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EDITORIAL: Federal pay fable

Union bosses are behind the tale that bureaucrats are underpaid

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Government employees around the world have a reality check coming. With budgetary red ink exceeding the capacity of economies to pay the bills, bureaucrats are doing everything they can to avoid the day of reckoning. In Athens, thousands took to the streets last week hoping violence would be enough to convince politicians to leave lavish civil-service benefits untouched. Here at home, far more peaceful preparations are under way to ensure the government lifestyle remains suitably posh, regardless of how this affects future generations.

During Monday night's presidential debate, Mitt Romney explained how he intends to tackle the $16.2 trillion debt by making government smaller. "We do it by reducing spending in a whole series of programs," said the former Massachusetts governor. "We take program after program that we don't absolutely have to have, and we get rid of them."

That's a plan striking at the very heart of the federal Leviathan. "Public service" jobs are supposed to be eternal because once Washington establishes a program, it never pulls the plug -- no matter how duplicative or obsolete its mission might be. Realizing the bull's-eye painted on its back, the Federal Salary Council on Friday released a report claiming bureaucrats are being paid 34.6 percent less than their private-sector counterparts. The largest union representing affected civil servants responded with a predictable call for across-the-board pay raises. "Federal employees have sacrificed enough and paid their more than enough fair share in reducing the federal deficit," protested American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr.

Mr. Cox also happens to be one of the nine members of the salary council that generated the report bemoaning the underpayment of bureaucrats. A total of six council members are governmental union bosses with a vested interest in ensuring their dues-paying members take home as much pay as possible.

The cabal is quite good at accomplishing its goal. Consider the Farm Credit Administration, an obscure New Deal agency that offers subsidized credit to agriculture. It has 239 full-time employees who collectively enjoy $53 million in salary and benefits -- or $222,000 per employee. That seems like a high figure, but according to Office of Personnel Management data, 21,019 federal employees have salaries that exceed $180,000 a year. To put that into perspective, bureaucrats at the top of the pay scale need only marry a colleague to gain entry into the "1 percent."

While the rest of us have had to cut back during the Great Recession and its aftermath, there's been no slowdown in Washington. Under President Obama, the number of fat-cat government employees earning more than $180,000 has doubled, and the ranks of the federal bureaucracy swelled by 9 percent. It's no surprise union representatives are working overtime to ensure Barack Obama returns to the White House for a second term.

The Washington Times

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