Federal employee union bosses get hysterical over hiring freeze

  • 10 April 2017
  • NormanL
Federal employee union bosses get hysterical over hiring freeze

President Trump's executive order establishing a hiring freeze at federal agencies has DC bureaucrats, and their union representatives, claiming the end of the Republic is near:

If every worker at the Trump Hotel left the front desk, Mr. Trump “would hire new front desk people to register those guests,” said J. David Cox Sr. , president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union. “You can’t run a business and you can’t run a government with a hiring freeze.”

Not everyone is buying the scare tactics:

Some conservatives have defended Mr. Trump’s order, saying the federal workforce is bloated and that the freeze allows time to evaluate how to operate federal agencies more efficiently.

“The administration has a very significant plan to reform government,” said Rachel Greszler, senior policy analyst in economics and entitlements at the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. “It doesn’t make sense to be putting people in place in agencies they might reform down the road.”

The freeze is set to run for 90 days, during which time the Office of Management and Budget is supposed to come up with a long term plan to reduce the federal governent payroll.

For those curious, the federal government employs about 2.1 million workers, costing roughly $267 billion in wages and benefits each year. And it's good work if you can get it:

Since the 1990s, federal workers have enjoyed faster compensation growth than private-sector workers. In 2015 federal workers earned 76 percent more, on average, than private-sector workers. Federal workers earned 42 percent more, on average, than state and local government workers. The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.

Unions representing federal workers will dispute that they are paid more than private sector workers in comparable jobs, and are not afraid of using their political clout to threaten congressmen who raise the idea of reducing the number of bureaucrats on the payroll.

But the real lure of a federal government job isn't the wages. It's the benefits:

The Bureau of Economic Analysis provides data on the average value of federal and private sector benefit packages. In 2015 federal workers enjoyed average annual benefits of $36,795, which compared to average benefits in the private sector of just $11,175. That large difference stems from more federal workers receiving certain types of benefits than private workers, and from particular federal benefits being more generous than those provided in the private sector.

Studies comparing federal and private benefits for similar workers have found a large federal advantage. The 2012 CBO study concluded, "On average for workers at all levels of education, the cost of hourly benefits was 48 percent higher for federal civilian employees than for private-sector employees with certain similar observable characteristics." CBO found that "the most important factor contributing to differences between the two sectors in the costs of benefits is the defined-benefit pension plan that is available to most federal employees … but are becoming less common in the private sector." The AEI and Heritage studies also found large federal advantages with respect to worker benefits.

Federal workers receive health insurance, retirement health benefits, a pension plan with inflation protection, and a retirement savings plan with a government match. They typically receive generous holiday and vacation schedules, flexible work hours, training options, incentive awards, and generous disability benefits.

The temporary hiring freeze will soon expire. It may create some inconveniences along the way, but they are temporary. The loner term problem is that federal workers are paid more, and get much better beneifts, than private sector workers. That is unsustainable, and must be changed.

Until then, we can expect more, and more hysterical, doomsaying from federal union leaders. 

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