President Obama said lots of nice things during Public Service Recognition week, and the press was full of predictable odes to federal workers. What a pity. Obama could have used the opportunity to discuss the urgent need to rein in public spending, the explosive growth in government, and the dangers of following the same path that has led Greece to economic ruin. But, he didn’t. Telling unpleasant truths to key constituencies is not one of President Obama’s strengths.
The dedicated, overworked, underpaid public servant is a popular myth that the Obama Administration is keen to foster. What bunk. With annual compensation often as high as $230,000, in reality, public employees are some of the best-compensated, most enriched workers in America. Federal workers are eligible for generous, annual cash bonuses, sometimes as large as $70,000.00. The federal standard, 40 hour, work week is far less than the longer hours worked by those in the private sector. Furthermore, federal workers have the strongest job security and are rarely laid off, or removed for poor performance.
Considering the salary and perks of federal workers, it becomes rather clear that federal government workers are the new fat cats. How do I know? President Obama said so.
In several dozen speeches, this past year, the President has indicated that an individual earning $200,000 is a member of the economic elite. That means that almost all Senior Executive Service (SES) government employees and many federal workers at the GS-15 level are, by the President’s definition, members of the economically affluent.
I will be the first to admit there are some truly exceptional public servants, and I had the rare privilege of working with many of them when I was the Administrator of the U.S. General Administration (GSA). But, these few, dedicated public servants form a thin crust of excellence that disguises a brutal truth. Many federal workers wallow in a mire of mediocrity, and engage in costly, counterproductive bureaucratic activity that does little to advance the nation’s economic growth.