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Want boat sales? Target public employees!

It’s a New Year, so I want to start off with a clean slate by getting something off my chest. All across this nation, people are spending less. Just about the only group that hasn't gotten that message is our elected officials in Washington. They're blowing every last penny of taxpayer resources, then borrowing trillions more and blowing that money, too!

But it’s not just in Washington. Oh, no -- it’s in states and municipalities, too! Public employees -- you know, the ones rumored to work for you and me – are living better than ever. The facts are, if you’re a government worker, you’re pay level is soaring, your benefits are superior and you don’t have to worry much about layoff. Not bad compared to the rest of us private sector types just struggling to pay bills and keep our businesses open.

This really bugs me. The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during this Great Recession. Federal employees with salaries greater than $100,000 jumped from 14 percent to 19 percent of civil servants during this recession's first 18 months -- and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted, according to a recent study of federal salary data done by USA TODAY. The conclusion: Federal workers are enjoying a boom time in pay and hiring during a recession that has wiped out 7.3 million private sector jobs.

At one time, public employees would earn lower salaries than the private sector but that was balanced out by a much better retirement program and more paid days off. Now, they get higher average pay, far higher benefits, more days off and other fringes. Today, the average federal worker's pay is $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector. Only 21 percent of private workers enjoy a defined-benefit pension, but 84 percent of state and local workers still get DB plans. Moreover, public employees have obtained reduced work schedules that trim public services. Still, pay and benefits go higher!

While Congress and state governments impose tax increases and service cuts, public-sector workers just keep gobbling up money. Not surprising, the highest-paid federal employees do the best, according to the USA TODAY research. Like, Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to a whopping 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available. Or, when the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more; 18 months later the number with salaries above $170,000 was 1,690. Incredible!

Public-sector unions have been thriving as politicians show little incentive to say no to demands. Unionized government workers are now nearly five times more than in the private sector. In fact, in 2009, for the first time, public workers comprised more than half of all union members in the nation.

All this while the nation’s small businesses in general, and our boating industry in particular, can’t get any needed credit and financing but face increased taxes and regulatory restrictions. I can’t help but remember political accusations on the last campaign trail that our country had become a two-tiered society. I didn’t buy it, then. But, guess what -- now that I think about it, I was wrong. We apparently do have a two-tiered society. It’s all the government employees . . . and, then, the rest of us! Well, at least we now see who we should target with our boat ads and promotions.

There, I’ve said it . . . I feel better . . . I can move on to 2010. Happy New Year.

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