Wow! Federal employees join the 1 percent club!

Congratulations, federal employees. You’re part of the 1 percent club!

I should say, part of a 1 percent club. There are two of them. The one you’d rather be in includes people like George Soros and Charles Koch. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for that matter. You know, people like Barbara Streisand who really, really care about you and me, the ones in that other one percent club.

Thanks to this week’s pronouncement from President Barack Obama, we...

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Congratulations, federal employees. You’re part of the 1 percent club!

I should say, part of a 1 percent club. There are two of them. The one you’d rather be in includes people like George Soros and Charles Koch. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for that matter. You know, people like Barbara Streisand who really, really care about you and me, the ones in that other one percent club.

Thanks to this week’s pronouncement from President Barack Obama, we know federal employees will get a 1 percent raise next year. Plus maybe 0.6 percent for locality. For all the bluster from the federal employee unions about catching up from the pay freezes and stinky little raises that followed, wage conditions aren’t better in the private sector.

For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the 12 months that ended this past July, real average weekly earnings rose from $364.29 to $369.56. That comes out to …. 1.5 percent.

For the GS-13ish person at the top of the scale, say around $118,000, that comes out to a raise of $36 a week. That’s breakfast for four at Bob Evans. What, you were expecting to buy a new Bayliner, maybe pull up next to Larry Ellison’s tub and holler “ahoy?” Trust me, he won’t let you aboard.

In the lives of working stiffs, wages only rise when productivity or value rises.

I once worked for a multi-millionaire, a woman of deep insight, impeccable character and intellectual honesty. She earned what she had with risk and sweat most of us can’t imagine undertaking. Later in life she said her job now was keeping her interest rate up. That is, managing her investments. That’s what rich is: money working for you, not you working for money.

From a cruel, cold, economic standpoint, it’s hard to make the case for large wage hikes in the federal government. The real-economy measures of productivity, output per hour or per capita don’t apply. That’s not a value judgement, just a fact.

Yet at some point a stagnant earnings will drive away the people with the talent or other qualities needed to get higher-paying jobs elsewhere. The public service calling is a strong motivator, but no one would do it for nothing. Government has to stay competitive in the long run to attract and keep good people. A 1 percent or 1.6 percent is all it takes in this economy.

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