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Do Federal Employees Deserve Pay Cuts?

Updated on November 6, 2013

Public Opinion?

The Ryan Proposal for balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit includes freezing the pay of federal employees through 2015. These employees have already undergone a two year pay freeze, having not received a raise since 2010.

Many Politicians try to make federal employees out to be the villain. Federal Employees are a waste of tax payer dollars. They are over compensated. They get too many benefits. Their jobs are pointless. Obviously, they don't state these things outright, but they do hint at it enough to convince many Americans that these things are true.

It doesn't help that the public perception of government employees is already low. Most Americans generally think of the long line at the post office, or the long line at the DMV (yes, the DMV is state run, but it probably is what most people think about when they hear "government workers") I can understand that the long lines at these places and the perception of rude employees can make people hate all government workers. In addition, all the public hears about is the negatives, like when GSA employees take advantage of a government credit card and have lavish conferences in Vegas, or when the ATF botches a special operation and gives criminals weapons. But should the entire federal workforce be judged based on these two agencies and a few bad decisions?

What Do Federal Employees Really Do?

In reality, federal employees perform countless functions that are crucial to the health, welfare, and security of American citizens and resources. Most of these functions are performed behind the scenes, without much public interaction. Although the agencies names are well known, most Americans don't really think about these jobs, or how they impact our daily lives.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of the largest government agencies. Agriculture makes up about 2% of the United States GDP and is one of the nations largest export industries. USDA officials work with the industry to keep food prices low and ensure food safety. They handle pest eradication and pest control, as a pest outbreak could decimate the nations crops, leading to skyrocketing global food prices. They also inspect meat products, ensuring the quality of the beef, chicken, and pork that Americans feed their families.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that all food products and medications are safe for human consumption. They ensure that the foods we import from other countries meet all safety and cleanliness standards for the United States. The rigorously test all new medications to ensure that they do what the pharmaceutical companies claim, but also to ensure that any side effects are properly documented.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) inspects products to ensure that they meet the safety standards that the United States has in place. This agency is responsible for ensuring that lead paint is kept out of toys for children. It is also responsible for ensuring that recalls are issued in the event that any unsafe product is discovered. They make sure that the cars we drive, the tvs we watch, and even the blow dryers that we use are all safe when used properly. They are also responsible for ensuring that companies comply with all warning label requirements, so that consumers are aware of any possible safety concerns.

These are just three examples of the broad range of functions that federal employees perform. There are many other, ranging from protecting our forestry and national parks to solving international crimes. Most of these functions are vitally important to maintain the standard of living that we enjoy today.


Federal Employee Compensation

So do federal employees make too much money? Do they deserve another three years without a pay raise?

According to factcheck.org, that average salary for federal employees is $81,000 per year, while the average salary for the private sector is $51,000. However, many of these federal positions require a degree and are white collar positions, while the average salary for private sector includes low wage blue collar positions. When you only compare a federal employees salary to those positions in the private sector requiring comparable work and education levels, the private sector generally makes about 20% more than federal employees.

A salary of $80,000 per year is a decent, middle class salary. When you include the benefits the total compensation package is probably about $110,000. Even this, however, is not unreasonable. It is enough to support a family in many areas of the US (but not all), but it by no means is enough to live that upper class lifestyle.

The majority of Federal Employees are just normal, everyday middle class people who struggle to make ends meet just like everyone else. They work hard for their paychecks and benefits. They rely on the yearly pay increases to keep up with inflation. They have been struggling for the last two years without it. They have important, often times difficult jobs, and they do deserve to be compensated for it.

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    • Elani-Lee profile image
      Author

      Elani-Lee 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Dave - You misunderstood me. I was saying that Federal Employees are quality workers with a lot of responsibilities (and often some type of degree) and in general do deserve their salaries.

      Granted, there are some that fit the stereotype, but for the most part their jobs are very important, and they work hard at what they do. I am tired of seeing the federal worker being the scapegoat for everything.

    • profile image

      Dave-P 4 years ago

      Nice article, however, if you have a Master's Degree in basket weaving or English you deserve to make 40k...This is not to say teachers don't deserve more money; however, its simple supply and demand. As a Federal Worker I have top secret clearance, I have limitations on my conduct, and I have fiduciary responsibilities. Its a simple case of supply and demand - high paying jobs require high caliber people - I don't see you bitching about IBM, or Google executives...The author of this article seems to think that everyone making a good salary who works in the government somehow doesn't deserve their salary....and for the timetraver lady - your job will disappear before mine does

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      Sondra Rochelle 5 years ago from USA

      I taught school for 26 years. I had a BA and an MA...and never did I come anywhere near making the incomes you talk about here, even with my benefits included. Frankly, I think most people are jealous of government employees because of the money they make, the benefits they get, and the job security they enjoy. However, these things are changing and one day, all of it will disappear. Very well written hub and voted up.

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 5 years ago from Uruguay

      And also let's be aware that usually whatever benefits employees get through negotiations are also salary raise percentages that are lower in exchange for future benefits which the companies are happy to agree to so they will pay them in the future instead of paying their workers higher wages right away, and then as time goes by and they have to pay for those benefits,they want to get off the hook for that.

    • Elani-Lee profile image
      Author

      Elani-Lee 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks Mio, I agree. And what I forgot to mention is that although the averagae is $80,000, so many make much less than that!

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 5 years ago from Uruguay

      funny how an oil company is supposedly driven out of business if it has to earns one tenth of a penny less but if a worker earns a living wage he is seen as extremely greedy and ungrateful.