One of the main arguments against forcing federal employees to pay more for their pensions is that most rank-and-file feds don’t make bloated, six-figure salaries — as fiscal conservatives and Republican lawmakers often allege.


Union leaders used that line of defense again Wednesday before congressional negotiators struck a deal on a $150 billion economic package that will likely force new federal employees to pay more for their pensions to help pay down the deficit and extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

“We have [federal] workers being asked to pay for something that they didn’t cause, they had no part in,” American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage told reporters Wednesday. “Yet the tax on millionaires, a financial transaction tax, eliminating subsidies for big business, a minimum corporate tax, agricultural subsidies — none of this comes into play to pay for this payroll tax extension.”

In that same conversation, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley said federal employees “are the typical middle America of this country.”

But are they?

According to figures kept by the Office of Personnel Management, the average salary for a full-time federal employee working on a permanent appointment was $76,231 as of September 2010, the most recent date for which the figure has been released. Since federal salary rates have been frozen since then, the current figure would be close to that, probably slightly higher due to longevity raises many employees continue to receive.

An OPM database shows that as of September 2011, there were 1.856 million full-time, permanent, non-seasonal federal employees. That figure is a head count that excludes part-timers and certain other categories of employees. (It differs from the number used in the White House budget proposal released Monday, which measures work year equivalents.)

The database shows about 423,000 employees making less than $50,000, almost the same number as the 420,000 making more than $100,000. The remainder — just above 1 million employees — make between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.

Of those making less than $50,000, more than half, 245,000, make at least $40,000. All but 20,000 of the rest make at least $30,000, according to OPM.

Of those making more than $100,000, more than half, 273,000, make between $100,000 and $130,000. Nearly 13,000 make $180,000 or more.

Republicans like to point out that federal compensation is actually higher if you include the generous federal retirement and health benefits program that includes paid vacations.

And how much of a hit would the typical federal employee take if forced to pay more for retirement benefits?

Under President Obama’s plan to increase retirement contributions by 1.2 percent in the next three years, a federal employee making $50,000 would pay an additional $600 annually.

William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said that increase “would be difficult to bear.”

Do you agree? The comments section below awaits your thoughts.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Fact Checker: Your guide to Obama budget rhetoric

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