816 Opinion

It’s time to cut off the feedbag of the public trough

Updated: 2014-01-15T00:08:02Z

America is quickly becoming a country of haves and have-nots.

The divide isn’t simple class warfare between those with money and those without. It’s a divide between those on the government dole and those of us too stupid to get jobs as bureaucrats.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average federal employee’s annual salary was $71,206 compared with $40,331 in the private sector in 2011. This is unsustainable in the long term. It’s probably unsustainable in the short term, and it’s leading to a class of people — private sector employees — who are enslaved.

I shouldn’t have to explain this but because I hear government officials advocating for tax increases by saying things like, “It’s only the cost of a cup of coffee each month,” I feel obligated to make this point as clearly as possible: We, the dolts who were too stupid to find a cherry job in the public sector, work our tails off to provide the luxurious salaries and benefits that those who work in government have come to expect and demand.

It’s starting to feel an awful lot like government officials are taking most of our money, offering us services we don’t necessarily want at prices we can barely afford and giving us an allowance.

It’s not just federal employee’s salaries that are far outpacing those of us in the private sector. According to the U.S. Labor Department, local and state employees made an average of $54,101 annually in 2011. Again, that’s compared with the lowly $40,331 private-sector employees earned.

Um. I’m no math genius, but I have a simple understanding of where federal, state and local employees earn their wages. It’s taken bit-by-bit, dollar-by-dollar out of our paychecks. And while public employees pay taxes, too, they also take money from the tax pot.

The same can’t be said for the average working Joe and Jane. While most use the roads and appreciate the police and military, few people gain anything from much of the work that government does.

For example, it’s safe to assume almost no one benefited from a taxpayer-funded study that put sick shrimp on treadmills. Changing the lives of absolutely no one, the National Science Foundation study found that ill shrimp “do not perform as well or recover as well from exercise as healthy shrimp.”

Public employees are living large in marble, statuesque buildings, fattening-up with regularly catered meals and training junkets in Las Vegas. Most private employers aren't spending $800,000 to send employees to hour-long ribbon-cuttings in Hawaii, but that's a perk General Services Administration employees received in 2012.

Meanwhile, those of us in the private sector are working, working, working to create products and services that Americans actually choose to purchase rather than government services we’re forced by the taxman to fund. A study by the Center for State & Local Government Excellence attempted to explain the mind-blowing disparity between public employees and the rest of us.

The research, by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee economics professors Keith A. Bender and John S. Heywood suggests that public employees are better educated and have more work experience on average than private sector workers. That's probably not because government jobs require more education.

Rather government gigs, with their access to our wallets, can afford to pay for a more educated workforce. Meanwhile private-sector employers are constrained by budgets based on what consumers are willing to purchase.

Sorry researchers, I’m just not buying your theory — unless you force me through the strong-arm tactics of the Internal Revenue Service.

The government is top heavy. No one wants their friends and neighbors to lose jobs, but to save the republic from crashing down on the enslaved, private sector class, it’s a necessity.

Government officials should be trimming the fat. That means laying off employees and maintaining current salary freezes.

Sadly, our federal workforce friends will receive a 1 percent pay increase in 2014. They shouldn't.

Those freezes should be longer term — until the average private sector salary catches up or preferably surpasses that of the average public sector employee. In the meantime, readers, if you know of any jobs in the public sector, shoot me a message.

These chains are getting heavy.

Danedri Herbert is a freelance columnist.

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