Members of Congress who represent federal employees are demanding higher pay for their constituents. In particular, they want "parity" in the raises for the civil service and the military. The Bush administration is thought to believe that sometimes military employees, especially in certain fields, should get higher raises, although both civilian and military raises were 2.2 percent this year. As Chris Edwards wrote in the Washington Post last August:
The Bureau of Economic Analysis released data this month showing that the average compensation for the 1.8 million federal civilian workers in 2005 was $106,579 -- exactly twice the average compensation paid in the U.S. private sector: $53,289.... Since 1990 average compensation for federal workers has increased by 129 percent, the BEA data show, compared with 74 percent for private-sector workers.
If federal employees were underpaid in our strong economy, presumably it would be hard to hire them, and current employees would be quitting. Yet in fact the "quit rate" among federal employees is far lower than in the private sector. Even during the Great Depression, when employees thought very carefully before leaving an unsatisfying job, the quit rate in manufacturing was higher than it is among federal employees today. Federal employees are paid handsomely. Indeed, when they talk about "pay parity," one could only wish that Congress would legislate parity between the pay of private-sector employees and that of federal employees. If it did, decades would pass before federal employees got another raise. We might note that this effort is being pushed by eight House members representing Virginia and Maryland, plus District of Columbia delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Founders put the seat of government in a special district, outside any state, so that the government wouldn't be unduly influenced by local pressures. And they denied the vote to residents of the district because the government shouldn't be influencing itself. Now, though, we have 1.8 million civil service employees (plus about 800,000 in the post office and more than a million in the military). That's a large voting bloc, especially in the states surrounding Washington, D.C. And so members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland, especially the Washington suburbs, have become in effect representatives of the bureaucracy in Congress.