Follow The Money: A Look At The Best Paying Government Jobs

This article looks at the best paying government jobs. Government jobs may not pay as well as private sector jobs, but the benefits and pension are very attractive. Government jobs are also very secure, which is something attractive during a bear market or a pandemic!

In fact, due to a collapse in interest rates in 2020, the value of a pension has gone way up! It takes a lot more capital to generate the same amount of risk-adjusted income. Therefore, government jobs are even more valuable than ever before due to those pensions.

Before I get into the best paying jobs, I'd like to share a couple ridiculous articles about the government that will make you appreciate government jobs more.

First Article About The Government

The first article talks about how the US Army fudged $6.8 trillion in accounting entries back in 2015 to balance its books. The Defense Department's Inspector General said the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. What?

“At first glance adjustments totaling trillions may seem impossible. The amounts dwarf the Defense Department’s entire budget. Making changes to one account also require making changes to multiple levels of sub-accounts, however. That created a domino effect where, essentially, falsifications kept falling down the line. In many instances this daisy-chain was repeated multiple times for the same accounting item,” Scot J. Paltrow writes.

While the government goes after regular folks who get their taxes wrong because there are so many rules, it turns a blind eye on $6.8 TRILLION in accounting errors? This seems like a huge double standard and an abdication of responsibility. An army spokesman later downplayed the significance of the improper charges, and said the real error in question is “only” about $62.4 billion. Come on now. $62.4 billion is still a massive amount of money that has vanished into thin air.

$62.4 billion a year in misappropriated funds can:

  • Create 1,248,000 new social worker jobs paying $50,000 a year
  • Create 624,000 new teaching jobs that pay $100,000 a year
  • Line the pockets of 62,400 corrupt officials by $1,000,000 a year
  • Really line the coffers of 1,000 contractors by $62,400,000 a year

“Nobody knows where the money is going,” said Franklin Spinney, a retired military analyst for the Pentagon and critic of Defense Department planning. But actually we do know where the money is going.

It's going into the pockets of the top 0.1% government employees charged with handling the budget in the form of under the table money, salaries and bonuses and the pockets of companies that receive defense contracts.

Second Article About The Government

The second article talks about how San Francisco has an annual budget of $9.6 billion, more than 13 other States in America! Now the annual San Francisco budget is over $12.5 billion!

Reporter Heather Knight writes, “In 2010, the budget totaled $6.4 billion in a city with 805,000 people, meaning the city spent nearly $8,000 per capita. Six years later, the $9.6 billion budget is paying for services for 865,000 residents, or $11,100 per capita. Inflation explains a little of that increase, but certainly not all of it.” In other words, the city of San Francisco grew by 7.45%, but the budget ballooned by 50% in six years. That is out of control!

We know it's much easier to vote to raise taxes on other people especially if you don't have to pay more yourself. Illustrative of this is a SF law passed in 2011. As originally proposed, all SF residents would pitch 1-3% of their gross income in to raise $6.8B for public education.

The majority pushed back against this proposal and the legislation was changed to charge only those making $200,000 or more, ignoring entirely the fact that there are people making less than $200,000 who also have kids. As a result, only $2.5B was raised. But the majority is the majority, and in an election, the majority always wins.

Inefficient Government Spending Is Why Working For The Government Is Great

In San Francisco, if someone graffiti's your garage door, you will get fined by the city if you don't remove the graffiti at your own expense within a short window of time. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining all the trees on public property outside their house even if they didn't plant them.

Further, if the public sidewalk outside your property is cracked, you must pay to fix it too. You would think with a $9.6 billion budget, the city would be responsible for maintaining its own property. Nope. Let's not get started about the homeless situation and the poor public transportation system.

Finally, roughly 20,000 of San Francisco's 39,000 employees make over $100,000 a year. Now that is impressive! So that's where the $9.6 billion budget is mostly going annually.

The San Francisco Department Of Public Works is corrupt! They have nothing better to do than annoy homeowners with the smallest problems while big issues are at work.

