It's regularly been pointed out that the average compensation—that includes pay and benefits—for federal workers is now double the private sector average. Defenders of federal employees have routinely insisted that this is an unfair comparison. Well, Andrew Biggs, the former Social Security Administration deputy commissioner for policy and American Enterprise Insititute Scholar, points to this astonishing fact:
The average federal government employee receives a salary of around $75,000 per year. With present and future fringe benefits equal to about 76 percent of salaries, that makes for total annual compensation of around $133,000. How does this match up to the private sector?
CNN Money has a nice survey of the 25 highest paying companies in the country, outlining the average total compensation per employee in each one. According to CNN, the closest match to federal employment is Microsoft, whose average employee compensation is 133,023 per year, making it the 17th highest paying company in the country.
So there you have it. Federal workers are paid as much as one of America's most prestigious and highest paying employers. Do you think the average American thinks that federal employees are as productive and deserving of the same pay levels as Microsoft?
The defense of federal employees is usually something along the lines that if you take into account the commensurate experience and education of federal employees and compare that to private sector workers with the same education and experience, there's no significant gap. Aside from the Microsoft comparison, this defense of runaway federal compensation is largely hollow for reasons I laid out in this piece. And if you really want to wonk out and understand why this defense of exorbitant federal compensation is wrong, this WEEKLY STANDARD piece by Biggs and Jason Richwine of the Center for Data Analysis, "Yes, They’re Overpaid: The truth about federal workers’ compensation" is essential reading.