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30,000 federal employees make more than members of congress

$100 dollar bills from Engraving and Printing
$100 dollar bills from Engraving and Printing
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On April 11, FedSmith published an article revealing that there are a large number of federal employees who make more than any elected Congressional officials, including the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader.

Since a member of Congress now receives a salary of $174,000, the Speaker of the House a salary of $223,500, the Vice President’s salary is $230,700, and the Majority Leaders of the House and Senate have salaries of $193,400, there are thousands of federal employees making higher salaries than those in Congress and Congressional leaders. No doubt, with the egos of Congress on display on the national airwaves on a daily basis, many in Congress view their jobs as much more important and influential than many federal workers working within the federal bureaucracy.

Perhaps those in Congress are more important or influential. But, based on the salaries that are received by many in government, there are a large number of federal workers that are paid more and, presumably, have similar or more influence and responsibility than those in Congress. More than 15,100 federal employees now make more than $200,000 per year according to the listing in the database. More than 30,000 federal employees make more than the $174,000 paid to current Members of Congress.

Jim Moran, a retiring Member of Congress, recently complained that those elected to Congress are underpaid. Perhaps Congressman Moran was thinking of the higher salaries many federal employees now receive in comparison to the salaries for a Member of Congress. Perhaps he knew that about 30,000 federal employees now make more than a Member of Congress.

Most Americans are probably not aware of how the federal pay system works. Over time, the broad General Schedule (GS) pay system used by the federal government has eroded. That is not necessarily a bad thing as the GS system has not kept up with the changes in government. The changes that have occurred though are not part if a comprehensive restructuring of the federal pay system. Rather, the changes are a patchwork of changes that have occurred over time—sometimes to meet political objectives or to satisfy the desires of an influential group.

A number of agencies now pay much more than the salaries reflected in the GS pay system. Those on the inside of government are often aware of how to increase their future retirement income which can last for several decades after leaving the federal government and with annual pay increases each year after retiring. The annual annuity payments for federal employees is based on their "high three" salaries. Getting a job in one of these higher paying federal agencies can provide a payoff that will benefit these fortunate individuals for decades.

Most of these higher paying agencies are agencies with responsibility for regulation of the financial industry. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission pay much higher salaries than other agencies—even though the agencies are smaller and the jobs are very similar or the same as lower paying jobs in agencies such as Social Security Administration, Department of Agriculture or the Department of Defense.

Often, the rationale is that the agency has to pay higher wages in order to get the best people who work in the financial industry. That may be true but many of the administrative jobs and the people occupying them are similar in qualifications and experience to the more traditional federal agencies.

Many of the jobs are also in the medical profession within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Many are doctors hired by the VA to work in VA facilities. Many are air traffic controllers working for the Federal Aviation Administration. Many are senior executives working in a variety of federal agencies.

There are a few members of Congress who are physicians. They would make quite a bit more money by going to work for the VA than they do serving as a legislator.

The salary database maintained by can be sorted so that the higher salaries are listed first. Just click on the "salaries" column of the database twice so that the list is sorted from highest to lowest. Searches can also be performed by title, city or organization.

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