Overpaid in D.C.

| Wed Sep. 14, 2011 1:01 AM EDT

So how about those overpaid government workers? We should probably just can the whole unionized lot of them and contract out their jobs to the lean-n-mean private sector. That'd save the taxpayers some serious dough, wouldn't it?

Maybe not. There's a reason that federal contractors are called Beltway Bandits, after all. The Project on Government Oversight took a look at how much private contracting really costs once you look at actual billing rates, and the private sector didn't come out looking too good: 

The result of POGO’s analysis was shocking. In 94 percent (33 of the 35) of the occupational series POGO analyzed, the average annual contractor billing rate was much more than the average annual full compensation for federal employees: on average, contractors may be billing the government approximately 1.83 times what the government pays federal employees to perform similar work. When the average annual contractor billing rates were compared with the average annual full compensation paid to private sector employees in the open market, POGO found that in all occupational classifications studied, the contractor billing rates were, on average, more than twice the costs incurred by private sector employers for the same services.

The most egregious example of an outsourced occupational classification that resulted in excessive costs rather than cost savings is claims assistance and examining—administrative support positions that involve examining, reviewing, developing, adjusting, reconsidering, or recommending authorization of claims by or against the federal government. To provide these services, on average, federal employees are fully compensated at $57,292 per year, private sector employees are fully compensated at $75,637 per year, and the average annual contractor billing rate is $276,598 per year.

$276,000 per year! Nice work if you can get it. Federal labor unions might be tough bargainers, but they're pikers compared to the suits on mahogany row. Those are the guys who really know how to work the system. If you're on the lookout for overpaid chair warmers with cushy jobs, that's your first stop.