Proof, if more were needed, of the symbiotic relationship between politicians and bureaucrats. From two posts by Cato's Chris Edwards:
[N]ew data for 2006 show that 1.8 million federal civilian workers earned an average $111,180 in total compensation (wages plus benefits). That is more than double the $55,470 average earned by U.S. workers in the private sector.Whereas, federal workers -- with the help of their friends in Congress -- enjoy abundant fringe benefits as well as inflated base salaries.
Looking just at wages, federal workers earned an average $73,406, which is 60 percent greater than the $45,995 average earned by private sector workers.
* * *[N]ew data for 2006 show that the nation’s 16 million state and local government workers earned an average $61,727 in total compensation (wages plus benefits). That is 11 percent more than the $55,470 average earned by U.S. private sector workers.
Looking just at wages, state and local workers earned an average $46,937, which is similar to the $45,995 average earned by private sector workers. Thus the primary state and local advantage is the generous fringe benefits.
Government compensation is like Social Security and Medicare. Politicians secure the allegiance of "seniors" by bestowing windfall returns on FICA "contributions" (e.g., the prescription drug benefit). Similarly, politicians secure the allegiance of government workers by bestowing on them above-market compensation.
UPDATE (4:45 p.m.): Arnold Kling wonders "if we've seen some redistribution of wealth away from the private sector and toward government workers and contractors since 2001." I have no doubt of it, given the rate at which government workers' compensation grew in the early 2000s.
According the Chris Edwards (first link above), "Average federal pay has soared in recent years, growing much faster than private sector pay between 2001 and 2005." So, yes, there was a redistribution of wealth away from the private sector -- "thanks" to federal, state, and local legislatures, which took from non-government workers and gave to government workers. Robin Hood in reverse.
I don't begrudge increases in pay and benefits for members of military and police forces, to the extent that such increases were necessary for effective recruitment and retention efforts. As for other government "workers," I say "get a job."