December 2, 2010

The Elite Island of Federal Workers: They Are Above the People They Serve

Freedom and initiative are being replaced by ever higher taxation, regulation and centralization of power in Washington. Our economy is now stagnant and our standard of living is declining. Each year government takes a bigger share of our earnings, employs more and more of our people, enacts more rules that strangle our economy, and controls more and more of our lives. In the enjoyment of plenty, have Americans lost the memory of freedom? When citizens are willing to sacrifice their liberty for security, they will have neither liberty nor security and will soon find themselves living under tyranny. [Ellen Sauerbrey, The Spark That Has Triggered Rebellion, American Thinker, September 13, 2009]

Sixty percent of the federal workforce is represented by the labor unions that helped put Obama in the White House. [Source]

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. - Justice Litle, Is America’s Economic Recovery on the Whole Based on a Rotten Sham?, Daily Markets, April 20, 2010

The federal government does not create a traditional sellable product and thus produces no revenue outside of what it collects from taxpayers. As of 2008, the average federal salary was $79,197, compared with $49,935 for the average private sector employee. In other words, the average federal bureaucrat makes almost twice as much as the average working taxpayer. Add the value of benefits like health care and pensions, and the gap grows even bigger. The average federal employee’s benefits add $40,785 to his annual total compensation, whereas the average working taxpayer’s benefits increase his total compensation by only $9,974. In other words, federal workers are paid on average salaries that are twice as generous as those in the private sector, and they receive benefits that are four times greater. - Brandon Greife, The Public Sector Weight Around Taxpayers’ Necks,, May 4, 2010

Your Tax Receipt for the Management of Federal Employees and Retirees

Management of federal employees and buildings (1.4%) $47,980,000,000
Federal retirement and disability benefits (3.2%) $110,061,000,000
Federal employees and retirees health benefits (0.2%) $7,140,000,000
General Services Administration (0.0%) $861,000,000
Office of Personnel Management administration (0.0%) $253,000,000
Merit Systems Protection Board (0.0%) $38,000,000
Legal services for government employees and applicants (0.0%) $18,000,000
Office of Government Ethics (0.0%) $13,000,000
Administrative support for federal agencies (0.0%) $1,000,000
Government reports and information distribution (0.0%) -$7,000,000
Federal employee flexible spending account reserve fund (0.0%) -$15,000,000
Federal employee life insurance benefit (0.0%) -$1,455,000,000
Federal payment for employer share of Medicare taxes (-0.1%) -$4,042,000,000
Department of Defense Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund (-0.2%) -$7,780,000,000
Fed payment for employer share of Social Security taxes (-0.4%) -$14,936,000,000
Fed payment for employer share of retirement & disability (-1.2%) -$42,170,000,000

Taxpayers on the Hook for Retiree Costs for Federal Contractors

Of course it comes out of our pockets... We not only are on the hook for the juicy unionized public servants' retirement payouts, but also for retirements of labor union third-party federal contractors...

June 10, 2011

A surprising new government report shows that taxpayers have been footing the bill for retiree benefits not just for federal workers, but for independent freelance contractors who do work for the government as well. And no one is watching the store to see if your tax dollars are being wasted.

Taxpayers for years have been covering private contractors' retiree costs for things like pensions and health care, even though these workers are not on the federal payroll.

Taxpayers also cover these retiree costs for contractors' spouses, too, and in some cases if contractors want to retire early (at age 50), just like regular federal workers, many can then get taxpayer-funded coverage, says an official at the Government Accountability office.

For the Department of Energy alone, overall this coverage cost taxpayers $6.8 billion over the last 10 years, according to the new GAO report recently sent to Congress. Nine out of ten dollars spent on the DOE's annual budget goes towards contracts, including contractor retiree benefits.

The problem is, the GAO tells FOX Business it only knows about this problem at the DOE -- no one in government knows, or is tracking with regular, transparent reports to Congress, the tax money going out the door for these costs at other agencies, like the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health, or NASA.

The lion's share of the DOE’s workforce is private contractors, most of whom work in the nuclear energy sector. DOE has the largest private contractor workforce in the federal government.
“We can't speak for other contractors, but what we found at DOE is that these numbers were not transparent to Congress and recommended they be more transparent,” the GAO tells FOX Business.
Also, no one in government is tracking whether taxpayers are double-covering retiree costs for workers employed at big companies that already cover them, like Boeing (BA: 73.85, -0.79, -1.06%) or Lockheed Martin (LMT: 79.63, -0.01, -0.01%). Moreover, the GAO says in a new report the DOE has to set aside "significantly" more funds for these costs "since the economic downturn."

