To hear the Tennessee mainstream media tell it, federal workers can’t maintain their usual standard of living and are reduced to accepting charity whenever and wherever offered.
But, according to new research, civilian federal employees enjoy a better standard of living than people who work and toil in the private sector.
Specifically, federal employees make nearly 20 percent more money per year than folks in the private sector. This includes wages and benefits.
This, according to a new article on the website of the Atlanta-based Foundation for Economic Education. The author of the piece, Ryan McMaken, backed his piece up using recent data from the Congressional Budget Office.
“Considering that a year is 52 weeks long, an average federal worker would need to be completely without any income for nearly nine weeks in order to just be reduced to equal standing with a similar private sector worker (17 percent of 52 weeks is 8.84 weeks),” McMaken wrote.
“As of this writing, the current shutdown has only lasted three weeks, which means all those furloughed workers profiled in national news stories are likely still coming out ahead of their private sector colleagues. Moreover, given that both Trump and Congress have committed to pay furloughed workers back pay, it’s a safe bet that federal workers will continue to enjoy a healthy advantage over private sector workers when it comes to compensation.”
Health benefits for most federal workers, McMaken added, will also continue without interruption through the shutdown.
According to McMaken’s research:
• Federal civilian workers with no more than a high school education earned 34 percent more, on average, than similar workers in the private sector. That’s just wages. They get far more in terms of benefits like healthcare and vacation time.
• Average benefits were 93 percent higher for federal employees with no more than a high school education than for their private-sector counterparts.
• The benefits for workers with a bachelor’s degree are 52 percent higher for federal workers than for their private-sector counterparts. Wages for federal workers in this group, however, are only five percent higher.
• Federal workers with PhDs and other advanced degrees do make less than similar workers in the private sector. Wages among highly-educated federal employees were 24 percent less than in the private sector, according to the report. Benefits remained about the same.
“So, most federal employees, especially the ones with less education, have a long way to go before facing the economic realities that private-sector employees — i.e., the net taxpayers — face on a daily basis,” McMaken wrote.
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, News Channel 9 of Chattanooga, and FOX 17 of Nashville, among several other media outlets, have portrayed Tennessee’s federal workers as living in dire straits. Some federal workers who spoke anonymously to The Times Free Press, for instance, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
The Chattanooga Area Food Bank delivered about 100 emergency food boxes to federal workers at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport last week, the paper reported.
Meanwhile, Memphis TV station WREG reported that federal workers rallied in that city last weekend to demand the shutdown end.
“Protesters chanted things like, ‘Hey hey, ho ho, government shutdown’s got to go!’ and ‘What do we want? Pay! When do we want it? Now!’” the station reported.
Gibson Jones, president of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 98, who reportedly organized last weekend’s rally, spoke to WREG.
“People don’t know when their next paycheck is gonna come, so they’re worried about mortgage, rent, electric and so forth and so on,” Jones said.
“And it’s a disservice to the public for public servants to have to go and ask for food stamps, unemployment, assistance through the food bank.”
What This Really Does to the Private Sector
In his piece for FEE, McMaken said “the real cost to the private sector is in the form of industries that are paralyzed as a result of understaffed federal regulatory agencies.”
“When the private sector isn’t allowed to function without regular certification and inspection from federal agents, that means shutdowns prevent the private sector from functioning,” McMaken wrote.
“This, of course, isn’t an argument for more government spending. It’s an argument against a vast federal regulatory apparatus that can’t be counted on to perform the bare minimum of tasks it has promised to perform. All of this is just a good reminder that these jobs should never have been federal jobs in the first place.”