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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Larry Hirsch: Government Worker Envy


For most of the past decade that I have worked in government, my friends working in the private sector have felt they had it better than me. They were making fortunes in finance or other business matters and would not consider trading places with me. This was also the feeling in the throughout most of the country. Working for the government was reliable and safe but stifled creativity and thwarted ambitions for achieving your full potential. My how a recession changes things.

One of the themes of the Tea Party and others on the right has been how good government workers have it. According to this theme, government workers earn more and have more benefits than their private sector counterparts. Now everybody wants to work for the government. In fact people think we in the government have it too good and are wasting taxpayers money so our salaries should be frozen or cut. I never knew I had it so good.

The truth is that the government does have a band of salaries that provides an income in the range of the middle class for most workers. In the boom times, we will not make the money those in the private sector do but will retain a decent standard of living in the hard times. However, when you take into account years of experience and level of work we still do not keep up with our private sector counterparts. National agency heads that oversee a staff of thousands and a budget of billions make around $200,000, compare that to the salary of a corporate CEO. Managers, directors and others with significant responsibility will be lucky to make $100-150,000. Compare those salaries to comparative positions in large national corporations. Salaries of experienced administrative staff also similarly trail the private sector.

Yes, many of us traded the possibility of higher salaries for some career stability but we are also committed public servants who have chosen to do work that benefits society. Studies have also shown that the government and taxpayers get a better bang for their buck from government workers than when the same work is done by private contractors. We are also not immune from the effects of the recession as many governments are beginning to lay off workers.

I feel deeply for those who have lost their jobs due to the recession and hope that things turn around soon. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and I in the federal government, stimulus and other funds have been efficiently allocated to help save and create thousands of jobs. However, I urge those feeling bad times, not to take out their anger on those of us in public service. We are doing as well now as we were when you thought you were doing better than us.

From The Huffington Post