Government Employees – The True “1%”

Editor’s Note: The claims made in this commentary by Wayne Allen Root are incendiary. But they are true. We are on track in the United States to pay more money to 20 million public sector retirees – at an average pension of $65,000 we will pay these retirees $1.3 trillion per year, then we will be paying in social security to 80 million private sector retirees – at an average social security benefit of $15,000 per year that will cost less, about $1.2 trillion per year. Providing a level of retirement security to government workers that only the wealthiest 1% can enjoy in the private sector is not “protecting the middle class,” it is economic enslavement by government unions over the taxpayer. This article originally appeared on and is republished with permission by the author.

How did America become broke and insolvent? How did we build up an unimaginable $115 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities? How did we allow the American Dream to become a nightmare?

All we need do is look at the primary demand the Eurozone and IMF are placing on hopelessly bankrupt Greece to get their new $170 Billion bailout — Greece has agreed to cut 150,000 government employees. Even Cuba’s leader Raul Castro recognizes too many government employees are at the root of economic destruction, as he is cutting over 2 million of them to save Cuba from bankruptcy.

The truth is that government employees are the true 1%. We have far too many of them (21 million), many of them are paid too much, and their union demands are straining taxpayers to the breaking point.

They have become a privileged class that expects to be treated superior to the taxpayers — the same folks who pay their salaries and pensions. But it is their obscene pensions that are the big problem moving forward for America.

How would you like to retire with $6 million? $8 million? $10 million? All you have to do is become a government employee to hit the jackpot.

You don’t believe me? Do the math.

I recently talked with a retired New York City toll taker. His salary averaged about $70,000 per year over 20 years. But in his last few years he worked loads of overtime and added in accumulated sick days to get his salary in those final years up to $150,000.

His pension is based on his final years’ salary. This is a common pension-padding ploy.

He bragged that he will now get a taxpayer funded pension of $120,000 a year for the rest of his life. He’s only 50 years old.

The average 50-year old male has a life expectancy of almost 80. With automatic cost of living increases, that’s a bill to taxpayers of $5 million for the next 30 years –for not working. THREE TIMES WHAT HE EARNED WHILE WORKING.

And, of course, we’re also paying his medical bills.

No country, no budget, and no taxpayers anywhere in the world can afford this. Ask Greece.

But here’s a frightening question- what if he lives to 90? Or 100? His pension could rise to $8 million or higher.

Multiply this times 21 million government employees (on the federal, state and local level) and you now get a sense of what is bankrupting America.

Are these stories the exception, rather than the rule? Over 77,000 federal government employees earned more than the governor of their state.

On the federal level, it was just reported by USA Today that the average federal civil servant compensation is $123,049 per year.

That’s more than double what private sector workers earn (average of $61,051). Since 2000, federal government employee compensation has grown by 36.9% versus 8.8% for private sector employees.

In Las Vegas (Clark County) the average firefighter earns $199,678 per year.

When he retires at age 45 or 50, we owe his pension based on that obscene salary. But here’s the clincher –when he finally dies, the taxpayer has to continue paying the pension to his spouse. Add up the damage to the economy. It is catastrophic. Talk about a 1 per center — a single firefighter could retire with $8 to $10 million for not working for the rest of his life.

This is madness.

Now it’s true that policemen and firefighters are heroes. But they make up a small portion of government employees.

Recent studies prove the average janitor that works for government makes over $600,000 more in his career than a private sector janitor. Are janitors heroes too?

Again, this is madness.

Three stories on the same day in this past Sunday’s Las Vegas newspapers sum up this national outrage.

Let’s start with the Las Vegas teachers union. It was reported that more than a third of the union’s entire $4.1 million annual budget went to pay just nine union leaders.

The Teachers Union Executive Director received $632,546, while the CEO of the union-created Teachers Health Trust was paid $546,133.

So next time you hear educators scream that we must spend more money on education, because “it’s for the kids,” you’ll know the truth. It’s for the unions.

It’s always been for the unions.

Bernie Madoff has nothing on the government employee union scam.

Article number two in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review Journal was about those highly paid Las Vegas firefighters.

It turns out they weren’t satisfied with making almost $200,000 per year. They also abused sick leave, rigged work schedules to pump up their pensions, and appear to have engaged in widespread disability fraud.

About half of all Clark County firefighters retired with work-related injuries in recent years- garnering bonus payments averaging $320,000 apiece. That’s in addition to their obscene pensions for life.

Is this also “for the kids?”

Article number three in Sunday’s paper was about a now retired Las Vegas homicide detective and possible police brutality. It had nothing to do with pensions. But interestingly, the retired homicide detective they quote in the story is 47 years old.

He’s 47 and already retired?

