The public employment system in the United States needs a significant overhaul. In California, you've got public employees who make far more than their private-sector counterparts.

As has become well known at this point, since 2000 public employee pay in general has skyrocketed above private company wages in California. This is part of the reason for the structural imbalance that rarely gets talked about. Logic tells us that if you continuously raise the pay of public employees higher than the pay raises of private employees whose taxes go to pay for it all, you are going to hit a point of unsustainability. There is just no way around it.

The average salary for a CalPers employee in 2004 was about $46,000 and the average per capita income for all Californians was $35,000. Since then the gap has gotten bigger.

Except for the bottom fifth of employees, state worker pay has increased from 20 percent to 45 percent in less than five years. The top 20 percent’s median salary is now over $94,000 a year. Everyone has heard about the boom in State workers making over $200,000 by now, and in the UC system close to 10% of the employees make over $100,000 annually.

In 2000, local government wages in Sonoma County — including teachers' pay — were 1 percent higher than private-employer wages, according to the state Employment Development Department. By 2006 that gap was 11.5 percent. It is even higher today.

On the other hand, the US Postmaster General's relative pittance has provoked a Congressional investigation.

Congress will hold a hearing next month into why Postmaster General John E. Potter has gotten a nearly 40 percent pay raise since 2006 and was awarded a six-figure incentive bonus last year, even as the U.S. Postal Service faces a multibillion-dollar shortfall that threatens a day of mail delivery.

ALLISON SHELLEY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES REWARDED: Postmaster General John E. Potter received a compensation package totaling more than $800,000 for fiscal 2008.

"Last year, the Postal Service took a loss of nearly $3 billion and recommended that the public take austere cuts in service to allow it to operate, including cutting a day of mail delivery and raising the price of stamps," Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, said Friday.

"All things considered, I think most postal customers feel that the huge increase in pay for Mr. Potter is incongruent with the post office's recent performance. I assure you that our subcommittee will look into this matter at a hearing in March," said Mr. Lynch, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service.

Sounds bad? But:

On Tuesday, The Washington Times reported that Mr. Potter had received nearly 40 percent in pay raises since 2006 and about $135,000 in incentive bonuses last year. For fiscal 2008, including increases to the value of his two pensions, Mr. Potter's entire compensation package totaled more than $800,000, according to Postal Service financial records. ...

Postal officials defend the pay packages, saying their counterparts in private industry earn far more money. The chief executive of FedEx, for example, earned more than $10 million last year, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

So low-level employees are paid far too much and executives are paid far too little. In the name of "equality" -- which decrees that the ratio of salary between the bottom and the top must be minimized -- we're strangling our public sector.

If we're fortunate, this present financial crisis will dislodge the logjams on both ends of the spectrum. If low-level employees want to earn the same (or more) as private sector workers, then they need to sacrifice their job security and gilded pensions. When the worst can be fired and the best promoted, the public sector as a whole will begin to attract better people than the merely mediocre.

At the top-end, why should the President of the United States earn a pathetic $400,000 per year? That's insane. Navy's college football coach made almost three times as much! If we want to attract the best people to high-level public sector jobs, then we need to quit acting like people don't care about money.

As a starting point, lets bump the President up to $20 million per year. Cabinet secretaries, Congressmen, Senators, Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs: $10 million. Top generals, department heads: $5 million. Work down from there. Low-level employees should match their private sector counterparts (in pay and pension) and should be easier to promote and fire.

Revive the meritocracy and eliminate mediocrity!

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