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Government Employees Vs Private Sector: Same Jobs
Old 11-10-2010, 08:14 AM   #1
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Government Employees Vs Private Sector: Same Jobs

Several threads about government, pensions, health care etc.
Here are a couple of stories with updated info.

Federal workers earning double their private counterparts - USATODAY.com

Vs Counterparts

At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
+++
What is not exactly clear is the comparison for similar job or averages for general Gov't Vs private; and what is in the benefits section.
+++

More federal workers' pay tops $150,000 - USATODAY.com

$150K

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
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Old 11-10-2010, 08:52 AM   #2
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Vastly more federal employees earn way less than those top-dollar salaries. I'm a 33 year federal employee, in a technical position, and my pay is $65k. That is much, much more representative of typical federal pay, with a huge number of feds earning $50k & below. Articles like this paint with a very broad brush, and are misleading to the public.
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:11 AM   #3
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Vastly more federal employees earn way less than those top-dollar salaries. I'm a 33 year federal employee, in a technical position, and my pay is $65k. That is much, much more representative of typical federal pay, with a huge number of feds earning $50k & below. Articles like this paint with a very broad brush, and are misleading to the public.
What about the first article?
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:29 AM   #4
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Concept like "average salary" and "average compensation" are apples and oranges because the mix of government jobs and the mix of private jobs are different. The public sector has no equivalent to many low-wage jobs like burger flipping and service sector positions which water down the private sector "average" compensation; in order to make a better comparison we'd need to at least consider the average private sector compensation with these occupations excluded, or even better -- directly compare compensation by occupation type.
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:48 AM   #5
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Concept like "average salary" and "average compensation" are apples and oranges because the mix of government jobs and the mix of private jobs are different. The public sector has no equivalent to many low-wage jobs like burger flipping and service sector positions which water down the private sector "average" compensation; in order to make a better comparison we'd need to at least consider the average private sector compensation with these occupations excluded, or even better -- directly compare compensation by occupation type.
Probably true, and if we all know this; why don't the reporters?

My answer would be that the current model of reporting is out of date in the info age. Having a general reporter analyze a finance/accounting/tax issue is out of date.

But, why hasn't this been pointed out to them and they correct the analysis? I don't know.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:25 AM   #6
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Probably true, and if we all know this; why don't the reporters?

...

But, why hasn't this been pointed out to them and they correct the analysis? I don't know.
It could be because they are going for sensationalism and shock value.

While it's certainly true that some occupations receive considerably more *total* compensation in the public sector (such as in clerical and administrative I'd wager), I suspect the converse is sometimes also true (particularly scientific and engineering). And even if after normalizing for all occupational differences the public sector *does* have higher total compensation (and I suspect it does these days, unlike 20 years ago, as "deltas" in benefit values rise and "negative deltas" in direct pay are reduced), it's not nearly as exaggerated as these sensationalized headlines claim. All these do is throw "red meat" to those who rail against public sector compensation and increase the bashing of public sector workers.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:35 AM   #7
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There's a simple response to these types of sensationalist articles and similar ones bitching about doctor/lawyer/gov't worker/____ (fill in the blank) pay. "It's a free country, go get degree'd up, and get that job/work for that employer."

-CC
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:43 AM   #8
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There's a simple response to these types of sensationalist articles and similar ones bitching about doctor/lawyer/gov't worker/____ (fill in the blank) pay. "It's a free country, go get degree'd up, and get that job/work for that employer."
Only partially true, and usually the people making this argument fail to accept an important point -- with amazing regularity.

Many of us made choices based on "rules" that made sense at the time. When the rules changed on us, we lost a lot of years to working for a private employer who broke the promises that encouraged retention and longevity. There's no way for us to get that time in service back to put into a public sector employer. That's lots of potential pension benefits lost for starters. So much of the "benefits" of government employment *really* kick in when you spend 25, 30, 40 years in the position -- meaning you probably got an "early start" (in your 20s) if you can get a comfortable "early out." Those of us getting screwed well into our 30s or 40s have lost a LOT of time and can't possibly "early out" with a livable pension.

I have no use for sensationalist articles that fuel public sector/government employee bashing. But just once I'd like to hear some public sector/govt workers acknowledge the validity of the paragraph immediately above this one. It's like they have a blind spot to it, and it's why "shut up and go get a government job" rebuttal largely misses the point. I feel like I'm talking to brick walls sometimes when I try to help these people walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

When someone is entering the game for the first time, they know the rules at the time. It's a different story when the rules are changed on you midway through, meaning good-faith decisions you made when you "entered" the game are now, in retrospect, changed on you such that your previous decision (which made sense at the time) turned into a loser.
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Old 11-10-2010, 10:45 AM   #9
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Or let your elected representatives know you don't want to pay that much and that you understand the consequences of either reducing pay or, more likely, holding current levels steady. If they want your vote, they must decrease funding to the agencies where you disapprove of the total compensation packages. It probably won't do much good, but it gives you a place to vent. And gives you a very tangible issue to help you to decide who to vote for.

