Last week, the local paper concluded an investigative series on the state’s underfunded public employee pension system. Besides retired cops, fire fighters and teachers, the report noted that as elected officials, judicial retirees receive among the highest retirement payouts.
Defenders of tax-payer funded pension beneficence love to justify such largesse by pointing to the supposed low pay public employees receive as compared to the assumed high paying private sector jobs they could have had.
It’s an oft-repeated but rarely proven ‘woulda/coulda/shoulda’ that to lure top talent away from hypothetical greener private industry pastures, you have to pay top dollars or at least, provide top benefits.
In Arizona, elected officials receive lifetime pensions with formula multipliers about double what other public employee retirees receive. This translates into some retirees, including a former governor and some retired judges who actually receive more in retirement than they earned while in office.
According to the Arizona Republic‘s November 15, 2010 story authored by Craig Harris, “Generous pension benefits for Arizona elected officials,” “Maricopa County Presiding Judge Norm Davis believes the system is fair for judges, who could earn far more in the private sector as lawyers. ‘Most people come to the bench after 20 years practicing law. . .If you changed the system, you would discourage a lot of high-quality applicants.'”
‘Ya gotta pay to get the best’ and other myths.
In October 2009, I blogged about The myth of executive talent and pay-for-performance. I dissed the fable that CEOs have to be paid exorbitantly to attract top talent. I wrote, “Justifying excessive pay on the false assumption that top management will leave is absurdly flawed logic. Please show these so-called indispensable the door. In any economy but especially this one, the queue of people lined up to replace so-called top talent will encircle a city block.”
How reasonable is it to assert the same argument in other contexts? Judges, for example, despite being well-paid by most measures, steadfastly complain they’re underpaid. See, for example, “Another N.Y. Judge to Leave Due to Low Pay”, “Judges Make More Headlines Bewailing Low Pay – Law Blog – WSJ“ and “U.S. federal judge quits; cites flat pay, 7 children.”
A recent ABA Journal article, “At $60K Median Lawyer Salary,” provides a good counterpoint to those insisting they give up a lot to be public servants compared to what’s available in the private sector. Many if not all general jurisdiction state judges easily make double the lawyer median not to mention the non-pecuniary benefits like prestige, power, lifestyle and job security. Add generous pension benefits and voila, few choose to leave ahead of vested retirement.
In Nevada, for example, judicial salaries are set at $160,000 for general jurisdiction state courts. That pay places them in the top 10% of wage-earners nationally.
And according to The National Center for State Courts, for general jurisdiction trial courts, Nevada judges rank 8th in pay nationally behind California at the top of the pay scale at $178,789. Illinois comes in 2nd at $174,303, followed closely at $174,000 by the District of Columbia. Arizona places 13th at $145,000.
TSA inspectors complain.
I was reminded of the speciousness of public employee grumblings on reports of discontent from employees of the Transportation Services Administration (TSA). These are the folks keeping us safe by scanning, screening, groping and patting us down at airport security lines.
To the torrent of ‘Don’t Touch My Junk‘ public criticism against TSA, came a bit of backlash from the besieged TSA inspectors hitting back with their own complaints at the public that’s angry at them.
The TSA’s stinky unpleasantness.
Indeed, The Daily Mail headlines, ‘We hate obese passengers and people with personal hygiene issues.’ The news story quotes TSA security staff complaining about “having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!”
Yet another inspector claims “he had a huge problem dealing with a ‘large number of passengers… daily that have a problem understanding what personal hygiene is.'”
I remember the post 9/11 origins of the TSA. Before 9/11, airport inspectors were an amalgam of low-paid, contract private security rent-a-cops.
Today, they are federal employees, even if by and large, they’re the same personnel as before. They only required a costume change, better pay, more job security and slightly better training to become a part of Homeland Security. No longer casual labor, according to TSA’s website, Pay Band Minimum Maximum ranges start at $17,083 to a high of $155,500 per year.
Words of advice.
So while other public employees gripe about low pay despite better-than-private-sector retirements, the professionalized cadre of TSA inspectors grouse about flab and flatulence.
Yet the economy remains slack. Unemployment persists. And just as always, complaining about your job is an entitlement.
But to all those underappreciated making less money than they think they need or who yearn for private sector pay scales or who consider themselves worthier of more hygienic work, here’s some advice, “If you think you can, find another job.”