The GAO adds that the DOE has "limited influence" over reining in contractor retiree benefit costs.
"By contract, DOE must reimburse these costs," the GAO says.
The DOE reimburses the companies directly.

The GAO reports that the DOE says it is facing budget strains due to covering these costs.
"DOE will likely continue to face significant challenges managing the costs of those benefits and mitigating their impact on funding available for the department's mission activities," its report said.
Most of DOE’s budget for contract work is to hire freelance companies that do things like cleanup work at nuclear sites, or do outsourcing work running the business operations of our nation’s laboratories.

DOE bears the responsibility, according to its contracts, for reimbursing contractors for retiree benefits for an estimated 200,000 people, including 100,000 current and former contractor employees, and 100,000 beneficiaries of those employees, such as spouses.

Taxpayer costs for federal contractors’ retiree benefits at the DOE has been volatile. They ranged from as little as $43 million in 2001 to as high as three quarters of a billion dollars in 2009, the GAO says. In fiscal 2008 to 2009, such costs more than doubled, the GAO adds, because of a drop in the interest rate used to calculate contractors’ pension plan liabilities, and because the pension assets plunged in value as the overall market dropped due to the financial crisis.

As is the case across the board, volatile investment returns can drastically impact pension contributions for government contractors, and in turn taxpayer costs to cover them.
"As a result, DOE ultimately bears the investment risk incurred by the contractor sponsoring the plan," the GAO said in its report.
At the same time, federal refunds for contractors’ health care benefits grew by 10%, to $389 million. But all the DOE can do in the face of such funding problems, the GAO says, is to urge contractors to make appropriate investment choices that reduce volatility. It has no power to restructure these plans, the GAO says, as its role is limited to oversight, even though it could do so at the contract stage. The DOE also does not give guidance on how to pick the right coverage nor does it tell contractors how they should allocate plan assets, says the GAO.

The DOE is moving to advocate to contractors that they use 401(k) plans, instead of traditional pension plans that guarantee retirees get set payments each month.

The GAO also reported back in 2008 that the DOE has taken steps to tackle the cost of these benefits that contractors offer to new workers. But the GAO says those moves "were not expected to substantially affect the department's contractor pension and other post-retirement benefit costs for the next 20 to 30 years," since current employees would still earn benefits on their existing plans.

Each contractor negotiates its own pension benefits separately, so reimbursements vary widely among the 50 pension plans the DOE covers. The GAO said a dozen of the contractor pension plans make up 86% of the DOE's total contractor pension liabilities, with the three largest plans accounting for more than a third of all of the DOE's pension liabilities.

Federal Workers Get 2-Year Pay Freeze Except for Military
November 29, 2010

Barack Obama says he’s going to freeze all federal workers’ pay for two years, so maybe they will get an idea of what it’s like to have a private-sector job in America, where all wages outside of Wall Street and Silicon Valley have been frozen since the Recession began way back in 2008.

But one very special group of federal workers won’t see any pay freeze at all: Military brass! Those uniformed heroes who work for America’s Permanent War Machine will continue to enjoy all the nice raises and benefits they’ve come to expect while doing whatever it is the Pentagon does with basically all of the nation’s tax money.

Of course, the Americans who get blown up and shot to pieces in our myriad imperial wars still face pretty lousy pay, endless re-deployments, and families abandoned to the vagaries of apartment life on or near the bases. And life as a veteran is still fairly terrible for many who come back from the wars with physical or mental injuries. But at least the brass will continue to be richly rewarded for …. uh, losing wars everywhere and ruining America and inspiring nothing more than Xmas Tree bomb attempts (with the FBI’s help, as far as the “bomb part”).

Citing Deficit, Obama to Freeze Federal Worker Pay But Not 'Step Increases' or 'Bonuses'

Associated Press
November 29, 2010

President Barack Obama announced a pay freeze for two million federal employees Monday and warned the American public that the move is the first of many difficult decisions that must be made to slash the nation's mounting deficits.
"The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government," Obama said.
The two-year freeze would apply to all civilian federal employees, including those working at the Department of Defense, but would not affect military personnel. The freeze, which requires congressional approval, is expected to save more than $5 billion in savings over two years, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, White House officials said.

