We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Friday, November 12. 2010
The above is the title of Boortz' post this week. It is indeed plunder. He quotes Bastiat:
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it."
People are finally waking up to this issue. Lasky at American Thinker: The GOP's First Target Should Be Government Worker Salary and Benefits:
And here, a promo video for Malanga's book, Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer.
Who is greedier: the government unions who want stuff extracted from the taxpayers by their political allies, or the struggling taxpayers who produce the money in the first place?
Tracked: Nov 12, 21:41
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Government unions should be banned, and most government agencies should be dramaticly reduced. Nobody seems to know, for instance, why the Department of Commerce has 142,000 employees to: "gather economic and demographic data for business and government decision-making, issue patents and trademarks, and help to set industrial standards."
I bet I could accomplish those tasks with 1,500 people max - and I'm assuming most of that is for patents.
I agree NJSoldier. Targeting government worker salaries and benefits is only treating the symptom. There is no reason why government employees should be permitted to collude for the purpose of shaking us down. Unions for government employees should be banned.
I'm a federal employee and I agree all government unions should be banned. Fortunately, I'm in a career field that exempts me from membership so I don't have to deal with their coercive crap at least.
(BTW, I've hated unions ever since I was called a scab for continuing to work when they went on strike at my first private sector job. They've morphed into something they were not meant to be in both the public and private sectors.)
Also, while I'm honest enough to say that my sense of self-preservation doesn't want a pay cut, I'm also principled enough to know we simply cannot sustain the burden of so many federal employees making so much. I would prefer an immediate 10% pay cut for the highest paid employees - GS 15 managers and SES appointees for example - and pay freezes/slower 1% or 2% percent cuts over a period of years for the rest of us though. And that's simply because a 10% cut in one year would put many lower-paid federal workers in situations where they might be forced to default on mortgages and so forth. While I totally agree that federal employees need to share the burden (and the pain) I don't think that adding a million plus folks into the mortgage mess is a smart thing to do for the economy in general. Oh and freeze hiring for five years. Reports are at least 50% of federal employees are due to retire in that time and a hiring freeze would take care of the bulk of the problem.
And as to retirement packages, I liked the President's commission suggestions - change it from high three to high five and make us pay more into the retirement system. And raise the age you can officiall draw your retirement pay.
Oh, and all that said, I agree with forest that cutting federal salaries and benefits is only treating the symptom. It's an easy target that makes private sector folks feel good and is only a drop in the bucket - hell, not a drop - it's mist. If you don't cut Social Security and Medicare and repeal Obamacare it really doesn't mean a damn thing.
Time to step up and present a different view point - again. :>)
The First Admendment to the Constitution allows the "right to peaceably assemble". By the power of the First Admendment groups of workers have the right to assemble under the Constitution and bargain for the welfare of the whole. You can't take that away from any citizen - it is part of the very fabric of our society. So talking about "banning" unions is a useless exercise.
The only way to reduce the influence of any union is to reduce the membership. In business, that can be done - might cost a little to do, but it can be done. In government it becomes problematic because unions are part of the political fabric. It is going to take some will on the part of our elected leadership to demand and enforce a reduction in the Federal (and State/Local) personnel - not the front line types like fire fighters or cops, but the administration types and patronage jobs - those are the ones that cost the most money.
Which means that it is going to take courage from the citizens to give the backing to our elected leaders to commit to reducing the power of the unions.
And I just don't see that happening.
I'm one of those evil feds that makes around $120k. Shoot, I'm paid three times what the average private sector worker makes. What a swine, eh? I'm reasonably certain that I'll go back to private sector if forced to take a 20% paycut - going to be tough making the $1200/month law school loan, paying for the shabby townhouse and two crappy cars at that point. My less accomplished colleagues have left and seem to hire for about $250k on the low end. I have stuck with the job because investigating white collar crimes and abuses against the public committed by government employees, and sticking it to those SOBs is more satisfying than defending similar crimes in the private sector, though the government work is a lot less lucrative. It just happens to tickle me, to abuse the people who abuse The People.
I'm sure I could be easily replaced - there are probably many attorneys with ~10 years prior service as a federal agent, and >10 years practice in the white collar crimes area, with extensive IT and high level policy advising experience. We're a dime a dozen, really...
In all seriousness, we may want to consider actually comparing the job classifications of Feds, and not running too far with that "Feds are paid more than civilians" talking point that Mark Tapscott is getting so much mileage out of. Some feds are paid more than their civilian counterparts, but most aren't and the agencies are getting pounded for not being able to hire decent technical staff. For instance, you've got a law degree or your CPA or masters in computer science, and prior military or law enforcement experience, the FBI is happy to take you on, as a GS-10. That's about $50k/year. You know many people with a CPA or JD willing to try to live in Manhattan or D.C. on $50k? You can do it, but it ain't pleasant; that's a cut above post-internship salary for a kid with a bachelor's degree. It would also help if we didn't conflate California's ridiculous situation, and the non-unionized white collar high level professionals who work for the fed gov. Few federal employees above GS-13 are unionized; most of us are some type of at-will employee, primarily because we are paid to exercise independent professional judgment and to make policy / decisions - docs, lawyers, CPAs, senior law enforcement managers, etc. Adding insult to injury, the Executive Branch is regularly getting hammered by the Inspectors General and the GAO for a failure to hire and retain top technical (IT, mathematics, engineering, science) talent. Oddly enough, bringing salaries in line with the private sector - or at least 2/3ds of the way - seems to help. Who do you want administering your SSA benefits - a new GS-9 or a GS-14 hired away from a big company's IT department, who took the wage cut in exchange for better hours and a cool mission? Serious question, I'm not being snarky there. You want the skilled people, they don't come free because skilled people have options.
