Call me crazy, but reading that federal workers are experiencing a boom time in salaries in conjunction with almost across the board increases in agency budgets next week makes me sick. Those that have followed this blog, or know me personally, know that I used to work for The Beast. I was a federal employee, working 9 hours a day, and getting off every other Friday as a part of an Adjustable Work Schedule (AWS). I had off on Columbus Day. If I worked overtime, I could take days off in "Comp Time." I had 14 days of vacation, which in conjunction with the federal holidays and AWS days, translated to about four weeks of vacation. As with most other federal workers, I was prepared to take a pay cut to appreciate these "benefits," but now that gap is slimming. I was at a holiday party for my law firm this past Friday where I heard a husband of one of the attorneys say that his LAW FIRM salary was matched by the Department of Transportation. When I entered the private sphere, I had a similar experience where the government told me that they were trying to be "more competitive" in their hiring. My salary wasn't matched, but as noted above, I didn't expect it to be.
I left The Beast because I could not stand working for a broken machine that was more often than not run by high school graduate office administrators. I work longer hours, for more pay. I sometimes work on days that I am supposed to have off. I no longer am able to properly observe Columbus Day. But I am proud of my work and have again aligned myself with the work ethic that helped my father build his own business and the American economy to thrive. A work ethic that is not necessarily required, or encouraged, from the public sphere.
Please don't interpret my post to say that federal workers don't work hard. There are plenty of federal workers that have 12 hour days and work weekends. Unfortunately, this is not a product of the system, but rather of the individual. When was the last time the federal government had mass layoffs? Do you know a federal worker that was fired for a "poor work ethic"? The answers are never and probably not.
My old law professor Ken Feinberg, the so-called "Pay Czar," should probably read that USA Today article about federal salaries. Maybe when he is done with the private system, he can turn to the public one. I don't believe in "too big to fail" and believe the best way to regulate Wall Street salaries would be to let them evaporate and reform. The economy is an organic being, and we've created artificial life. However, where the big firms may be vicious wild beasts that can either dominate or be dominated, the federal agencies are domesticated beasts that live off the success of their masters. And don't forget to think that the nation's largest employer with 1.8 million employees is also the largest voting block. Do you think these people are more likely to vote for a candidate promoting cuts or expansion in goverment services?