Friday, August 13, 2010

The new Fat Cats

ABC News: "Civil Servants Find Themselves Cast in Unlikely Role -- Fat Cats" (via Newsalert):

Move over Wall Street traders -- seems there's a new vampire squid in town. Civil servants?

Passage Tuesday of a controversial bill sending billions of dollars to states to shore up payrolls for public school teachers further stoked the debate over whether government employees, their unions and their benefits packages are bankrupting the country.

"[The bill] will make the teachers unions happy, but it won't make teaching in schools better," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., at a press conference Tuesday during which he and other Republican leaders criticized legislation earmarking $26 billion in aid for school districts and other state agencies.

As the recession grinds on and states struggle to close budget gaps, a spotlight is shining on the salary and benefits collected by public sector professionals, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. They once commonly were viewed as the salt-of-the-earth backbone of America. But now, they are more often than not being portrayed as a boilerplate around taxpayers' necks.


Blogger Cham said...

As far as I can tell, the only people pulling in a lucrative continuous paycheck where they don't have to worry about what is going to happen next week are all government employees (especially on the federal level), police officers, firepeople, homeland security contractors and long-term teachers. The rest of us are pinching pennies and trying make sure that we have enough saved up in case something happens. The minute I start talking to a member of the groups I've listed above I know it, because these folks don't seem to understand why so many people are under water. They think there is something wrong with everyone else and that money grows on trees.

The economy is in unbelievably bad shape. I live by a large shipyard and I can't remember the last time I've seen any cargo shipped in or out. The storage lots have been completely barren for a long time. Nothing is moving and that is not good.

7:53 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

In 1976, my first job out of college was with the Tennessee Dept. of Corrections as a juvenile probation office. A position that required a college degree. If I had been paid $1.25 less a month I would have qualified for some welfare benefits.

But that was then and this is now. How things have changed.

I don't support Obama's move to give teachers money. It's just a payoff on his part, hoping to keep their votes. But, in my area, teachers are not the best paid government employees, especially for jobs that require a degree.

A friend's fiance got a job at the Cincinnati water works while going to college. When she graduated, she couldn't find a private sector job with better pay and better benefits. She still works in the job that only requires a high school degree. (She graduated pre-recession.)

I hated working in the government. The red tape, paperwork and procedures were all that mattered. Actual performance meant next to nothing. My sister still works for the a state government in a high level position. She's told me how incompetent clerical workers get promoted out of her department because it's nearly impossible to fire them. The competent ones are kept in the lower paying positions because they do a good job. Completely bassackwards.

8:41 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...


I have an acquaintance that works in a state government position. His wife was laid off and the family desperately needed more money. This man is a valued employee that has been in the same government position for 5 years. He begged to be either promoted or given a different job with the chance to earn more money. He was denied. Why? He was told he was the only competent employee in his department and they couldn't do without him.

8:52 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Cham - Sad but true, I'm sure. This has been going on for decades in many places and no one seems to want to or can do anything about it.

9:02 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

The government unions (still don't understand why people who work for the authority system need a union) remind me of the first bank customer in the bank-run scene of "It's a Wonderful Life." George Bailey is giving away his honeymoon funds to customers to keep the bldg+loan from shutting down. The first customer demands to withdraw his entire balance. George reminds him that they only have so much cash to serve everyone or everyone loses, but he wants to be paid FIRST, and IN FULL. George gives him his $200 (a metric sh**-ton of money back then).

The rest of the customers take smaller withdrawals to get through the week so that the bank can stay open.

I've always thought that first customer to be the biggest jackass in the movie.

9:47 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Another comment to amuse the masses. My city did a compensation audit recently. 3 members of the library police made more money than the mayor.

10:41 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Mike said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:15 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Mike said...

The reason you'll not see serious reforms until it's too late is that these jobs are necessary to give a lot of the people who could barely make it through the public schools a middle class lifestyle. These jobs literally help prop up the illusion that we can maintain the prior economic status quo in an age where jobs (especially wealth-producing ones that require icky, non-green production processes) are outsourced or simply destroyed outright through regulation.

Fire the dead wood and the public will finally have to admit that the grand egalitarian experiment is a failure.

11:35 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, if it interesting when they refer to America as a failure. Since if you look way back at the original principals, we are WAY off from what was. They wouldn't have accepted, welfare, social security, and the whole entitlement structure.

