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Cut deficit without cutting services? Start here


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Washington Examiner:

Cut deficit without cutting services? Start here
Chief Political Correspondent
August 10, 2010

Whenever a conservative suggests reducing the federal deficit by cutting spending rather than raising taxes, there's always someone to ask: Well, what would you cut? Americans may say they want less government spending, the argument goes, but they don't want anyone to touch their services and subsidies and monthly checks.

Fair enough. But there's a persuasive counter-argument going around in conservative circles these days: You can start cutting government spending without cutting anyone's services or subsidies or monthly checks. Just bring the pay of federal workers into line with pay in the private sector.

A recent Heritage Foundation study found the average federal worker (excluding the uniformed military) makes $78,901 a year in wages and salary versus $50,111 for the average private sector worker. When you count generous health and pension benefits, the average total compensation of federal workers comes to $111,015 a year versus $60,078 in the private sector.

In recent years, that disparity has been fueled by an explosion of federal generosity on the high end of the pay scale. For example, USA Today recently reported that in December 2007, a total of 1,868 civilian workers in the Defense Department earned $150,000 or more; by June 2009, the number was 10,100. In late '07, the paper says, just one employee at the Transportation Department earned more than $170,000. Less than two years later, 1,690 workers earned that much.

Other studies have come up with slightly different numbers. But there's no doubt that federal pay is higher than private pay across the board, not just in the upper brackets. If Congress were to freeze federal pay raises until the private sector begins to catch up, the savings to taxpayers would be considerable. Heritage scholar James Sherk estimates that ending the disparity could save the taxpayers $47 billion a year. (A study by the American Enterprise Institute put the figure at $40 billion.) That won't get close to balancing the budget, but add up 10 years of that and the government will save significant money.snip
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