Attacking Federal Employees

Now for something entirely bizarre. In a USA Today article, Dennis Cauchon reports that 21,000 federal retirees have pensions of $100,000 or more, but it isn’t until the second to last sentence of the article that he happens to mention that 96% of the six-figure pensions are part of the old retirement system, which ended in 1984. So, if I understand this correctly, Cauchon is making a fuss about a system that ended almost 30 years ago.

Not only is the article fundamentally incoherent, but it also illustrates several of the ploys used by those who attack federal employees. For example, Cauchon refers to the “average” federal retiree pension, finding that it exceeds the average for the private sector. Talking about “averages” is entirely meaningless, however, unless the composition of the two workforces is identical, which it isn’t:  The percentage of federal employees in the nine highest paying occupations is significantly higher than such employees in the private sector (50% vs. 33%). Given this fact, the average pension naturally will be higher for the federal sector. Anyone who doesn’t understand how this works really is not qualified to hold an opinion about federal compensation, let alone write articles about it.

Not content with confusing matters in this way, Cauchon also misrepresents that federal pensions (at $70 billion per year) are a growing federal “budget burden.”  Not true: even if pensions were reduced by 10%, the $7 billion of annual savings would represent less than 2/10ths of one percent of federal spending.  We all know that federal spending is driven by entitlements, yet people like Cauchon continue to state or imply that federal compensation is a budget issue. Cauchon certainly did not distinguish himself with this article.

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