[Related: Salaries of the Obama White House]

Congress is not covered by Obama's order, but lawmakers voted last April to freeze their pay, with the House and Senate opting to forgo an automatic $1,600 annual cost-of-living increase. House members and senators now are paid $174,000 a year. Their last pay increase was $4,700 a year at beginning of 2009.

The president's pay of $400,000 a year was fixed by Congress in January 2001. It has not changed since then.

While Obama said the federal employee salary freeze was necessary to put the nation on sound fiscal footing, he also said that he didn't reach the decision lightly.
"This is not just a line item on a federal ledger," he said. "These are people's lives."
The savings from the pay freeze make only a small dent in the nation's $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. But with voters voicing their anger over Washington's spending during the midterm elections, even a symbolic gesture would show the White House got the message.

Obama and bipartisan congressional leaders will meet at the White House Tuesday for the first time since Republicans gained control of the House and increased their strength in the Senate during the midterm elections. Obama said he hopes the move to freeze federal pay sets a serious tone for the meetings.
"We're going to have to budge on some deeply held positions, and compromise for the good of the country," Obama said.
California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said that while the pay freeze was "long overdue," the president and congressional leaders should take additional steps to reduce spending, including imposing a federal hiring freeze of non-security employees.

The co-chairmen of Obama's bipartisan deficit commission have proposed a three-year freeze in pay for most federal employees as part of its plan to reduce the nation's growing deficit. The commission's proposal also suggested cuts to Social Security benefits and higher taxes for millions of Americans to stem the flood of red ink that they say threatens the nation's very future. The popular child tax credit and mortgage interest deduction also would be eliminated.

The commission's final report is due to be released later this week.

Shortly after taking office in January 2009, Obama froze salaries of top White House aides. He proposed extending that freeze to political appointees across the government in last year's budget, and also eliminated bonuses for political appointees.

The pay freeze would not affect bonuses or step increases for federal employees.

John Gage, president of the 600,000-member American Federation of Government Employees, called the decision "a slap at working people."
"Working people's wages are not the issue with this deficit or what is going on in our country," Gage said. "To symbolically hit at federal employees I think is just wrong."
Gage said the White House was using federal workers as scapegoats for the nation's deficit problems. He said the move would not really save as much as the White House claims because federal employees often get just a fraction of projected raises. Federal workers received a 1.9 percent pay increase this year.

See: My Big Fat Government Paycheck
See: The U.S. Government's Hidden Workforce
See: Obama, Bought and Paid for By Big Labor and Big Business, Brings Chicago, the Most Corrupt City in America, to Washington in the Form of Big Government

Federal Workers' Sacrifice Would Help U.S. Debt, Deficit Panel Says

Washington Post
November 10, 2010

Federal employees would play a major role in reducing the nation's debt and deficit under a set of draft proposals released Wednesday by the co-chairs of President Obama's deficit commission.

Former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) called on Americans to make sacrifices to "make America strong for the long haul."

Federal workers would face a freeze on "federal salaries, bonuses, and other compensation at non-Defense agencies for three years," saving $15.1 billion. Pentagon civilians would take the same hit, for a $5.3 billion savings.

The federal workforce would be cut by 10 percent, about 200,000 people, by hiring only two workers for every three who leave federal service. That would save $13.2 billion.

The response from the National Treasury Employees Union was swift.
"If enacted, the proposals in the draft report offered by the co-chairs of the White House deficit reduction commission would have an unfair and disproportionate impact on the federal employee and retiree community," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley.

"This is a very heavy load to seek to place on this workforce, both present and past, and there are better ways to spread the responsibility for addressing the nation's deficit issues," Kelley added. "The overall impact of the proposals would be to stretch agency personnel beyond their ability to provide the services Americans want, need and expect."
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association sent a notice to its members Wednesday night on the effect of the proposals.
"Most important to federal employees and retirees," the association said, is a proposal to "achieve mandatory savings from civil service retirement" by recalculating retirement payments and requiring higher contributions for pension benefits and health insurance premiums.
The draft plan also says $5.4 billion can be saved in Pentagon contracts by doubling the cuts already planned by Secretary Robert M. Gates. Eliminating 250,000 domestic-agency contractors would save $18.4 billion. And a three-year freeze at 2011 levels on noncombat military pay, an area Congress has been reluctant to touch, would save $9.2 billion.

In 2009, U.S. Paid $400 Million in Bonuses to Federal Employees (About 65% of Federal Workforce)

Big Government
June 14, 2010

The Obama Administration handed out more than $400 million in awards to federal employees last year, up by more than $80 million from the prior year, according to new government data.

