no third solution

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Government Employees Are Overpaid

March 5th, 2010

A lot of people make a big fuss when the federal employee salary and benefit figures come out. There’s an article in USAToday that highlights the ever-widening gap between public and private compensation.

For occupations that “exist both in government and the private sector,” government employees took home an average of about $68,000 in salary, compared to only $60,000 for their privately-employed counterparts. That’s a pretty sizeable gap. What’s more alarming is the value of fringe benefits: pensions, health insurance, vacation allowances, etc. Government employees took home an average of about $41K, compared to only $10K for comparable private workers.

Do the math: that’s about a 50% premium. Many of them also get such unheard-of-in-the-private-sector benefits as: all federal holidays off work, four or more weeks paid vacation, 20-and-done for retirement, etc.

Now, I’m all for people getting paid what they’re worth. But that’s exactly the problem with any of the government functions—there is no market for the ditch-digging that most of them perform, and so it’s impossible to gauge the value of their work. And even if we could, they have one unique advantage which they use to exploit the rest of us: those of us who are paying their salaries do not have a choice as to whether we want to keep buying from them. As long as they show up to work, we get stuck with the bill.

Most of them are nothing but leeches, consuming and destroying wealth, draining productivity from the economy. The fact is that most of these occupations shouldn’t exist in the first place, but they do, and they’re being paid extravagantly for doing non-work.

Most of them don’t know it, because they’ve never had an honest, reflective thought in their entire lives, but they’re all thieves.



  • Tony says on: March 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm


    I feel you may be a little harsh on the average government worker. Knowing a few of them myself, they’re really not that bad as people.
    I agree with the assertion that they’re overpaid, but your characterizations are a bit off. If we’re talking about super high level bureaucrats, yeah I’m sure they’re mostly assholes, and if we’re talking about low-level dmv workers, yeah they suck a bit too. But I would say that roughly corresponds to the private sector – high level ceo’s are assholes, the guy at mcdonald’s that spits on your food sucks a bit.
    Most of the middle though, private and public, pretty good people. And what do you mean by *most* of the occupations shouldn’t exist? I won’t deny there are a good many government occupations that shouldn’t exist, but I don’t know if I would be confident enough to say that *most* of them shouldn’t exist. Unless your intent was that they should not exist in the public sector, in which case, yeah.
    Finally, the honest, reflective thought thing applies to about everyone. I’m pretty sure that existential introspection is not high on the American public’s to-do list.

  • David Z says on: March 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm


    I’ve known a number of gov workers in my lifetime too, and I don’t think its inaccurate to say they have never had an independent thought in their lives. They don’t know what they’re doing is wrong, but that’s only because they’ve never really asked the question.

    “I’m pretty sure that existential introspection is not high on the American public’s to-do list.”

    You’re right, it’s not high on anyone’s list I don’t think. But when 100% of your salary + benefits comes to you by grace of the government’s guns, I’m going to place them under a little more scrutiny.

  • Don says on: March 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm


    My little sister is a librarian in San Diego.
    Last week on the phone I suggested to her that because the state gov’t is in a dire economical mess that maybe she should quit her job and save the gov’t some money.

    Here response was, “Fuck that, they can suck my dick, and I don’t even have one.”

    Tony, at the top of the list, hasn’t the first clue. He is guided by the media. People like that are your enemy, facilitators. May they all go down, burning and screaming.

  • Chris says on: March 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm


    I think there’s a good amount missing in any simple analysis (and I’m sure you’re aware of these things, but I figured I’d point them out). I’ll use my dad as an example so feel free to ignore it as emotion based nonsense but here goes.

    My father works for a local school district as a locksmith (after most of his publicly employed career as a carpenter) arguably as a useful and productive member of the workforce. I mean, I wouldn’t expects schools and locksmiths to evaporate once the government goes by the way side, but whatever. Every year, his salary is raised by less than the rate of inflation. Not any different from other private employees, I’m sure, but it’s worth taking note. The big bucks and raises go to the administration. (Just a tidbit, in these administrations, if you want a raise, you higher someone right below you, because the person on top always has to make the most.)

    My father used to have his own construction business, but because of regulations and licensing and all the other hassles involved, he decided it was no longer worth it. He had really bad stress issues and such. And after taxes, he wasn’t gaining any extra out of what he was putting in. He was a small time guy, not doing massive developments, but he did high quality work and is/was well known in my hometown. The school district offered him something better than the alternative. Probably a lot of icing on the top (mostly job security, use of the shop, and a pension which is used to lure him away in the first place and might not be there because of CAs budget problems), but he still works hard and does what he feels like he is supposed to do. He complains a lot about how the union protects the least productive because of their seniority and how they piss on temps who work hard.

    So, I mean, yes, you can poo poo public employees because they survive of tax money, but there are those out there who work hard, are still productive, and are only working for the government because that’s all that’s available (because of the government in the first place). No, my dad doesn’t read Rothbard, and politically he has a lot to learn, but he’s still playing the hand he’s dealt.

    It’s also important to consider that there are plenty in the “private” sector who make out like thieves. Lawyers and bankers especially. I’m supposed to be a stock broker. I’m in the private sector, but my job would rely 10x more on government than the need for my father’s services do.

    The real issue is not government employees vs private employees, it’s the politically powerful vs the weak. The politically powerful exist everywhere, not just government.

  • Don says on: March 6, 2010 at 11:43 pm


    Yes Chris, you are hugely influenced by emotion.
    The worst part is, you know it, but still allow it to happen.

    Wanna see cognitive dissonance at work?
    Ask your dad how he feels about part of his paycheck being stolen from him to pay him.
    I know, it makes me dizzy too.

  • dude101 says on: June 4, 2010 at 9:19 pm


    i worked hard for the salary and benefits.. am 50 years old.. high school educated.. have a diploma. take home 122, 323 a year in retirement, with med. benefits, and cola.
    we need the obama way so we can all benefit and have an easy time.
    i am a avid supporter of his methods, he plans on keeping me happy.
    the private sector makes lots more, and they owe us.
    my meager 122, 323 a year at age fifty is a sacrifice, and i feel that those in the private sector make lots more with less effort.
    it is time that we redistribute the wealth, obama understands how the country and should operate.
    thank you.

    • David Z says on: June 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm


      are you serious? that reads like a bad parody.

no third solution

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