Feds with benefits

My father-in-law’s always insisted how great it would be to work at the post office. They’ve got the best retirement plan, he tells me, and you get all those days off.

I usually shrug it off with a laugh. It’s too rigid, boring – and have you seen the clothes?

But now I see what he’s talking about. A new report out of the Congressional Budget Office confirms that thanks to those generous benefits plans my father-in-law’s always talking about, federal workers enjoy 16 percent more in total comp than private sector peeps.

Overall, the report reveals the feds dropped nearly 50 percent more per employee on wages and compensation between 2005-2010. Federal employees only took home a little bit more on their paychecks, but health insurance, those enviable days off and that nice – if expensive – retirement fund put them over the top.

The report drops just in time for Congress to debate carrying over a federal pay freeze. Any guesses how that'll turn out?

Now I know most of you will reach for your torches and pitchforks, decrying our ever-expanding federal government and unbearable tax burdens. But this ignores two simple truths: One, our taxes haven’t been this low since my hometown president Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office.

And, two, well, let me quote an economist over at the New York Times (who's not Paul Krugman): “Over the last two years, the private sector grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, while the government shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 percent.”

Anemic budgets have scaled back state work forces, and then you throw in a slew of federal cuts to balance the budget – not to mention military cuts – and you actually see a shrinking federal and state governments (thank God). At least terms of actual growth and the size of its work force.

But don’t get me wrong. At the very least, we should probably stand pat on that federal pay freeze, at least for our non-military personnel. After all, we’re paying the bills, right?

But another question about this study might be: Why isn’t the private sector paying better? Isn’t that where the growth is?

About the Author
Denis Storey

Denis Storey

Denis Storey is editor for BenefitsPro.com and Benefits Selling magazine. He can be reached at dstorey@benefitspro.com.


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