State Power

More Government Employees Paid Twice Average Salary, Because They're That Damn Good


You can't compare!

Reader Mark Sletten sends in some information on public servant salaries in the Land of Lincoln that shows a continuation of the government employee double bonus.

According to

State workers from the metro-east averaged $61,372 last year. Topping the payroll were three Illinois Department of Human Services doctors and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, all passing the $200,000 mark.

How do these numbers stack up against pay for the rest of Illinois? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, per capita income for Illinois residents rang in at $28,782 in 2010. Median household income came to $55,735. 

This type of premium for state employment on its face appears to violate the consensus that government work is best compensated by small immediate income but large deferred benefits. Instead, government employees in the 21st century make more both now and later. 

A popular creed holds that government employees merit this premium because their flames are polished to a harder, more gemlike finish. Andrew Cannon in his 2011 Apples to Apples study concluded that paying more for the same work is cost effective once taxpayers account for "the differences in education, work experience and occupation between a public-school teacher and a teen-ager working for the minimum wage at a fast-food restaurant."

But soft! While the pay rate for taxpayer-funded doctors in Illinois is high, it's within the ball park. estimates median physician salary nationwide at $175,161. WebMD's MedScape puts median compensation for physicians in the Lake States at $201,500 in its Physician Compensation Report 2011. I showed in April that the widest differentials are between low-skilled private sector and low-skilled public sector jobs. A janitor working for Uncle Sam makes $30,110 a year, while his or her private-sector peer makes $24,188. That's at the federal level. Now we appear to have a report indicating the lowskill premium occurs in state employment as well. 

There may be labor-theory-of-value arguments for a government to be relatively generous toward less skilled workers. Cleaning public facilities, the taxpayers might decide, is so much less pleasant than cleaning private property that government needs to pay more for its sanitation engineers. But Apples/Oranges experts are not making that argument. They're claiming these high salaries are the result of open competition in an undistorted marketplace. 

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  1. What part of TOP MEN aren’t you libertarian assholes getting. They work for the state, they get TOP MEN money.

    1. I think it is the other way around.

      Top men go after the most pay.

      This is one of the many ways government over spending hurts the economy.

      The government sucks up all the top men so they can dig ditches and fill them up again while the productive segments of the economy have to employ the scraps.

  2. “and low-skilled publis sector jobs”

    I thought we agreed to skip the egregious Latin, Tim.

    1. Chill, dude. De gustibus non est disputandum.

    2. Gratias tibi ago. Reparatur. Semper ubi sub ubi.

      1. ‘thank you, fixed, and screw you’?
        Been years since I took Latin.

        1. Semper ubi sub ubi = Always wear underwear. (well, ‘always where under where’ if we’re being pedantic).

    3. The best part is that the joke still works if you drop the l from the word.

  3. Well god knows, the one lingering impression I was always left with any time I go to the DMV is how so much more awesome, pleasant, and efficient those bitches are than any private sector worker I’ve ever encountered.

    1. Don’t know about your neck of the woods, but I can get all my DMV services fulfilled at my local AAA Auto Club. The costs for services are the same (except my membership fee), and the AAA employees are always knowledgeable, and courteous. I haven’t been to the DMV in 10 years.

    2. I’ve actually never had any problems at the DMV. But, I’ve never gone to one in a big city. Only to ones in towns with less than 35,000 people.

  4. They get paid more because they probably have an advanced degree in sociology or so, so they’re smart and stuff.

  5. Open competition in an undistorted marketplace.

    You mean they have a time machine? Is this the same kind of open market that they claim leads to the rich eating the poor?

  6. …per capita monthly income for Illinois residents rang in at $28,782 in 2010.

    Wow! That’s over 345 grand annually! I’ve been living in the wrong state.

  7. More “public sector people are goddamn angels, and non-union private-sector people aren’t even people” bullshit.

    Must be a day when Paul Krugman opens his yap-hole.

  8. You know these guys keep using people like teachers as examples of how its important that the PS attracts people who’ve gone to school longer (I don’t say highly educated because the one doesn’t automatically lead to the other).

    Even if you accept the premise, that an elementary school teacher teaching basic reading, writing, and math, needs a college degree to do that.

    How does that explain the forklift driver making 30%+ over his private secotr counterpart? What does *any* degree do to improve the quality of his job?

    1. I don’t get the teacher example either. With private schools all across the nation it shouldn’t be hard to compare public and private sector salaries directly.

      I don’t have any K-12 data, but here in Wisconsin public college teachers have, on average, higher salaries and better benefits than private college teachers. Depending on the academic specialty, the salaries can be close, but the benefits (even after Walker’s Act 10) are still better.

  9. Sometimes you just gotta throw your hands up in the air and declare, Whos your Daddy!

  10. Public sector workers are over paid. Obama thinks we should have more of them. And Romney enjoys firing people.

    These things form a harmnious union.