If a private sector employer overpays employees and then charges more for goods and/or services to compensate, we vote with our dollars by purchasing from someone else. We need to try to do the same with gov't goods and services we purchase. Only with the gov't, you have to vote in the voting booth instead of at the cash register.

If you don't like what your getting, speak up!
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:05 AM   #10
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I "borrowed" these tidbits from FedSmith.com...

2nd point: Some Federal employee still lag below those in the private sector, especially those that require extensive education and experience. For example, physician salaries are still below that of private sector primary care physicians, and well below that of private sector specialists.

3rd point: less than 4% of all employees make above this anger-inciting $150K threshold, which also means that more than 96% make BELOW that amount.

4th point: while the US population has grown since 1960 from 180 million to over 310 million people now, the total size of the Federal workforce has not. In fact, percentage wise, the federal govt is SMALLER today than it was then.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:12 AM   #11
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What about the first article?
"The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison," says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:13 AM   #12
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So much of the "benefits" of government employment *really* kick in when you spend 25, 30, 40 years in the position -- meaning you probably got an "early start" (in your 20s) if you can get a comfortable "early out." Those of us getting screwed well into our 30s or 40s have lost a LOT of time and can't possibly "early out" with a livable pension.
Yes, most gov't jobs and career paths are structured far too much on an assumption of life long employment. Teaching is a great example. Low starting pay which is frequently not competitive with other careers for a particular college major (esp. math, science, languages) making recruitment difficult. Ending pay which is disproportionately high resulting in not enough turnover and burned out veterans hanging on despite hating their jobs. The system provides a barrier to entry for folks that would like to begin teaching careers mid-life which, of course, provides job security for the encumbents.

It's a sweet deal that's the product of decades of extremely successful union negotiating. I've personally worked with industrial unions and my DW is a teacher union member (retired) and I can tell you the teachers union makes the industrial unions look like amateurs.........
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:13 AM   #13
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Only partially true, and usually the people making this argument fail to accept an important point -- with amazing regularity.

Many of us made choices based on "rules" that made sense at the time. When the rules changed on us, we lost a lot of years to working for a private employer who broke the promises that encouraged retention and longevity. There's no way for us to get that time in service back to put into a public sector employer. That's lots of potential pension benefits lost for starters. So much of the "benefits" of government employment *really* kick in when you spend 25, 30, 40 years in the position -- meaning you probably got an "early start" (in your 20s) if you can get a comfortable "early out." Those of us getting screwed well into our 30s or 40s have lost a LOT of time and can't possibly "early out" with a livable pension.

I have no use for sensationalist articles that fuel public sector/government employee bashing. But just once I'd like to hear some public sector/govt workers acknowledge the validity of the paragraph immediately above this one. It's like they have a blind spot to it, and it's why "shut up and go get a government job" rebuttal largely misses the point. I feel like I'm talking to brick walls sometimes when I try to help these people walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

When someone is entering the game for the first time, they know the rules at the time. It's a different story when the rules are changed on you midway through, meaning good-faith decisions you made when you "entered" the game are now, in retrospect, changed on you such that your previous decision (which made sense at the time) turned into a loser.
That's life, I guess. "You pays your money and takes your chance." A doctor that got into the game 20-30 years ago wasn't thinking that he'd have to pay sky high insurance premiums to CYA when getting sued or paperwork galore for the similar reasons. Regret is a son-of-a, I guess. Hindsight, luck, all that jazz. I dunno. "Wish I would of..." seems like a cop out.

-CC
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:19 AM   #14
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"Wish I would of..." seems like a cop out.
Let them eat cake.

In that case, if we screwed public employees much like many of us in the private sector got screwed, we could say the same thing back at you. How would that make you feel? Would you like it if the rest of us didn't care that you got screwed and acted like you deserved it, that you made your bed and have to lie in it now? (And it's one thing to say you would; it's another to actually mean it if it happened.)

I suspect if you were in a public employee retirement system and there was pressure to freeze your pension and take away your retiree health insurance, you'd want the rest of us to do more than just shrug and say "you made your choices, now live with them, it's not my concern what happened to you." Yet that's what a lot of the folks on the public employment side of things are saying to us.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:30 AM   #15
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I "borrowed" these tidbits from FedSmith.com...

2nd point: Some Federal employee still lag below those in the private sector, especially those that require extensive education and experience. For example, physician salaries are still below that of private sector primary care physicians, and well below that of private sector specialists.

3rd point: less than 4% of all employees make above this anger-inciting $150K threshold, which also means that more than 96% make BELOW that amount.

4th point: while the US population has grown since 1960 from 180 million to over 310 million people now, the total size of the Federal workforce has not. In fact, percentage wise, the federal govt is SMALLER today than it was then.

Just a point... to your 3rd point...