The biggest winners were air traffic controllers and top managers in Washington, a review of fiscal year 2009 salary reports from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management showed.

OPM’s data, obtained by the Asbury Park Press through a freedom of information request, account for 1.3 million employees, or about 65 percent of the federal civilian work force.

The $408 million given in awards excludes the departments of Defense and Treasury, security agencies such as the CIA and FBI, the White House, Congress and various independent commissions and agencies, such as the U.S. Postal Service.

The defense department paid $92.1 million in awards in 2008, the latest year available. Awards were given to 100,000 of its 687,000 employees.

2009 Bonus Bonanza for Federal Workers

Washington Examiner
June 16, 2010

President Obama, shown surrounded by White House aides, instituted a pay freeze for top aides. He’s done little to control government pay beyond this symbolic gesture.

Under the Obama administration, the government is doing such a good job that it's decided to reward itself. Last year, Uncle Sam paid out $408 million in bonuses to 1.3 million federal workers, according to the Asbury Park Press, which obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request. That's about $80 million more than the previous year. About one in four federal workers received a bonus, and awards ranged from $25 to, in the case of one lucky State Department worker, $94,500.

That $408 million figure only counts bonuses that were handed out to about 65 percent of the federal work force. The FOI request didn't cover awards handed out by the Defense and Treasury departments, security agencies, the White House, Congress and various other federal agencies and commissions. In 2008, the last year information was available, the Department of Defense alone handed out $92 million in bonuses to its 687,000 employees.

Federal bonuses are being doled out liberally, even as federal salaries are exploding. From December 2007 through June 2009, the number of federal workers earning six figures increased from 14 to 19 percent. In 2008, average federal compensation, including pay and benefits, was $119,982 -- considerably more than the $59,909 average in the private sector, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the midst of a brutal economic downturn that saw millions of jobs lost and unemployment soar above 10 percent, the Office of Personnel Management data shows the federal workforce actually added nearly 100,000 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009.

In theory, introduction of bonuses and pay-for-performance measures in the federal workforce was a positive reform. However, this boom in federal bonuses suggests an "all carrot and no stick" approach to federal performance. For bureaucrats, job security is a non-issue, and they already earn twice as much as an average American just for showing up to work.

Shortly after he assumed office last year, Obama instituted a pay freeze for top White House Aides earning more than $100,000, saying this would "restore that faith in government without which we cannot deliver the changes we were sent here to make." The president made it clear that he knows egregious federal salaries are a problem, yet he's done little beyond this symbolic gesture to address the problem. Actually doing something to rein in the runaway federal bureaucracy would be change taxpayers can believe in.

Feds Gave Employees 127,000 Cash Bonuses

The Washington Post
May 28, 2009

Ever since we first heard about the FDA's plan to buy gift cards to "incent" hard working employees to keep them, well, working hard, we wanted to know more.

You may recall that the FDA deal involved the purchase of 160 "employee incentive gift cards" worth $250 each. The contract was worth $41,030. (Yes, when you do the math, it appears that the contractor got about $6.44 for each card delivered.)

We learned from the acting FDA administrator that about 15 percent of all agency employees received a gift card last year. Acting FDA Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein knew that because he himself said he was trying to find more detail about the program, which he suspended pending a review.

Now the Office of Personnel Management is adding some new -- incomplete but compelling -- details about the gift cards and other forms of informal employee bonuses, including cash payments.

It seems that OPM keeps no data about the gift cards or other kinds of bonuses. That's interesting to us.
But they do have information about cash bonuses, also known vividly as on-the-spot awards. According to the OPM data, federal agencies gave out 127,030 cash awards in the year that ended in October.

We'll repeat that: Federal managers gave out up to $250 in cash to employees 127,030 times in fiscal 2008. That's potentially worth up to $32 million in tax dollars.

So. We'd like to note that our curiosity about all this is growing. How are these bonuses handled? Who decides who deserves the money? What's the process for keeping track of it? Is it fair? Does it work? Do some employees get multiple bonus cards or cash payments?

It's worth repeating that we know many people in the federal government are not paid enough for all the good work they do. At the same time, we believe that money minus oversight equals mischief.

This isn't by any means big money, but it offers an unusual peek into the federal system.

Most Federal Workers Get Cash Bonuses

Awards Range from $100 to $25,000

The Washington Post
May 17, 2004

Under civil service law, federal agencies can hand out cash awards or additional time off to reward employees for good annual performance or contributions on specific projects. The law allows for multiple awards throughout the year, and all civil servants are eligible.

