Salary dump has feds in the dumps

Monday - 6/10/2013, 2:00am EDT

Do your friends know how much you make as a government worker? Would it embarrass you if your over-achiever brother-in-law knew how little Uncle Sam chooses to pay you? Would your ex-spouse be surprised and maybe a little angry to know what you've really been pulling down?

For most of us in the private sector, salaries are more or less private. Odds are many of us give the impression that we make more than we do, either because we are embarrassed by the reality of our direct deposits or are trying to impress someone.

(For the record and in the interest of full disclosure — up to a point — here are my numbers: Although the media is notoriously a cheap-payer except for select superstars and talking heads, my salary is in the neighborhood of $1 million. It is a rather large neighborhood. My bonus last year was less than $600,000. A lot less. Now that we've got that out of the way, back to you).

Every year, one of Washington's top TV stations does a story about federal salaries, and how anyone can find out how much virtually anybody working for the government makes. As you can imagine, the show has a lot of viewers. Some are delighted. Some get mad.

Last week, WUSA Channel 9, went into the heart of FedLand. Downtown Washington, D.C. A reporter interviewed feds on camera. They gave him their name and agency, he then used his tablet computer to produce data showing their name, grade level, agency, salary level and any bonuses they had received. (The data itself is put together by Channel 9's parent company, Gannett.)

One thing it showed, the station said, was how many federal workers — many of them doctors — make nearly as much as the President, and how many get very, very generous bonuses. Like $60K in one year in some cases.

When asked what they thought about the data dump, some workers expressed shock and awe. One woman said she was stunned and considered it an invasion of privacy. Other feds were more sanguine. They said that if you work for the government, your life — at least the purse and wallet part — is an open book. Public information.

So what do you think? Is it a good thing? Does it keep the government honest? Or do you resent it?

If you have thoughts, let us know.

Oh, and about my salary and bonus information. Let's keep that between us. No need to pester the IRS or my ex-wife about it. I may have low-balled some of those numbers on my 1040.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Passersby are more likely to return a smile from a stranger on sunny days than on cloudy ones, according to a study from a French researcher published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

(Source: Improbable Research)


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