Are there, in fact, “too many” federal workers? Look at the numbers below: if there are about six employees for every 1,000 Americans, that works out to one federal employee for every 167 Americans, or one fed responsible for an average of 167 people.
Federal workers under siege
According to a December 2010 report from the Office of Personnel Management, there were approximately 5.4 federal employees per 1,000 Americans in fiscal 2006. Four years later, there were about 5.9 federal workers per 1,000 Americans. The average federal employee salary was $74,311 in September 2010, according to OPM.
The size and pay of the federal workforce is untenable, many Republicans say, in the face of a federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion for the fourth consecutive year.
“We don’t have money,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who chairs a House subcommittee overseeing federal workforce issues. “If we were a business, we would shut down so many segments of our operation that we would put people on the streets.”
“Federal workers are patriotic, they work hard and by and large, do a great job,” added Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who sits on Ross’s panel. “I’m just concerned that there are too many of them. There would be more money to pay for the core of our federal workforce if we didn’t keep adding to the sheer number of federal employees.”
But Democrats, as well as unions representing thousands of federal workers, see it differently. They accuse congressional Republicans of launching an unjustified attack on federal employees — a product, they say, of the anti-government sentiment fueled by the tea party-backed, GOP takeover of the House.
Here’s a thought: if the population of the US continues to increase, doesn’t that mean there are probably more people who need services and programs?
The Republicans like to compare federal wages with private sector wages such as employees at Walmart and also the wages of fast food employees and other minimum-wage type jobs. The GOP would like to see everyone earning Walmart wages (lower the minimum wage!) so that CEO bonuses and corporate profits could be higher, but that’s another argument for another day.
However, since Walmart employee compensation is a favorite for the GOP to compare to federal workers wages / benefits, let’s go ahead and compare the number of employees to “customers” between Walmart and the federal government.
From Walmart’s own “Investor Relations” website, the stated number of employees is 2,000,000 worldwide. Walmart claims to serve 200,000,000 customers each week. Guess how many customers per employee that works out to? 100. So the average Walmart employee handles / services 100 customers each week. That’s 67 less than a federal worker.
Or look at it this way, the population of the United States as of 2011 was 311,591,917. The article and graph above show there are less than 1,900,000 federal employees. You do the math. The average federal worker is responsible for more people than the average Walmart employee — going strictly by the numbers.
So when Rep. Dennis Ross says, “If we were a business, we would shut down so many segments of our operation that we would put people on the streets,” I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about at all. Walmart is the shining example of corporate success — yet they have more employees per customer than the federal government and they’re still going! Of course, we all know how they do it: cheap imports, low wages, no benefits, and generally screwing over their employees. In fact, Walmart actually costs taxpayers $1,557,000,000.
The bottomline is: the federal government isn’t a business. There’s no ‘profit’ to be made, no product to be sold. Yet comparing federal and Walmart employees to the US population and Walmart customers, it appears that the federal government really doesn’t have “too many” workers. The Republican Party’s repeated attempts to demonize all aspects of federal service is shameful — particularly because it’s simply a political maneuver for the benefit of the one percent and corporations.
Federal employees provide for the nation in countless ways. Think about the acreage / mileage covered daily by a law enforcement officer with the Forest Service or the Border Patrol. Or consider the number of Social Security / Medicare applications processed each month or the number of complaints that have to be processed weekly at the FDA by an individual fed. And how many incoming container ships do you suppose are being processed, right now, at all the nation’s ports?
So are there too many feds? If the truth were told, there are probably not enough.
As National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley says, “While many private-sector entities have taken to eliminating or slashing health insurance and retirement benefits, especially for low-paid employees, our leaders should not support a race to the bottom for working Americans.” In other words, do we want federal government employees to earn wages and benefits similar to Walmart employees? Or would it be better — for ALL workers — to see Walmart finally pay its employees a fair wage and benefits, and quit costing the US taxpayer so much money SIMPLY so that their CEOs can take home more money?