When you are forced to deal with an agency of the federal government, you expect to stand in line or be placed on hold for hours on end, only to be “helped” by a worker who is grumpy, is bored or has “an attitude.”

I’m generalizing, to be sure, but there is a reason that you get a knot in the pit of your stomach before dialing or visiting a branch of the federal government. It’s not a pleasant experience. It’s on my list of least favorite things to do, somewhere between going in for a colonoscopy and having a root canal.

The reason is quite simple. On average, these folks are coddled, overpaid spoiled brats that enjoy benefits and vacation time most of us can only dream about. On top of that, all they have to do is show up for work on time and keep breathing to keep those cushy jobs. Once hired, they are automatically promoted up the government ladder to the next pay scale, and they are impossible to fire. The public-employee unions will rain down fire and brimstone on anyone who tries to dump some of the dead weight.

Never has the gap between the public and private sector been in a sharper focus than during the current economic recession. A number of recent studies bear that out. On Monday, the Commerce Department announced that personal incomes fell across the U.S. last year except in areas with a high concentration of federal government and military jobs.

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The Wall Street Journal reported that, in the big metro areas with populations more than a million, only three showed a net rise in personal income. Not surprising, Washington, D.C., tops the list. In fact, the sprawling federal government added 250,000 workers in the past one and a half years. The other two metro areas to show a net gain in personal income have a large military presence: San Antonio, Texas, and Virginia Beach, Va. In all three of these areas, the gains went to government workers, while private-sector compensation fell.

Just how big is the gap in compensation between the public and private sector? It is huge!

Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that in 2009, the average pay for civilian government workers was $81,258, compared to an average of only $50,462 for the nation’s private-sector employees. The gap is even worse when you add in the cost of benefits. The average federal worker’s total package was a whopping $123,049, more than double the private-sector average of $61,051.

Last week, President Obama tried to impress us by ordering a freeze on bonuses for his 2,900 overpaid political appointees. At the same time, he had the gall to request a 1.4-percent across-the-board pay hike for the 2 million federal workers, who are also eligible for additional seniority pay hikes. Yikes!

The Heritage Foundation produced a new study that reveals how these seniority pay hikes are killing us. The basic federal pay scale, known as the “General Schedule,” covers roughly 70 percent of federal civilian employees. It consists of 15 pay grades and 10 steps within those pay grades. Employees advance through the steps by essentially staying alive, so that 1.4 percent across-the-board pay hike masks the true extent of the recommended pay increase.

We need a freeze (not an increase) on federal wages that includes the seniority hike until we get these wages in line with the private sector.

The Heritage study also found that since the start of this recession in December 2007, private-sector employment has fallen by 6.8 percent, while federal government employment has actually increased by 10 percent. Even if you factor in government job losses at the state and local level, governments have added a total of 64,000 jobs while the private sector has lost 7.8 million.

Companies have downsized. Why not expect the government to do the same?

This week, Nancy Pelosi added insult to injury by ordering Congress back from the August recess, at great expense, to pass another bailout package for states that refuse to trim their payrolls and balance their budgets.

When governments grow, the private sector withers. These bloated governments suck the very life out of our economy. Last week, I encountered a nervous friend who told me that his company had 18 employees two years ago. Now it’s down to one, him.

Obama and the Democrats who control Congress are too out of touch to feel our pain. Most have spent little or no time in the private sector. They throw out a few crumbs to the unemployed and expect us to return them to power. Fat chance!

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