Where Are Those Greedy Feds?

Wednesday - 9/15/2010, 4:00am EDT

If you've got a private sector friend, relative or neighbor who thinks you are living high on the hog (who comes up with these expressions?) you might want to show him/her the following factoids and comments.

First: Federal Pay. You've all seen and read some of those stories about overpaid feds. That the average fed makes more than the average nonfederal worker, or that even on a job-by-job match up, federal workers make more than they could in the private sector.

Whether you (and the voters) buy the feds-are-overpaid argument or not, federal pay is a hotter topic this year than it's been in a long time. At least outside of government.

Inside government, my sense is the 2011 pay raise is not such a big deal.

Here's where we are now:

The White House has proposed, and the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved, a 1.4 percent white collar pay raise for January, 2011. The House may try to boost that slightly, but probably not. And even if it does try to raise the raise, that's not likely to succeed. Consider that there have been four efforts this year in Congress to freeze federal pay. The last vote was very close.

Efforts to freeze civil service salaries at current levels may be made in the lame duck session of Congress. Probably won't happen, but given the grim unemployment numbers, and the fact that retirees (federal, military and Social Security) will NOT be getting a cost of living adjustment next year, anything's possible.

What intrigues me, from my perch, is the attitude so many feds have as expressed in e-mails. Examples:

  • Federal workers are like the canary in the coal mine. When times are good like the boom days of the 1990s, ENRON and all that jazz, we are pretty much invisible to the public. However, when times get tough, we become the whipping boys of the media and politicians. I'm grateful to have my government job...and I wish the public knew the many good things the government does and how dedicated and competent so many of my colleagues are..." Ken (not Salazar) with Interior

  • "About the most recent report on us 'overpaid feds' I would invite the writers to think about a couple of things. Does NASA pay its test pilots the same as Lockheed-Martin? Does the VA pay its doctors the same as their counter parts on the outside? And what about those people you wrote about who came into government and opened up million dollar thrift savings plan accounts. They were lawyers (dare we say very well-paid) who have cashed out of the private sector to become federal judges. They made theirs out there in the good old private sector, THEN they come into government." H. at Justice.

  • "I suspect I am one of many federal government workers who is happy to have a job. I consider myself lucky. For many years it was accepted that federal workers were paid less, and as a trade off got a good retirement and vacation package. Now that the economy is bad, the spotlight is on us.

    "I would be willing to take a pay freeze (health premiums notwithstanding) and even take furlough days. But I do wish politicians and the news media would stop depicting us as overpaid ingrates. I am somebody's neighbor, friend, daughter or mother. Give us a break!" Thelma

  • "Are you in search of fatcat federal government employees? If so take a tour of DC's richest areas, like Cleveland Park, Potomac (Maryland and Virginia), Great Falls and Old Towne Alexandria. Check out the houses that look like George Washington's Mount Vernon. Then check out who lives there. I guarantee you you will find out they belong to some doctor, lawyer, lobbyists or media big wig, not to federal workers." Fran from Fredericksburg

Looking Back with Baptiste

This morning, Your Turn with Mike Causey welcomes Margaret Baptiste, the outgoing president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Baptiste was the first woman, the first non-fed, and the first Brit to hold the job. Baptiste will discuss what happened during her term and, more importantly, what didn't happen. Baptiste will also share her thoughts on threats to the federal retirement system, both real and imagined.

And we'll hear the latest from Tom Trabucco of the Thrift Savings Plan about the L (lifecycle) funds. How they're doing, what they are, and who needs them. Join us at 10:00 on 1500 AM in the Washingon DC area or online at FederalNewsRadio.com