Whack-a-fed is an easy game to play, but few people want to take on the big problem which is killing redundant programs, or cutting entitlements. Medicare/Medicaid/Obamacare is going to swallow the entire budget, if Social Security doesn't eat it first. But you guys are going to make cutting my salary a priority? I guess I'm pleading with the alligator to eat me last, but I think it's a valid point. If you let Congress construct this huge administrative state, who do you want running the difficult bits - really qualified people, or a bunch of low-paid monkeys who don't give a crap? You want to get rid of us, cool, I'll land on my feet, but you should probably do it by shutting down programs first, then getting rid of me, rather than by getting rid of me and letting the zombie badly run program live on. I'm going to support libertarians and conservatives no matter what, but seeing the world from inside the People's Republic of Wonkery it's pretty clear to me that whack-a-fed will be a nice political feather in the Republicans' cap but it ultimately won't do a damn thing to shrink the reach or expense of federal government; gotta kill programs if you want to do that but I think the R establishment thinks you'll settle for some symbolic fist-raised-at-an-angry-sky sorts of gestures.
I'll take a whack at this, but I've got to use something that I'm familiar with.
My youngest is a Highway Patrol Trooper for the State of South Carolina. His responsibilities include everything from speeding tickets to drug/alcohol busts and background/criminal investigations. He's been with the Patrol for 5 years this coming January 5th. In the five years, with one nomination for Trooper of The Year and numerous commendations for this and that, he is eligible for automatic promotion to LCpl on the 5th. He started as a Trooper, Senior Trooper and Trooper First Class and this would be his fourth promotion in five years. He started at $31,000 and in January wll be making $43,000. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and MA in Public Administration.
A Law Enforcement Officer in Federal Service starts as a G7 with a BA at $38,511 with automatic increases in grade and pay on a per year basis which would make a Federal Officer with the same time-in-service and education level a G10 at $53,101. A Master's degree increases that by one pay level (Step) which is $54,587.
So that's a difference of roughy $11,000. Additionally, Federal officers get enrolled into the Federal Retirement program along with the most excellant Federal health care plan. Troopers in SC pay into their own retirement (with a contribution from the State) and have a maginal health care policy with high co-pay.
However if you compare say CT Troopers to Federal LEO's, the CT Troopers win hands down - their pay can reach as much as $100,000/yr with over time.
So I guess it is who you are comparing to, but based on my experience, if somebody has a shot at a Federal job, they don't generally turn it down. There must be a reason for it.
Our benefits are good compared to small business, decent-not-great compared to big business. The retirement plan for federal law enforcement officers is pretty good - better than most state & local departments, with an early retirement at a high percentage of salary. They lock horns with MS-13 or AQ or organized crime or get shot at across the border from Mexico regularly, and frankly I don't begrudge them that. Retirement for old school federal civil servants was really high - around 50% pay if you did 30 years. That made sense when salary was nothing near market levels. Salaries are now near market levels, so most newer non-law enforcement feds (post '91?) get( (years of federal service) x (average of top three years' base pay)). So a CPA who maxed out at $100k in the last three years of his career before retiring after 30 years would be eligible for $30k/year. That is a pretty good deal, not great though and you can't live in the DC or NY or LA area on that post-retirement; you have to move. It's also nothing like the scandalous mid-six figure stuff we've heard coming out of California and New York.
I think the reason most of the feds I know well - senior attorneys and enforcement types - do the job is because they care about the mission, doing the people's work. Yeah, even the really liberal ones think that way, though there version of what the people need usually diverges from my own when talk about areas outside their core professional competency. The thing you need to ask yourself is if the stuff they ask us to do is simple, and if it can be done more cheaply by lower paid talent. In a lot of cases, you probably can find a cheaper administrator; it's just that you'll have trouble hiring them in the big markets because where the median household salary is $70k, that's what accountants and project managers of rudimentary skills will work for. It's hard to get even mediocre white collar talent in a big market like D.C. unless you're offering fairly high pay by the rest of the nation's standards - and yes, some of the jobs out in the boondocks are graded as if they were D.C. jobs, rather than jobs for which high mid-grade pay would be perfectly adequate and reasonably competitive w/t private sector employers. As for good white collar talent - I think I'm topnotch at what I do and the only reason for me or somebody like me to take a fed job is because the mission is really worthwhile. I will point to some friends of mine, attorney pals who work at DOJ who left extremely lucrative big firm partnerships - these are $600k - $1.5m / year jobs - to work as $135,000/year attorneys at DOJ. Sounds high, but that is equivalent in lifestyle to maybe $80k in most of the rest of the country. These guys work close to the same hours as they did with Dewey Cheatham & Howe, do the same work, and more than a few of them gave up over a million a year (when the firm is doing alright) to do it. You can kid yourself and think you can hire a GS-11 or GS-12 attorney right out of law school and they will do just fine running a Microsoft antitrust case or to defend the U.S. against a tort claim by some anti-U.S. foreign government, but at the end of the day, I don't think that will work very well.
Truly, if you want to cut the fed payroll, the right way is to cut the programs employing all of us, and then have reductions in force. Cutting the payroll without eliminating the mission will only ensure, in many cases, that you get less qualified (experienced, judicious, credentialed) people doing the exact same work. I cringe to think about the messes that will cause.