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Uncle Sam Poaching Talent?


The government continues to take a drubbing on federal pay from outside observers. In an Aug. 30 piece on Forbes.com, columnist and senior economist John Tamny makes the familiar claim that federal salaries and benefits on average are higher than those in the private sector.

But in a twist, Tamny argues the government, which has long complained that it gets the short end of the stick when it comes to recruiting talent, is actually poaching productive workers from industry:

"The problem now is that with the federal government aggressively hiring at excessive levels of pay, it is necessarily distorting the cost of hiring for private businesses. The 'unseen' is what we must consider in this scenario, and there we can only guess how many world-renowned companies of tomorrow will never see the light of day thanks to Washington increasingly snapping up potentially productive workers."

Hmm. It's hard to argue the government is doling out "excessive levels of pay" when the maximum level of pay for a member of the Senior Executive Service as of January 2010 hovered around $180,000 and the maximum pay for a top executive in the private sector is, well, currently limitless.

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

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