Three agencies -- the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the General Services Administration -- each gave bonuses to more than 90 percent of their General Schedule employees.

At the National Science Foundation, Joseph Burt, the director of human resources, said the high number reflects "a high-performing staff across the board." He said the awards vary greatly, ranging from as little as $200 to more than $6,000.
"[People] recognize that if they do a good job -- do their jobs, if you will -- that they are going to likely get some bonus," Burt said. But, he added, "people know that the payouts are much larger for top performers. So there continues to be an incentive ... to perform at a higher level."

Survey: Federal Managers Anticipate Pay Boosts in Spite of Freeze
December 14, 2010

A significant percentage of federal managers expect their salaries to increase during the next two years despite a proposed pay freeze, and few are making plans to retire quickly or seek other jobs, according to a new survey from the Government Business Council.

President Obama on Nov. 29 proposed a pay freeze in 2011 and 2012 that would apply to all civilian workers, including Defense Department employees, but not to military personnel. House lawmakers on Dec. 8 passed a spending bill with that provision, while the Senate is working on its own version of the legislation.

Workers still will be eligible for certain increases despite the across-the-board freeze. Of the more than 1,500 federal executives surveyed by GBC, the research arm of Government Executive, 38 percent said it is somewhat or very likely they will receive a pay boost in the next two years through promotions, quality step increases or within-grade increases. Nearly 60 percent of Senior Executive Service respondents consider a pay increase very unlikely, however, compared to 48 percent of GS-12 and GS-13 employees.

Observers have expressed concern that a pay freeze could set off a retirement wave, robbing agencies of seasoned talent. Federal managers themselves foresee the same trend -- nearly half of those surveyed believed their co-workers would be more likely to retire if a pay freeze takes effect. Of the respondents eligible for retirement, however, only a third said the freeze would speed their exit from government, and nearly 20 percent said they would likely work longer than planned.

Some managers ready for retirement said their high-three salary, used to calculate annuity benefits, would be lower than expected due to the pay freeze, giving them little incentive to continue working in government. A few respondents said they planned to see how long the freeze would last before making any decisions, while many others said additional measures, such as changes to cost-of-living adjustments or a switch from high-three to high-five, would have a greater impact on their retirement date.
"If this gets coupled with any other attack on federal employees (i.e. switching to a high-five calculation for retirement, additional costs for health insurance, etc.), I will be looking at the next 'best date to retire,'" one manager wrote.
Sixty-two percent of respondents not eligible to retire said a pay freeze would have no impact on their consideration to leave government service, while a third said they would be more likely to seek a job in the private sector. Many federal managers said job security, proximity to retirement and years of investment in civil service would keep them in government.

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of managers surveyed said they somewhat or strongly agreed that a pay freeze is necessary, while 23 percent considered the measure fair. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said a pay freeze would decrease employee morale in their agency.
"The pay freeze is driving morale down," said one manager. "[The] government will lose the ones who have options. Those will be the high performers."

Salary Database of America's Overpaid Federal Employees

Stacie Naczelnik,
Ever wondered where all of your tax money goes?

In a society where salaries are secrets nobody wants to reveal, it is refreshing to find websites that have a tell all approach when it comes to the salaries of federal employees.

If you are interested in finding out just how well (or not) a government job pays, all you have to do is get online and click away.
For a broad view:
2010 Salary Tables and Related Information
For general salary ranges of particular job descriptions, check out this U.S. Office of Personnel Management website.

For an in-depth look:
Federal Employees 2008 search
Find federal salaries based on location, agency, or even name at this site. Jobs that relate to national security are excluded, but other positions are available.

Note that the database shows 2008 salaries. Federal pay for civilian employees increased by 3.9% in 2009 and by 2% in 2010; and the proposed increase for 2011 is 1.4%.
Why does it matter?

There are a variety of reasons why you should be able to find out how much federal employees are making.

First of all, it is important to know how tax money is used. This doesn't mean that you, personally as a taxpayer, are paying these salaries. But as a taxpayer, you should find out how taxes are used.

Second, it helps to see the salary differences between the private companies and government jobs. When I first saw some of the federal salaries, I was shocked--I was certain that the private sector paid more. I was wrong.

Government Pay

This is a directory of links to federal, state, county and municipal government salary and employee name databases. These searchable databases of salaries, pay, overtime and compensation of government workers are compiled by news organizations, open government advocates and government agencies.

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