"It’s hard, when you’re up to your armpits in alligators, to remember you came here to drain the swamp." – President Ronald Reagan (1983)
"What we have to do is drain the swamp in Washington, D.C." – Rep. Nancy Pelosi (2006)
Today’s federal bureaucrats are paid $1.1 million a minute, $66 million an hour, and over $524 million a day – and that’s just the cash compensation cost. Taxpayers also pay for lucrative perks like weeks of paid time-off, performance bonuses and padded retirement pensions.
Using our interactive mapping tool
, quickly review the 2 million federal employee salaries and bonuses by ZIP code across America. Just click a pin and scroll down to see the results rendered in the chart beneath the map. See your local piece of the swamp: how much are the federal employees in your backyard earning? Which agency employs them, and what is their job title?
Here are a few of our key findings:
- $136 Billion in Cash Compensation – The federal government disclosed 1.97 million employees across 122 independent agencies and departments. In FY2016, these 2 million workers received $136 billion in compensation. If we could factor in another 2 million undisclosed employees – at the Department of Defense and on active military and other agencies – the cost would be much higher.
- $22.6 Billion in Time Off and Benefits – After just three years of public service, federal employees receive ten federal holidays, 13 sick days, and 20 vacation days per year. That is eight and a half weeks of paid time off (43 days per year). That benefit costs taxpayers an estimated $22.6 billion annually.
- $1.5 Billion to Bonuses – The federal government awarded 330,713 bonuses for $351 million (FY2016). However, the federal union agreement bars the disclosure of the $1.1 billion in performance bonuses. So, who received how much? It’s time to open the books on the billion-dollar performance bonuses. The largest federal bonus last year ($141,525) didn’t go to a rocket scientist or a doctor researching a cancer cure; it went to Bart Ferrell, a Human Resources Manager in charge of processing payroll at the Presidio Trust. Ferrell’s total pay last year exceeded $300,000.
- A Six-Figure Minimum Wage? In 78 large agencies, the average employee made more than $100,00. We found 30,000 bureaucrats out-earning every governor of the 50 states with salaries exceeding $190,000. The number of federal employees making $200,000 or more has skyrocketed by 165 percent during the past six years. 'Diet and Nutrition' employees can make up to $207,060; 'Food Services' workers in the prisons system can bring in $136,622; and 'Laundry Operations' employees at the VA can make $101,694. Even ‘photography’ is lucrative, averaging more than $80,000 with top pay reaching $157,97.
- The Administrative State’s Legal Team – We found more than 35,000 lawyers in the federal government, but fewer than 12,000 of them pursue crime and criminals at the Department of Justice. The rest are essentially regulators, sprawled across 94 departments and agencies. These lawyers are pricey, costing taxpayers $4.8 billion. On average, each federal lawyer earned a salary of $136,006 – and including benefits – cost the American taxpayer $175,000 apiece.
- The Administrative State’s Department of Self-Promotion – In FY2016, 70 departments spent $368 million on more than 3,600 in-house public affairs and marketing employees. On average, these employees made $101,827 each. The Department of Agriculture employed the most public affairs employees with a total of 544. The U.S. Postal Service paid James Cochrane, the chief marketing and sales officer, $250,335. Our investigation revealed another $2 billion spent on contracts with outside public relations firms over an eight-year period.
- The Reason Behind Waiting Lines for Veterans – The Department of Veterans Affairs employs one-fifth of the entire disclosed federal workforce for a total payroll cost of $30 billion, which is more than the entire budget of 16 state governments. Still, sick veterans wait to see a doctor because 92 percent of workers on their payroll aren’t doctors. Over the past five years, the VA added 60,000 new positions to payroll, but less than one in ten were doctors. The bloat at the VA is stunning. For example, the VA employed 171 interior designers costing $50 million over the past four years. The VA facility in Palo Alto, California, employed the most interior designers – nine in total. Palo Alto is the same facility that spent $700,000 on sculptures for blind veterans in 2016.
There are many more examples and more remains hidden.
For example, the largest swamp of opacity is the $125 billion in annual federal pension payout. Current law prohibits disclosure, but taxpayers deserve to see all the details. We worked with Congressman Ron DeSantis (FL-6) on the Taxpayer Funded Pension Disclosure Act of 2017 that would open
the books on retirement annuities. Wouldn’t you like to know the pension amount of retired IRS boss Lois Lerner?
President Reagan rightly described how difficult it is to rein in the administrative state. We agree and taxpayers are right to be concerned about high salaries, lucrative benefit packages, excessive bonuses and cushy retirement pensions.
What’s in your backyard? Search
the federal bureaucracy by ZIP code and then call your member of Congress. Ask what they’ve done to squeeze out waste and bloat within the federal payroll.