The Best Paying Government Jobs

There's an old saying, “If you can't beat them, join them.”

Since nobody can properly oversee the government unless you want to be fined or thrown in jail, it's a good idea for everybody to do three things if you want to get rich:

1) Identify the income threshold where the government starts going after you. Based on consistent political rhetoric and existing tax rules, this income figure is around $200,000. However, the income number may be adjusted higher or lower depending on your location's cost of living.

2) The more you make over $200,000, the more you need to try to work less or question your life's purpose. Ask yourself whether it's really worth killing yourself at a job or a business that isn't helping society just so you can earn more money. You can do much better donating your time and money to better causes than the government can.

For those of you who want to earn much more than $200,000 a year, I say give it a shot to get it out of your system. After you succeed, I suggest you take things down a notch. Over the long run, it's really not worth it. Life is so much more enjoyable if you can actually enjoy it. See how a family of four and a family of three spend $200,000 a year. It's a comfortable living.

3) Apply for various government jobs. Government has only gotten bigger over the years thanks to bigger budgets. Meanwhile, people depending on government welfare has continued to grow, especially after the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work and into the arms of enhanced unemployment benefits.

K-Shaped Economy

It's a travesty that so many people in America are getting rich, while so many more people are getting poorer. If we have money and opportunity, it's our duty to help those who do not have similar good fortune. By not teaching more people how to fish, the government stifles the aspirations of its citizenry. I really hope Financial Samurai can help more people achieve financial independence.

Welfare Spending
Some say there are more people on Welfare (109M) than actually people working (105M).
Food Stamps Growth
welfare-spending-growth-projection - The Best Paying Government Jobs

What is going on folks? The system appears to be failing and the coronavirus pandemic has certainly increased the failing by the government to support its citizens.

I want to believe that the internet helps democratize access to information and enables people to make better decisions. Helping others achieve financial freedom is one of the key reasons why I've published 3X a week for free since 2009.

However, these growth rates are scary! How can a nation as rich as ours have such a large percentage of people who are financially suffering? We must do more to help those who have less.

The Best Government Jobs That Pay Well

Here are some of the best paying government jobs. Government jobs can provide high pay and stability. Unfortunately, just like in the private sector, the most lucrative jobs are also the hardest to get.

Top Five Highest Paying Jobs That Nobody Can Get

1. NCAA Football Coach: $1.75 Million

2. President of a Public College: $425,000

3. President of the United States: $400,000

4. Chief Justice of the United States: $258,000

5. Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court: $248,000

The Highest Paying Jobs That Normal People Can Get

1) Astronomer – $116,072

2) Attorney – $114,240

3) Financial Manager – $101,022

4) General Engineer – $100,051

5) Economist – $94,098

6) Computer Scientist – $90,929

7) Chemist – $89,954

8) Criminal Investigator – $88,174

9) Microbiologist – $87,206

10) Architect – $85,690

11) Statistician – $81,524

12) Librarian – $78,665

13) Accountant – $78,030

14) Chaplain – $76,511

15) Ecologist – $76,511

16) Human Resources Manager – $76,503

17) Health and Safety Specialist – $73,003

18) Air Traffic Controller – $72,049

19) Budget Analyst – $71,267

20) Correctional Officer – $67,140

21) Nurse – $65,345

22) Technical Engineer – $63,951

23) Border Patrol Agent – $63,550

24) Medical Technician- $59,840

25) Customs Inspector – $59,248


The Highest Paying Government Agencies

Here are more best paying government jobs.

AgencyAverage Salary


If you want to apply to the myriad of US Federal government jobs, please check out

Further, we learned that public transportation janitors and elevator technicians can make multiple six-figures if they work overtime.

Please don't believe you can't make six figures when plenty of government workers are.

Try Freelancing To Earn Income As Well

Although there are a great many well-paying government jobs, you might not want to be locked into The Borg for a couple decades before you can receive a miracle pension for life. Therefore, in order to get some of that honey money, being a government freelancer may be a better way to go.

