Overpaid federal workers: Chick-fil-A or NASA?

Depending on which experts you ask, federal civil servants are either paid 30-plus percent more than the average private sector employee, or 30-plus percent less than they could get doing whatever they do outside in what many consider the real world.

Often these experts have a point to make and this being political Washington, they use selective data to reach it. And they can prove it provided you use their numbers.

But a lot of longtime government observers think that both sides are right, up to a point. Many believe that considering salary alone, excluding the value of the retirement, leave, insurance packages, Uncle Sam often pays more in many lower level jobs and often pays much less in top-level jobs where experience and education count most.

A recent snap shot of the civil service by the Merit Systems Protection Board should rattle government critics who think Uncle Sam is the American equivalent of Ebeneezer Scrooge supervising an army of Bob Cratchit-type clerks. On the 40th anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act, the MSPB said that the federal government has changed from an army of clerks to a cadre of specialists, literally.

In 1977, during the Carter administration, six of the most populated jobs were clerks. As of 2016 only one clerical specialty made the top 10.

In 1977 there were more than 90,000 general clerks, 56,500 secretaries, 52,600 clerk-typists, 37,100 supply clerks, 27,200 air traffic controllers, 25,150 clerk-stenos, 24,800 computer specialists, 22,200 engineering technicians and 21,900 electronics technicians.

Today, does anybody even know a clerk-typist? Are there any? Ask your secretary, maybe.

By 2016 the occupational makeup had changed almost entirely. The top job — program specialist — had almost 85,000 people while there were also

  • Just more than 82,000 IT specialists
  • 75,800 nurses
  • 72,600 management analysts
  • 42,900 investigation compliance technicians
  • 42,500 general clerks
  • 42,000 investigators
  • 37,300 contract specialists
  • 35,700 investigation compliance specialists, and
  • 34,381 attorneys.

But you get the point. The government has changed a lot, from an army of clerks in green eye shades — ask your grandfather — to a legion of specialists. In fact the government is more “professional” than most of the private sector. For every Tesla, Google and Amazon there is a Wal-Mart, Burger King or Chick-fil-A. Uncle Sam, with few exceptions, doesn’t do retail.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Famed Viennese psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud left a large collection of writings and papers to the Library of Congress upon his death in 1939, but several of the boxes stipulated they could not be shared until many years later. The next round of records can be shared in 2020, then 2050 and 2057.

Source: Library of Congress

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