Are Federal Workers Overpaid? (II)

About a year ago I wrote a post about whether federal employees are overpaid. It’s a never-ending debate — and now the Congressional Budget Office has weighed in.

The CBO conducted a study that compared the wages, benefits, and overall compensation of federal employees and private-sector employees who shared certain comparable observable characteristics.  The study noted, of course, that certain important qualities that can have a significant impact on compensation — such as effort and motivation — can’t really be compared.  So, the study focused on objective, measurable factors, like educational levels, years of experience, occupation, geographic location, and demographic characteristics.

The study found that federal workers with just a high school level of education make considerably more than their private-sector counterparts — 36 percent higher in total compensation.  Federal employees with a bachelor’s degree also made materially more, receiving 15 percent higher total compensation.  Only when education levels reached graduate degrees and doctorates did private-sector employees earn more than federal workers, pulling in 18 percent more in total compensation.  Overall, federal workers earned 16 percent more than comparable private-sector workers.

The CBO study probably isn’t the last word on this topic — but it does provide significant ammunition for those who think government workers often are overpaid, and that we should look long and hard at the federal government payroll as a potential target for federal spending cuts.

Syria On The Brink Of Chaos

It’s bad in Syria, and it seems to be getting worse. This is not good news for the United States, or the world.

Fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels apparently is raging across the country.    The rebels are reporting that 95 people were killed in clashes that reached the suburbs of Damascus.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clinging desperately to power while the international community debates how to proceed and whether to approve a UN resolution that calls upon Assad to step down and hand power to a deputy.  Russia and the United States are on opposite sides of the issue, and Iran, as always, is a wild card.

These are perilous times in the Middle East.  Old governments have fallen, Islamist groups have assumed power in formerly secular states like Egypt, and the United States is trying to redefine its role.  Any kind of armed conflict could spill over into other countries, further destabilizing the region.

Assad obviously is not a significant historical figure — but he could become one if his downfall leads to broad-scale conflict in the Middle East.  No one today would remember Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand but for his assassination, which plunged the nations of Europe into the First World War.

The Flush Factor

Travel always presents challenges and requires some accommodations.  One little-mentioned point of travel-related adjustment involves the bathroom area.

After all, you’re accustomed to your home commode.  You’re used to the height, the seating, the back support, and the sound that is made when you flush.  So, when you go the road and find one of those new-fangled devices in your hotel room, you have to adapt.

The low-slung, hotel room miracles of modern plumbing are different in almost every way.  They’re down at squat level.  The seat is deeper, somehow.  It’s like you’re riding a motorcycle.

My principal objection, however, has to do with the flush factor.  I know that they are supposed to be low-flow and more environmentally friendly — but I don’t like turning that weird rectangular handle and hearing that uncertain gurgling sound, where you don’t know for sure whether the entire reason for flushing has been fully and successfully accomplished.  I don’t want to send the contents of the bowl on some gentle journey, as if it were taking a languid cruise on the Blue Danube.  No, I want it harshly jettisoned, ejected, and expelled — shot, with unmistakably effective, torpedo-like force, deep into the plumbing, never again to be seen or even contemplated.

I’m all for hotels conserving water.  When I’m staying at a hotel for multiple days, for example, I don’t ask them to wash the towels.  I’m not guzzling tap water, leaving the faucets running when I shave, or taking ridiculously long showers.  I’m doing my part for water conservation — but flushing is where I draw the line.