Here are some positives for being a freelancer:

Pay – Freelancer almost always earns more than a full-time government employee. The downside is usually no benefits.

Relatively easier to get  – It's not easy getting a government job. For example, only about 3% pass the Foreign Service entrance exam. By contrast, contracting companies may be less restrictive with their selection process.

Double or triple dip – Freelancer is great because you can earn money in multiple ways without restriction. For example, I can simultaneously earn money running Financial Samurai, consulting with a fintech company, teaching tennis, driving a car, and contracting with the government. If you work FT for the government, however, your outside earning avenues may be restricted.

If you want to have the benefits of being a freelancer and a full-time employee, perhaps consider working full-time at a government contractor like Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and SAIC.

Related: How To Be A Rockstar Freelancer

If you want to get rich, not only should you try and land yourself one of the best paying government jobs that pays a nice pension. You should also focus on big long-term trends to get rich.

For example, In 1999, I joined the Asian equities department of an investment bank because it seemed obvious the Asian region would experience explosive growth over the coming decades. In 1997 I had been an exchange student for six months in Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu and seen the potential. It was a good ride until everything went to hell 10 years later due to the US housing crisis.

In 2009, I started Financial Samurai partly because i believed the internet would continue to grow by leaps and bounds. It was evident back in 1999 as well, but I didn't know anything about websites and just needed to get a damn job to prove I hadn't wasted four years of my life in college.

In addition to mobile, virtual reality, self-driving cars, and the internet of things, big government is one of the strongest trends for the remainder of our lifetimes.

Demographic Shifts In The Future

In 2020, I think it's evident there will be a large demographic shift towards lower cost areas of the country thanks to the global pandemic and the rise of working from home.

First, there will be an increased demand in your city for single family homes in less densely populated areas within or near your city. If you no longer have to commute 5X a week, the need to be near work no longer matters.

Second, 18-hour cities will benefit from long-term migration trends from citizens who just don't want to be in 24-hour cities anymore. As a result, I'm investing in the heartland and in 18-hour cities through real estate crowdfunding.

Platforms such as Fundrise and CrowdStreet are my two favorite to sign up and explore for free. I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding to diversify and earn more income passively.

If You're Leaving A Job

Best paying government jobs are everywhere. Please negotiate a severance instead of quitting if you want to find a government job.

If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you're also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance.

I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to over 200 pages thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies. It was recently updated with new case studies, resources, and more. Check it out today.

86 thoughts on “Follow The Money: A Look At The Best Paying Government Jobs”

  1. I think that the reason more people are on benefits IS because the country is more advanced. As technology gets more and more advanced, it needs fewer and fewer people to work. We, however, are making more and more robots AND more and more humans.
    As soon as we’ll have inteligent cars enter mass market, we’ll really begin to both the upsides and the downsides of technology, as a huge amount of jobs are in the transportation business and all of those jobs will be in peril.

  2. Sam watch War Dogs. It’ll make your head spin. I had no idea about the method of assigning government weapons contracts until I saw that movie. I think public pensions will be the first big domino to fall, followed by Medicare, then Social Security

  3. F.S., the best government job is the one I have! I serve as a Patent Examiner for the Patent and Trademark Office. In addition to my federal employment comprising six figures, benefits, matching TSP, etc., I can live anywhere in the contiguous US (plus Puerto Rico) without any change to my income (e.g. locality pay). There’s overtime and bonuses as well (due to backlogs of applications) and the job is challenging! I chose to live in Florida as opposed to DC metro. one day, I will follow your lead/lifestyle and maybe even get an FS consultation!! cheers :), m

      1. the job is a work-at-home function (aka “hoteling”) requiring high speed internet in order to connect to the office VPN. you are expected to be actively working during established work hours. and, it is a production-based job, requiring you to complete a certain amount of work, all of which has a required deadline. of note, the function requires putting in 2 years at the office in Alexandria, VA but once you earn your wings, you may choose to hotel or work from home. the agency will also pay for advanced courses, such as, law school.