I think that the private sector has less than 4% of all employees making more than $150K.... I am sure someone will find this out... so no different than public sector....
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:35 AM   #16
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Yes, most gov't jobs and career paths are structured far too much on an assumption of life long employment. Teaching is a great example. Low starting pay which is frequently not competitive with other careers for a particular college major (esp. math, science, languages) making recruitment difficult. Ending pay which is disproportionately high resulting in not enough turnover and burned out veterans hanging on despite hating their jobs. The system provides a barrier to entry for folks that would like to begin teaching careers mid-life which, of course, provides job security for the encumbents.

It's a sweet deal that's the product of decades of extremely successful union negotiating. I've personally worked with industrial unions and my DW is a teacher union member (retired) and I can tell you the teachers union makes the industrial unions look like amateurs.........

SOOOO TRUE.... when I was laid off one of the things I was thinking about doing was teach... but they value me the same as someone who has just graduated from college with zero work experience.. so I will not be teaching...
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:47 AM   #17
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Many of us made choices based on "rules" that made sense at the time. When the rules changed on us, we lost a lot of years to working for a private employer who broke the promises that encouraged retention and longevity. There's no way for us to get that time in service back to put into a public sector employer. That's lots of potential pension benefits lost for starters. So much of the "benefits" of government employment *really* kick in when you spend 25, 30, 40 years in the position -- meaning you probably got an "early start" (in your 20s) if you can get a comfortable "early out." Those of us getting screwed well into our 30s or 40s have lost a LOT of time and can't possibly "early out" with a livable pension.
When I started working in the private sector in 1980 I had a choice of going with the company pension or setting up an IRA. I went with the IRA because even back then pensions looked like a shaky proposition, lifetime employment with one company looked like a risky gamble. Shortly after that companies started offering 401K plans which were a much better deal than IRA's. In my opinion the days of receiving a livable pension in government went away in 1984 when FERS kicked in. I left private employment after 15 years and took a government job. Didn't feel like I was behind the 8 ball then and don't now since I was able to retire at 52.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:53 AM   #18
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SOOOO TRUE.... when I was laid off one of the things I was thinking about doing was teach... but they value me the same as someone who has just graduated from college with zero work experience.. so I will not be teaching...
And that's a true shame. I think students could benefit greatly from at least a few of their instructors having some non-education work experience. You know, maybe a chem instructor who was a chemist in the private sector or a math instructor who was a mech engineer, etc. Grad schools offer a degree called a MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) specifically to enable these kind of career changes. But the unions have established pay structures that make moving into teaching mid-life very unattractive. Thus, most teachers have never done anything else and have no non-education career experience.

I have no specific knowledge of other gov't career fields, but I'll guess they too could benefit from some turnover and freshening and from the entry of some mid-life career changers.
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:14 PM   #19
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Let them eat cake.

In that case, if we screwed public employees much like many of us in the private sector got screwed, we could say the same thing back at you. How would that make you feel? Would you like it if the rest of us didn't care that you got screwed and acted like you deserved it, that you made your bed and have to lie in it now? (And it's one thing to say you would; it's another to actually mean it if it happened.)

I suspect if you were in a public employee retirement system and there was pressure to freeze your pension and take away your retiree health insurance, you'd want the rest of us to do more than just shrug and say "you made your choices, now live with them, it's not my concern what happened to you." Yet that's what a lot of the folks on the public employment side of things are saying to us.

But, this is like arguing you bought a house in a nice neighborhood 20 years ago and then it turned into a ghetto. Now you want your house to be worth what the McMansion's are on the other side of town. I just don't see the argument. Everyone deserves the best of both worlds everytime the pedulum swings the other way for awhile? Like you said, you made the best choice with the available info., and now it's not the perfect ending, somebody owes you something?

A lot of states' pensions are in trouble; that doesn't mean the private sector is going to bail them out.

-CC
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Old 11-10-2010, 12:39 PM   #20
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But, this is like arguing you bought a house in a nice neighborhood 20 years ago and then it turned into a ghetto. Now you want your house to be worth what the McMansion's are on the other side of town. I just don't see the argument. Everyone deserves the best of both worlds everytime the pedulum swings the other way for awhile? Like you said, you made the best choice with the available info., and now it's not the perfect ending, somebody owes you something?

A lot of states' pensions are in trouble; that doesn't mean the private sector is going to bail them out.
I somewhat agree, but to continue with this "housing purchase" analogy, the public retirement benefit equivalent situation would be if the folks who bought in the "right" areas were suddenly seeing their real estate values threaten to crash like those who bought in the wrong areas.... and those in the affluent areas are seeking to use public money so everyone has to pitch in to prop up the values of the affluent housing while no one helps prop up the value of the homes of those who bought in the "wrong" areas.

And all the while, those who bought in the "right" areas never cared about what happened to those who bought in the "wrong" places. And those who bought in the "wrong" places are being expected to see some more of their tax money go to propping up the affluent neighborhoods -- even as the favor was never returned to them.
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