Examiner Editorial: Bonus bonanza for government employees 

Under the Obama administration, the government is doing such a good job that it’s decided to reward itself. Last year, Uncle Sam paid out $408 million in bonuses to 1.3 million federal workers, according to the Asbury Park Press, which obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request. That’s about $80 million more than the previous year. About one in four federal workers received a bonus, and awards ranged from $25 to, in the case of one lucky State Department worker, $94,500.

That $408 million figure only counts bonuses that were handed out to about 65 percent of the federal work force. It doesn’t count awards handed out by the Defense and Treasury departments, security agencies, the White House, Congress, and various other federal agencies and commissions. In 2008, the last year information was available, the Department of Defense alone handed out $92 million in bonuses to its 687,000 employees.

Federal bonuses are being doled out liberally, even as federal salaries are exploding. From December 2007 through June 2009, the number of federal workers earning six figures increased from 14 to 19 percent. In 2008, average federal compensation, including pay and benefits, was $119,982, considerably more than the $59,909 average in the private sector, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Amid a brutal economic downturn that saw millions of jobs lost and unemployment reach more than 10 percent, the Office of Personnel Management data show the federal work force actually added nearly 100,000 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009.

In theory, introduction of bonuses and pay-for-performance measures in the federal work force was a positive reform. However, this boom in federal bonuses suggests an all-carrot-and-no-stick approach to federal performance. For bureaucrats, job security is a nonissue, and they already earn twice as much as an average American just for showing up to work.

Shortly after he assumed office last year, Obama instituted a pay freeze for top White House aides earning more than $100,000, saying this would “restore that faith in government without which we cannot deliver the changes we were sent here to make.”

The president made it clear that he knows egregious federal salaries are a problem, yet he’s done little beyond this symbolic gesture to address the problem. Actually doing something to rein in the runaway federal bureaucracy would be change taxpayers can believe in.

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