OK. It’s the week after Christmas and there isn’t much going on. In fact, there are so few Facebook updates and Tweets that I expect nobody is working. Wonder how the social media gurus generate billable hours under these conditions? I digress. And the most popular story on USA Today: “Maria Shriver reconsidering divorce?”
Wow. What happened to the Kardashians?
Anyway, emerging from this information black hole are two stories that point to the salary gap between members of Congress, federal employees and, ah, most other people — if they are fortunate enough to have jobs at all.
First, members of Congress. From the NYT, “Economic Detour Took a Detour at Capitol Hill“:
When Representative Ed Pastor was first elected to Congress two decades ago, he was comfortably ensconced in the middle class. Mr. Pastor, a Democrat from Arizona, held $100,000 or so in savings accounts in the mid-1990s and had a retirement pension, but like many Americans, he also owed the banks nearly as much in loans.
Today, Mr. Pastor, a miner’s son and a former high school teacher, is a member of a not-so-exclusive club: Capitol Hill millionaires. That group has grown in recent years to include nearly half of all members of Congress — 250 in all — and the wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents appears to be growing quickly, even as Congress debates unemployment benefits, possible cuts in food stamps and a “millionaire’s tax.”
Mr. Pastor buys a Powerball lottery ticket every weekend and says he does not consider himself rich. Indeed, within the halls of Congress, where the median net worth is $913,000 and climbing, he is not. He is a rank-and-file millionaire. But compared with the country at large, where the median net worth is $100,000 and has dropped significantly since 2004, he and most of his fellow lawmakers are true aristocrats.
Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.
Next up: federal government employees. Here’s from USA Today, “Federal workers starting at much higher pay than in past“:
Newly hired federal workers are starting at much higher salaries than those who did the same jobs in the past, a lift that has elevated the salaries of scientists and custodians alike.
The pay hikes have made the federal government a go-to place for many young people.
A 20- to 24-year-old auto mechanic started at an average of $46,427 this year, up from $36,750 five years ago. The government hires about 400 full-time auto mechanics a year.
A 30- to 34-year-old lawyer started at an average of $101,045 this year, up from $79,177 five years ago. The government hires about 2,500 lawyers a year. And a mechanical engineer, age 25 to 29, started at $63,675, up from $51,746 in 2006. The government hires about 600 mechanical engineers a year.
Behind the boost: The government is classifying more new hires — secretaries, mail clerks, chaplains, laundry workers, electrical engineers and wildlife biologists — as taking more demanding versions of their jobs and deserving more pay.
The higher pay also reflects the more challenging jobs federal workers often do. The Bureau of Prisons’ 1,250 cooks earn an average of $66,225 a year. “They don’t just cook meals. They’re also correctional workers supervising inmates,” spokeswoman Traci Billingsley says. [Note to self: Say what?]
Other findings in a USA TODAY analysis of federal workers’ pay:
•Job security. Workers are holding on tightly to their federal jobs in the weak economy. The rate of quitting has fallen 29% since 2007. Ordinary retirements are down 11%. Early retirements are down two-thirds. Disability departures have dropped one-third. Layoffs are increasingly rare, too. Under the Obama administration, layoffs from reorganizations have dropped by two-thirds to fewer than 300 a year in the 2.1 million person workforce. Workers are 13 times more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off from the federal government.
•$100,000. The portion of federal workers earning $100,000 or more grew from 12% in 2006 to 22% in 2011.
Note: “Workers are 13 times more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off from the federal government.” LOL
I know. I know. It’s easy to criticize members of Congress and federal government employees. And I’m sure that most are hard working, conscientious and capable. (Well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit for members of Congress.)
But at a time when unemployment or under-employment is well in the teens, when the middle class is shrinking and the number of people living in poverty is increasing something doesn’t smell right here.
Oh, well. Back to Maria Shriver and the Kardashians.