs need to live too–but I’ll never get used to the idea that the parasites should get more than hosts they’re feeding on…

      I don’t care how much education they have.

      Government employees making more than the working people they parasite off of will never ever be acceptable.

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