  11. Um, you guys are smart enough to know the difference between the average wage paid and the per-capita income, which includes those workers’ kids, stay-at-home moms, elderly retired parents, etc.

    And while I’d love to make $200K a year, I wasn’t ambitious enough to slog through medical or law school. For those who did, it’s not exceptional pay.

    1. Of course they do. Just remember, it’s just those evil statist liberals who would indulge in such things on purpose. I’m sure it’s an honest mistake.

  12. i agree that 200k for a doctor isn’t exceptional.i am certainly an advocate for many ways i think cops are treated unfairly,or substandard or their rights are violated, etc.

    you will never hear me complain about our pay.i just got a medical bill from the ER for 40k and every cent of my medical bill (with like $400 max payour per year TOTAL)will be paid by them

    pay is very fair.even a few hours of overtime, and you are looking at easy 6 figures.

    i manage,as a married sole breadwinner,to put away 25% per year into investments and live comfortably in an area that is not cheap.

    some PD’s are paid awfully.i might note that there seems to be some correlation between awful pay and corruption e.g. new orleans PD.

    our pay is a lot more than just wages.they pay ALL my insurance, and many of us get take home cars which is a huge savings in gas,and time.

    if you’d love to make 200k per year, you could make that as a would take 3 overtime shifts a week.that’s a LOT,but i know guys who do that.and remember, every minute over the 8hr shift is OT,and the bennies are sweet

    my buddy is going through medical school now and REGARDLESS of what his salary will be,he’ll be seeing a substantial bite taken out to pay back med school loans

    in 2010,the average med school student graduated with 160k in debt.

    also,if you work for an HMO,you are going to feel like a small cog. like dilbert with a stethoscope.

    either way,you’ll be helping people and making the world a better place.

    1. Dunphy (the real one)|6.11.12 @ 10:19PM|#
      “i agree that 200k for a doctor isn’t exceptional.i am certainly an advocate for many ways i think cops are treated unfairly,or substandard or their rights are violated, etc.”

      Sloopy can beat on you; I won’t.
      But the answer to the question of whether cops or any other pubsec employee is over-paid is easily determined.
      Cut offered pay and benies 50%. Still too many people applying? Cut it another 25%.
      When you find the bottom, add 10% and you’ve found the market clearing price.
      This assumes that the management has some intelligence. If not, there’s simply no way to find the value,

      1. he doesn’t have the knowledge base. i wouldn’t say he’s too stupid. he’s clearly a smart guy. the problem is that he thinks he knows WAY more than he does, and was it will rogers who said “it aint the things you don’t know, it’s the things you think you know that aint true”

        that’s him

        on an astounding # of case law examples, he is just wrong. i can’t even keep track, but iirc he’s the one who claimed cops need PC to enter a house without a warrant (i gave numerous examples to show he was wrong, such as the CC function), and it just goes on.

        it’s a matter of taking a step back and not stating as fact, that which you don’t know. i do my best, but still get shit wrong all the time, but it’s not even in the same ballpark

        that’s what i love about is i disagree with some, and agree with other (agree with more than i disagree), but when people have legal disagreements, they USUALLY have an understanding of the actual law, not the law as they think it is

  13. Politically this is a non-starter but we just found out that median income dropped by 7+%. Public employees and retirees didn’t experience this hit (for the most part) so isn’t it fair to do a one time re-set on social security and public employee pay? Shouldn’t these groups want to ‘pay’ their fair share, alongside private sector folks that have gotten screwed by the whirlwind they didn’t cause?

    I’m not trying to be snarky – am I missing something?

    1. “Shouldn’t these groups want to ‘pay’ their fair share,..”

      Define “fair”.
      No, they don’t. They, like everyone, wants the best return on their labor they can get, regardless of any abstract valuation as “fair”.
      We (taxpayers), as the employers, have to simply define what the market value is for those services.

  14. “You can’t professionalize if you don’t federalize” – notoriously retarded former politician, Tom Daschle

    “Herpdy derp” – any liberal who believes what Daschle said

    1. S. 1447, which, if journos like Stossel are to be believed, was brought into being by Democrats, sponsored by Democrats, and brought into law by Democrats. Ignore the Republican sponsor, the Republicans who voted for it (100 Yeas on S. 1447) and it’s all Democrats.

      Thankfully, this is, where they don’t conflate “liberal” with “Democrat”, or “conservative” with “Republican”

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  16. I know in Virginia, the average state salary is roughly $51,000, but this includes the college coaches (e.g. Frank Beamer – VT Football) making millions of dollars (paid by boosters, not the state). When they’re removed, the average state worker makes much much much less (right-to-work state, no unions allowed in government). Does this survey include college coaches? If not, $61k is goddamn insane.

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