Want to bet that you and I are on the hook for $5 to $10 million in pension and health benefits from now until the day he dies- for not working. Is this also “for the kids?”

I’ll say it one more time… this is madness.

These aren’t CEO types. These are average government employees retiring with the equivalent of $5 to $10 million. These are the true 1% privileged class that are bankrupting our country and destroying the once great U.S. economy.

Something is very wrong here.

No one has a right to complain about the high incomes of business owners in the private sector (the 1%). We rarely have pensions and our compensation doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. We risk our own money to start our businesses and often work 16 hour days, weekends and holidays.

Yet for all that risk and hard work, do you know any small business owners who retire with $5 to $10 million? They are few and far between. But that’s exactly what a private sector employee would need in the bank on the day of his or her retirement to match the $100,000 per year pensions (plus health care benefits and cost of living increases) of government employees paid out over 30 to 50 years.

Keep in mind that government employees never risk a dollar of their own money. They have lifetime job security. And they rarely work beyond 9 to 5, let alone weekends or holidays.

Yet government employees are paid millions by taxpayers to retire early, often on pensions fattened by gaming the corrupt system.

They are the true 1%.

This is a national disgrace that is bankrupting America. The gall of this scam would make Bernie Madoff blush.

But hey…”It’s for the kids!”

Wayne Allyn Root is a former Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee. He now serves as Chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee. He is the best-selling author of “The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gold & Tax Cuts.” His web site: This article originally appeared on and is republished with permission from the author.

5 replies
  1. pam says:

    how do we get the politicians to address these abuses….i know many who have the same deal as you mentioned in the article.

    how stupid is the public to think that we can continue these free rides..

  2. Lee says:

    “The average 50-year old male has a life expectancy of almost 80. With automatic cost of living increases, that’s a bill to taxpayers of $5 million for the next 30 years –for not working.”

    MISLEADING: While it is true that the taxpayer funded the employees pension while he worked, the $5 million dollars the employee will be paid out over his years retired is NOT paid by the taxpayer. It is paid by the interest from the pension fund!

  3. David H says:

    It is indeed absurd. More than absurd, it is criminal. Of course that would mean intent to harm, and I think that can be derived from the actions of the unions and politicians. These points need to be broadcast far and wide before the next November election.

  4. Editor says:

    Lee – Thank you for your comment. While you are correct that the pension fund payouts depend on investment returns to attain the level that has been promised, you may wish to delve further into the implications of that fact. Consider:

    (1) Whether or not pensions are paid for primarily by investment returns, or by taxpayers and by contributions in the form of payroll withholding by the employees themselves during the years they work, it is still quite relevant to question the size of these pensions. Should government employees, on average, collect $65,000 per year in pension benefits, compared to the social security average of $15,000 per year for the rest of us, and begin to collect that amount, on average, ten years sooner?

    (2) Should taxpayers be called upon to rescue pension funds via higher taxes when these pension funds don’t earn enough interest to meet their obligations?

    (3) If we are going to invest taxpayer money in pension funds for government workers, why aren’t we doing the same for all taxpayers?

    (4) Have you considered how unlikely it is that these pension funds can continue to earn over 7.0% per year, when they now control over $4.0 trillion in assets? If the stock prices have been flat for over 10 years, with dividends barely keeping up with inflation, where is this 7.0% per year coming from? Do you see that when aggressively managed pension managers invest in hedge funds and equity funds that manipulate the market, all other investors lose?

    (5) Do you understand the extreme sensitivity of pension fund contribution requirements to the interest rate that pension funds can earn? Do you realize that for every 1.0% a pension fund’s rate of return drops, you have to put another 10% of salary each year into that fund? Do you have any idea what this is doing to our cities and states?

    (6) Do you understand that when public sector pension fund spokespersons and public sector union spokespersons claim we should “blame Wall Street” they are being hypocritical? With public employee pension funds pouring well over $300 billion per year into new investments, who do you think is the biggest player on Wall Street? Pension funds feed Wall Street. They are the biggest wealth accumulator in the world. And they allow Wall Street to invest money with zero risk, because taxpayers make up the difference when they don’t earn 7.0% per year interest.

    Government unions control pensions. Pensions control Wall Street. Public sector unions are collection agents for Wall Street. Talk about crony capitalism.

  5. jtb01823 says:

    Editor — Lee’s comments are exactly why this country is so much trouble. They get just enough “facts” to rationalize their choices or agenda or however you want to put it. They know just enough to get themselves in deep trouble and don’t even know it. Our country is filled with non-thinkers. Nobody has any plain old common sense. Any person in their right mind would first say “where is this money going to come from? And, when are we going to run out.” Thanks to the dumbing down of America school system we now a country full of illiterates who walk around believing they are right in their OWN eyes. See lady who won $1m bucks and still thinks she’s entitled to food stamps.

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