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Archive for February 3rd, 2010

DorobekINSIDER: Why Brown’s ‘feds make double the private sector’ comparison is not fully accurate

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On Monday, the DorobekINSIDER pointed you comments made by Senator elect Scott Brown (R-MA) where he said that feds made double the private sector.

Read the full comments here, but the relevant portion:

We need to put a freeze on federal hires and federal raises because, as you know, federal employees are making twice as much as their private counterparts.

Brown and Walters

Photo: ABC News

I have been asked, “How true are Brown’s stats?”

As I noted previously, I believe Brown is pulling from a December story in USAToday headlined, For feds, more get 6-figure salaries: Average pay $30,000 over private sector.

And we wanted to find out how accurate those data are. The long and short of it: They are accurate on their face, but… it isn’t necessarily a fair comparison.

Yesterday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to Federal News Radio senior correspondent Mike Causey about this issue. Hear the entire conversation here.

But Causey tells us that technically what Senator elect Brown says is accurate. But as we all know, nothing lies like numbers — and it is not really a fair comparison for several reasons.

First: What’s an average? The federal government doesn’t employ many fast food workers, for example, or “greeters” at Target. To the contrary, the federal government employs scores very highly skilled workers — scientists, IT workers, attorneys, doctors. And if you compare what those feds are paid compared to what they could get in the private sector, it generally doesn’t compare.

There are other factors, of course. Federal employment is, by and large, very stable work — you don’t have to worry about the federal government filing for bankruptcy and having ones job disappear. Feds also have a pension plan and one of the best retirement plans anywhere in the Thrift Savings Plan.

The National Treasury Employees Union’s Colleen M. Kelley wrote an open letter to Senator elect Brown. (Hat tip to WP’s Federal Eye blogger Ed O’Hare.)

I wanted to set the record straight regarding your recent comments on “This Week” on ABC that federal employees earn twice as much as those who work in the private sector.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys, the present gap between public and private sector workers is some 26 percent—in favor of the private sector. A law was passed in 1990—the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA)—to close that gap between public and private sector pay in stages. It has not, however, been implemented as intended. The disparity identified more than a decade ago, between federal employees and their private sector counterparts, still exists.

Comparing salaries of federal employees and private sector employees is not an apples-to-apples comparison. The only appropriate way to make a fair pay comparison is to compare similar jobs with one another. The federal workforce is a white collar, highly-educated workforce, consisting of such professionals as doctors, attorneys and scientists in virtually every discipline.

The White House took note of the educational level of the federal workforce, pointing out in its budget blueprint that 20 percent of federal employees hold either a master’s or professional degree, or a doctorate. This contrasts with 13 percent in the private sector. Overall, 51 percent of federal employees hold at least a college degree compared to 35 percent in the private sector.

It is clear that a great many federal employees who could make more money—and quite possibly, much more money—in the private sector choose public service instead.

I hope as you become more familiar with the efforts of the men and women of the federal workforce, you will begin to see the direct connection between their day-to-day contributions to our nation and the well-being of the American public they serve so diligently.

Finally, the WSJ editorial page, which generally leans right, has an editorial today The Public-Union Ascendancy.

It’s now official: In 2009 the number of unionized workers who work for the government surpassed those in the private economy for the first time. This milestone explains a lot about modern American politics, in particular the paradox that union clout with Democrats has increased even as fewer workers belong to unions overall

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that 51.4% of America’s 15.4 million union members, or about 7.91 million workers, were employed by the government in 2009. As recently as 1980, there were more than twice as many private as public union members. But private union membership has continued to decline, even as unions have organized more public employees. The nearby chart shows the historical trend.

Overall unionism keeps declining, however, with the loss of 771,000 union jobs amid last year’s recession. Only one in eight workers (12.3%) now belongs to a union, with private union employment hitting a record low of 7.2% of all jobs, down from 7.6% in 2008. Only one in 13 U.S. workers in the private economy pays union dues. In government, by contrast, the union employee share rose to 37.4% from 36.8% the year before.

Read the full editorial here.

Written by cdorobek

February 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM

DorobekINSIDER: GSA will have to wait until at least Thursday for any Johnson action

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It was thought that Tuesday might be GSA V-Day — as in Vote Day where the Senate would move along Martha Johnson’s long delayed nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration. But the phrase “so close yet so far” seems to be apt at this point.

We found out Tuesday evening that it was unlikely that the Senate would vote on the Johnson nomination.

Instead, the Senate spent most of the day debating the nomination of Patricia Smith to be the Labor Department solicitor. Smith’s nomination is controversial because she is accused of lying to lawmakers.

Because both the Smith and Johnson nomination have been held, Senate lawmakers have to take two votes for these nominations. The first is the vote on the cloture motion — technically, as I understand it, when a Senator puts a “hold” on a nomination, the nomination is open for debate. The cloture vote simply closes debate. And then it would all senators to move to the YES or NO vote for the confirmation. And the Senate has yet to complete work on Smith’s nomination before moving on to the Johnson cloture vote and, eventually, the actual confirmation vote.

Unlike Smith’s more controversial nomination, there haven’t been any questions about Johnson’s qualifications. To the contrary, most people have praised her qualifications and skills.

That being said, the Senate is now saying that action on Johnson’s nomination will not come until Thursday:

Johnson Nomination–Agreement: A unanimous-consent-time agreement was reached providing that on Thursday, February 4, 2010, upon disposition of the nomination of M. Patricia Smith, of New York, to be Solicitor for the Department of Labor, Senate resume consideration of the nomination of Martha N. Johnson, of Maryland, to be Administrator of General Services, and that there be two hours of debate prior to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture thereon; with the time equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders, or their designees ; that upon the use of time, Senate vote on the motion to invoke cloture thereon; that if cloture is invoked, all post-cloture time be yielded back, and Senate then vote on confirmation of the nomination.

Of course, Johnson’s vote has been held up by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) over a federal building in Kansas City.

Just last week, Bond again took GSA to task over the Kansas City federal building. This story is from Kansas City Star reporter Kevin Collison from just last week — January 28:

Bond blasts agency over plans for federal offices in downtown KC [January 28, 2010, Kansas City Star]

Sen. Kit Bond continues to battle a Washington official over a proposed federal office building for downtown Kansas City.

City officials remain confident the $175 million project is on track. But in a letter this week, Bond, a Missouri Republican, accused Robert Peck, the public building service commissioner for the federal General Services Administration, of failing to follow through on a promise to put funds in the 2011 budget.

The proposal, which would consolidate about 1,200 federal workers now at the Bannister Federal Complex into a new downtown building, has been in the works for several years.

It originally was proposed to be a private development, where the GSA would lease the space and the building would generate local taxes. But Peck said in October his office would support the plan only if it was built and owned by the government.

The story goes on to say that Bond and Peck were to meet sometime this week.

Read the full story here.

Back in August, we spoke with Kansas City Star reporter Kevin Collison on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris for background on the federal building deal. Get more here.

We are on full Johnson watch and we’ll let you know what happens.

Written by cdorobek

February 3, 2010 at 9:36 AM