I also think the regulation, heavy taxes, grants, exemptions, ect are also non-American.

If all that was dropped, I think you would see a lot of things move back to the US.

1:28 PM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Josh said...

The average teacher makes $45k, according to That's an average that includes teachers of all types and experience levels. And they retire on a pension of $29k, according to the article. That hardly strikes me as excessive, especially given the fact that teachers are required to have master's degrees in many states.

But maybe there are too many teachers? Again, I doubt it. People spend an awful lot to educate their own children when given the opportunity. They must believe that it's worth the investment. And if wealthy children are worth the investment, why aren't poor ones?

Something doesn't add up.

1:46 PM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

The average teacher makes $45k, according to That's an average that includes teachers of all types and experience levels.

As a former teacher, I remind you to consider that the school year is only about 185 work days long. Name the non-academic career where you get the summer off, along with every holiday known to man and a "teacher work day" about every other week. $45K for about 9 months work equals about $60K a year if the job were full time.

Admittedly, some teachers take work home. Guess what, so do I working in the private sector.

5:14 PM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

I've worked as a teacher -- a social studies teacher in New York, on a long-term leave replacement -- and in the private sector. Teaching was a better gig.

However, it was more difficult; I worked much harder; and it requires some talent for it.

Teachers have it good. But, they aren't paid way too much. Not for the crap they put up with today.

I'll tell you what though. If I could throw out of class every chronically disruptive bastard and not be held accountable for little Johnny's performance when the kid refuses to study or do any homework -- and the parents refuse to do anything but ask me what more I can do -- I'd be willing to teach for less money than teachers are currently paid.

As it stands, I think they earn every penny.

6:52 PM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I speak from the knowledge of being on a school board on Long Island, NY. In the 2 counties there are 130 different school districts.

The one that I served on was no different than most others. The teachers were required to work five 42 periods a day (3 and a half hours) and another period as a study hall monitor, hall monitor, non-teaching. Primary school teachers also have periods, you just don't realize it. Remember when the art teacher came in and took over?

Anyway, they were free to grade HW, tests, go over reports in that study time. After 3 years they were granted tenure where termination was impossible.

At a starting pay of 50k+. After 7 years top pay was well in excess of 110k. They pay NOTHING into their medical and a small percent, less than 5 (I don't remember the exact number) into their tier IV pension.

If they coach, extra money. Take a few more credits extra money (what in private industry is called protecting your job). Seeing this contract showed me once and for all it has nothing to do with the children and all to do with taking the most from the taxpayers.

Heres another little story if you got this far-- a school guidance counselor who was eligible to retire wouldn't go, collecting top step and not doing much of anything. His daughter graduated and his deal was hire his daughter and he retires.

The Board voted to take the deal.

It's such a lousy, low paying job that we had thousands of applicants for one or two jobs.

The Unions are despicable and the children suffer.

10:46 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Joel said...

I have been in the private sector all my life. My father was in civil service.

I have worked long hours In product development, with sourcing in China, sometimes just to shave $.07 off of an item where we were only ordering 20-40,000 pieces. I think we often spent more time than the savings were worth. I have been unemployed for over a year now. My wife and I are burning through our retirement savings to stay afloat.

My father was retired early and spent his last 20 years doing anything he wanted.

I do not expect to retire.

This is why listening to the idiots in DC makes me white hot angry. THEY DO NOT HAVE A CLUE HOW HARD IT REALLY IS TO CREATE WEALTH.

Why should they? They can seize wealth with the stroke of a pen. Doesn't everybody?

I truly loathe them.

Politicians always threaten teachers, cops, firefighters, etc. when their cages are rattled. The public prizes these civil servants; that is why they make good hostages.

We want giant cuts in beaurecracy. I bet even the front line civil servants like teachers would like that too.

11:32 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger PatD said...

If teachers were professionals they wouldn't be unionized. Since they are, then they no more than union hacks hewing to their union leadership's self-serving demands.

God help our children and America.

11:35 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger JorgXMcKie said...

@Josh, is not a good source for this data.

Try, a site *for* teachers.

It states that nationally the average teacher salary is 47,602, but that includes the wilds of North Dakota as well as New York City.

If you check this site it will give you state by state numbers.

