Federal Times Blogs
Virginia Democratic Reps. Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran have had it with their colleagues on Capitol Hill using federal employees as “a political punching bag.” Today, they sent lawmakers a letter that aims to refute what they called “myths” about the federal workforce:
- Myth: Most federal employees live in or near Washington.
Fact: 85 percent of the federal workforce does not live in this region. Texas has more federal employees than Maryland, and Alaska has more federal employees per capita than Virginia.
- Myth: Federal employees earn far more than private sector employees, on average $120,000 per year.
Fact: Federal employees earn 22-24 percent less than private sector employees in comparable jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which conducts the most in-depth study of pay. The widely-cited $120,000 figure inaccurately counts future pension payments, which include employee annuity contributions, as wages.
- Myth: Most federal employees work in agencies related to education, regulation or welfare.
Fact: 63 percent of federal employees work for agencies whose primary purpose is national security. The smallest executive branch departments are Education and Housing and Urban Development.
- Myth: The federal government has grown larger than ever before.
Fact: The federal government is the smallest it has been in the last 60 years, relative to the U.S. population and the size of our economy. The number of federal civilian employees per 1,000 Americans has shrunk steadily from 13.2/1,000 in 1962 to 8.4/1,000 today.
- Myth: It is nearly impossible to fire a federal employee.
Fact: 11,668 federal employees were fired last year.
The federal employee advocacy group Federally Employed Women released a statement lauding the lawmakers, who count thousands of federal employees among their constituents. “The misunderstanding of the federal workforce, including pay, location and size among others, has reached fever pitch and it is seriously feeding the anti-federal worker emotion on Capitol Hill as well as beyond the Beltway,” FEW representative Janet Kopenhaver said. “Hopefully this member-to-member letter will educate legislators and their staffs about how wrong these myths are in reality.”
Do their claims hold water? Largely, yes, although its worth noting that several economists and pay experts — not just at the Heritage Foundation — have questioned the thoroughness of the BLS studies Connolly and Moran cite as gospel.
As for the 11,668 firings in 2010, that works out to half a percent of the overall 2.1 million federal workforce. (You can decide for yourself if that’s too little or just right.) But earlier this week, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry reiterated his desire to improve the government’s performance management and ratings system, which he compared to Lake Wobegone — “where everyone is above average.”
March 22nd, 2011 at 10:08 am
“Fact: Federal employees earn 22-24 percent less than private sector employees in comparable jobs”
This is high debatable, 3 other independent studies haev found that Federal employees earn more than private counterparts, not even counting benefits.
Leon Newman Says:
March 28th, 2011 at 9:56 am
“Myth: It is nearly impossible to fire a federal employee.
Fact: 11,668 federal employees were fired last year.”
What does this mean? Is the fact trying to dispute the “myth”? Of course not, because the myth is not a myth at all!!!
“NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE” does not mean it does not happen. It means it is not easy; it is difficult to fire a federal employee. If there are 2.1 million federal employees, then firing 11,668 is a small drop in a very large pond. The “fact” only proves that the “myth” is not a myth. Do the math!
In addition, “The number of federal civilian employees per 1,000 Americans has shrunk steadily” is a very misleading “fact”. The proportion of federal employees per Americans may appear to be smaller, but only because the American population has grown significant FASTER than the federal employee population; however, the federal employee population has still grown nonetheless. This does not prove government is small.
You see these “facts” are worded in such a way that is SEEMS like they are disputing the truth; but they are not. They are only representing the numbers in such a way, so that an uneducated person would be misled.
“Myth: The federal government has grown larger than ever before.
Fact: The federal government is the smallest it has been in the last 60 years, relative to the U.S. population and the size of our economy”
The key there is, “relative to the U.S. population and the size of our economy”. Of course, with the economy tanking and American population exploding, you can manipulate the size of the government. If you “compare apples to apples” you will see that the federal government has indeed grown larger than ever before, compared to previous years of growth.
Do not be misled by semantics.