The Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that poorly educated government workers make more than they would in the private sector. That’s hardly surprising. What’s equally unsurprising is that pro-business writers are saying that government workers make too much money. First up is my new favorite Atlantic hack Jordan Weissmann:
It’s great that the federal government is providing livable wages to workers, and their families, who would probably have a tough time of it in the private sector. But as an efficient use of resources, the current setup doesn’t make much sense. This might sound cold-hearted to some, but this is exactly the opposite of what the chart should look like if we’re interested in attracting the best and brightest to public service, and keeping them there.
So it’s great that the federal government treats working-class people with dignity but this needs to end yesterday? For someone like Weissmann, committed to defending the nation’s income disparity and defending the privileges of the 1%, this is typical but still awful. For Weissmann, the only workers that matter are those with advanced degrees. Working-class people I guess should go work at Wal-Mart or something.
Would the quality of the federal bureaucracy improve if we paid less for low-level jobs and used the money we saved to compete better for top-level managers and other professionals? Maybe! But the CBO punts on this: “A key issue in compensation policy is the ability to recruit and retain a highly qualified workforce. But assessing how changes in compensation would affect the government’s ability to recruit and retain the personnel it needs is beyond the scope of this analysis.” Maybe next time.
Hiring working-class people hurts the quality of the federal bureaucracy? Should you need a master’s degree to work for the Postal Service? A Ph.D. to hold a mid-level job in Commerce?
What’s remarkable is the assumption by both writers that the government should target primarily the highest educated people. Does anyone in this society care about workers with only a high school education? Are we really going to accept their exile to the lowest levels of the workforce and permanent poverty? Should even the federal government follow the corporate social Darwinist model?