For instance, in Michigan, where I live, even with the UP, the average teacher salary was 56,973 in 2005. I'm willing to be it's north of 60K now.

Then you need to add the rest of the compensation package. In MI, the teachers have their own insurance system, at an average cost of over 15K/teacher. They also get around 1200/pupil put into the teacher retirement plan [but it's underfunded by about 61B], and they get a gold-plated health care plan in retirement and can retire at 55 with 30 years experience.

School systems 'contribute' to those pension plans in amounts that mean the the average *compensation* for teachers is bout double their salary.

Thus, the compensation for teachers in MI averages about 120K/year. And it's a defined benefit program, so they get paid for as long as they live. [And perhaps their widows/widowers after that.] It looks like at this time, in MI we are paying teachers who live to 85 about twice as much not to teach for 30 years as we paid them to teach for 30 years. Sheesh.

12:27 AM, August 16, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The average teacher makes $45k, according to"

Try looking up stats for total compensation, not just salary. Then understand that that compensation is for 9 months out of the year for 20 years. After 20 years (as early as 41) someone can then have a salary as well as health care for the rest of their lives and never have to work another day in your life.

Maybe you just don't understand the question, Josh.

2:04 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Kev said...

We want giant cuts in beaurecracy. I bet even the front line civil servants like teachers would like that too.

Amen. This is what should be proposed when the need to cut government budgets come up, not police, firefighters or teachers. Too bad nobody who could actually do something about it (i.e. politicians) have the courage to propose this.

If teachers were professionals they wouldn't be unionized. Since they are, then they no more than union hacks hewing to their union leadership's self-serving demands.

This is precisely why there shouldn't be a teachers' union--because teaching is supposed to be a profession, not a blue-collar trade. Personally, I wouldn't care if all unionized teachers lost their jobs, as long as they were given the opportunity to be immediately rehired as non-unionized teachers.

2:19 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cham said:
The minute I start talking to a member of the groups I've listed above I know it, because these folks don't seem to understand why so many people are under water. They think there is something wrong with everyone else and that money grows on trees.

I go to DC on business monthly, and see exactly what you describe. There's no sign of a recession there, at all, and the payroll patriots in the bureaucracy and in politics are enjoying a Roman holiday from responsibility.

Question: are the hotels in your city overbooked every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? The hotels in DC are, but especially the mid-upscale ones (Hilton, Marriott) that will rent a room for exactly the government-princeling per diem rate: $229 in Washington, except for the dog days of July and August.

4:14 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Josh said:
That hardly strikes me as excessive, especially given the fact that teachers are required to have master's degrees in many states.

An education master's degree is conducted on a midrange high school level (I started one and it was such a colossal waste of time, I went and got an MBA instead. You have to work for an MBA, for an MEd you have to show up).

An education doctorate is even more ridiculous. Anyone who knows any number of EdDs understands why the degree forked from the PhD. The average EdD knows no foreign language and damned little of a native one. IF you fog a mirror and the checks clear, you can have your EdD, and your government job will -- mirabile dictu! pay you more.

4:20 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

The personal tipping point is when you tire of the rat race, the grindstone, the taxes, the burdens of providing to the common purse, and go in for a sweet and secure bit of survival: a city/county/state/federal job or even just a non-profit museum job supported by government grants.

Maybe you do vital security work or invaluable infrastructure work, or maybe you are just one of five supervisors watching one man dig a ditch. Either way, you have moved across the line into a procurer from the common purse. Whatever the intangible worth of your existence, you are mathematically a political entity at odds with diligent oversight of the common weal.

6:42 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

None of this makes anyone a bad person. It’s just a political reality that when we cross the line in numbers great enough, when a politician can secure enough constituents either by outright welfare or government jobs and charitable grants, there is NO WAY that the providers and wealth-generators and small businesses can remove the self-interested from their own sense of survival. The house will divide against itself in the most crucial way, and will fall.

This is the math I want to see: How many singular people provide, how many singular people take.

We don't have government. We have a protection racket.

6:45 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

When considering teachers' work/pay deal, keep in mind that there is a rapidly growing plethora of work/time saving technologies that the teachers are using. For example, my sister-in-law told me that this year, she is moving her students to an on-line system for homework, quizzes and test, which will free her time from grading the papers.

7:04 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger JeanneB said...

I am so sick of seeing that claim that the "average pension" is only $20k. That would include folks who retired 30 years ago. And people who only worked 5 years at some point in their career...but still get a small pension. Those people skew the average down.

What we're outraged about is the ones who are retiring TODAY at ages we could only dream about and with big fat monthly checks for the next 30 or 40 years.

And I'm even more sick of the incurious nature of reporters like those at ABC who never question the math behind those "averages".

9:27 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger JeanneB said...


Not to mention that everyone I know who has an education masters or doctorate was PAID full pay for attending courses and given all the time off they needed to complete the course.

As you say, that doesn't even begin to address the poor record of most education programs.

9:31 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Ambrose said...

it's innumeracy, i.e.: "I was told there would be no math."

These are people who think that average life expectancy of 30 in a time when 90% of children died before puberty means it was a Logan's Run world where everybody died at 30.

10:05 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Josh said...

Everyone who's responded seems to be saying the same thing: $45k is way too much to pay teachers because:

1. it's actually more like earning $60k when you factor in the extra vacation time;

2. a master's degree isn't really that hard to get;

3. the average pensions and salaries don't really matter, since some statistical outliers are too high;

4. and teachers' salaries are too high because they are often negotiated by unions.

The last three don't make any sense at all. But my response to the first is still the same:

"People spend an awful lot to educate their own children when given the opportunity. They must believe that it's worth the investment. And if wealthy children are worth the investment, why aren't poor ones?"

It's really a rhetorical question, of course. Education is a worthy investment, even for children of poor and middle-class families. In other words, we all benefit from educating the people who will build the economy we live in. I'm willing to accept the idea that we should structure incentives differently for teachers. But if the overall level of investment is too high, it seems strange that people are almost universally wiling to spend more than the average to educate their children when they have the money.

11:41 AM, August 16, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

We're nearing a time (given collapse followed by deregulation) when teachers will be able to create their own work environment (similar to what doctors and lawyers do - at least what doctors used to do pre-Obamacare, pre mandated HMO-like employment).

Average (private and public) spend per student is in excess of 10K for 9 months/200 days "in the office" - suggests that a “three instructor office” sharing the teaching load of 30 students (perhaps taught in their homes) will have pre-tax income in excess of 100K each (and if in DC, more than $250K each given DC school budgets of greater than $25K per student). With perhaps another $25K for off-year tutoring and still have time for a 4 week annual vacation. These new small businesses would also qualify for the same business deductions as other professionals, and rather than being off the tax rolls, be an above the line contributor to the local community.

Pity we were able to free the slaves of the 1800s, but not these.

Well, I can dream.

1:19 AM, August 17, 2010  
Blogger globalman100 said...

"further stoked the debate over whether government employees, their unions and their benefits packages are bankrupting the country."

There is a 'debate' over this in the US? By whom? I mean. Really? Who could possibly be brain dead enough to not realise that the public sector is being used to bankrupt the USA?

10:22 AM, August 17, 2010  
Blogger globalman100 said...

Josh said...
"But maybe there are too many teachers?"
Maybe you do not understand that the purpose of teachers is not to teach. Indeed, the purpose of teachers is to dumb kids down so much that they lose their natural inquisitiveness to learn things. Try reading this book.

From the time I was 6 I had realised that 'education' was about socialisation and producing 'the lowest common denominator'. Children would be better educated if there were no public schools at all. And now that women are the VAST MAJORITY of teachers? It's a complete joke. I spent 17 years in school/uni. I can't remember a female teaching me anything of value in all that time. Not even my kindergarten teacher taught me anything useful as my mum taught me to read and write before I went to school. I was reading the local newpaper quite ok before I went to 'school'. When my kindergarten teacher realised I could read and write she told me to sit quietly while she taught the rest of the kids. How does an inquisitive 5 year old 'sit quietly for 5 hours a day? And why SHOULD he? Why should he not be given something interesting to do.

As far as I am concerned ALL teachers are VASTLY overpaid. They should not have public sector jobs at all. Parents are well advised to refuse to allow their children to be abused by 'teachers'. And to show you just how important it is to the guvments to make sure children are dumbed down? In Germany and the UK 'social services' will kidnapp children who are being 'abused' by loving parents giving them a good education at home.

MOST teachers today are nothing more or less than common criminals and child abusers. That MOST are paid at all is a travesty of justice.

10:32 AM, August 17, 2010  

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