          1. sure. and insert “patent examiner” as a keyword. looks like right now there are examiner jobs for mechanical, electrical and computer engineers. Alexandria, va is the main office but there are 4 other regional offices in dallas, Detroit, silicon valley and Denver. may you get a job in lower cost of living area. Living in DC-metro murdered my income!

            1. Hmm, I’m in the Denver area right now… Do I need any kind of background related to those fields to get hired or do my job?

  4. Liam McDaid


    Speaking as an astronomer, I’d like to point out that the salary you’ve given for my profession is well above the median (if it’s a national figure). Also, it is a field that it is very difficult to get a job in. Most astronomy PhDs don’t work as astronomers. The skills we have, however, are quite useful in many fields.

      1. Sam,

        I’m just a humble Cali state employee. I’ve been in education for over twenty years and have seen my salary range from low five figures (< $30,000/yr) to low six figures. A large advantage is I have a pension, if it's still there in twenty years. I have been other things as well and there's no doubt in my mind that a technical background gives you flexibility. I was once offered a job teaching English on the spot in Southern China while I was traveling, mainly based on my technical background.

        For people who actually do astronomy (research, i.e. The Blessed Few) or even teach, salaries vary wildly. Full professors at most unis make six figures (maybe $300,000/yr at the high end), but aside from private colleges/unis, aren't they all gov't employees? Researchers are usually dependent on grant money, which is largely from NSF, NASA or even DoD. So most astronomers have a gov't connection to their pay. There are also many who are less than Full Profs, however, and they may not make much above $60,000/yr and many others work as contingent labor in part-time pools in the higher ed of our country. Others who may get decent pay have what we call "soft money," which is attached to time-limited grants and can lead to being on a brutal treadmill to keep the money coming.

        BTW, love the blog and it's my first time commenting. But then you were talking about my profession :) I have been teaching my wife, who's a neophyte investor, your mantra: "Over time, the graph goes up and to the right." I'm surprised how few of my colleagues don't understand retirement investing in spite of many having PhDs. I was at a presentation about a 403b plan (we don't get matching, sadly), and pointed out that the presenter's growth estimate (of 8%/yr) was too optimistic. The only faculty who followed this up with me were all from the Business department! Everyone else seemed to take the projections at face value.

        One thing I like about how you present things here on FS is that you remind me of how fun investing can be. Maybe if the schools approached it from that point of view, more would take it up from a young age – if they taught financial literacy at all.

  5. I don’t understand this constant infatuation with the $200k annual income number.

    I know that taxes go up as you hit higher incomes, but why $200k? In Manhattan, that is a 20-something salary and you can’t survive on that as you build a family. Also, the rates go up minimally at each level. Let’s say you are making $200k and then suddenly you start making $300k. You may pay an extra 5-6% of that extra $100k (if you count all taxes). In other words, you will still have another $60k+ in your hands at the end of the year after taxes, or $5k per month (enough for a decent 1-bdrm rental).

    It’s a strange number, imo.

    1. While it’s true that $200,000 is not that much money in Manhattan it is the sweet spot to “enough money” that provides maximum happiness in most parts of the country. You don’t have to kill yourself to earn that much. And you don’t have to pay ever increasing amounts of taxes while you are killing yourself.

      Just look back to the time when you made $50,000, $100,000 $150,000, $200,000, $300,000, $500,000, $1,000,000 etc. Can you honestly say you were much happier making $500,000 than you were when you were making $200,000? My thoughts are based off careful tax and lifestyle analysis after making all these figures. $200,000 – $250,000 is all one really needs to be happy.

      What is it that you do where you are making much more than $200,000 and what is your workload now? I think you mentioned you are 40 and looking to buy a place with your new wife in Manhattan? Maybe it’s because you haven’t started to burn out yet where you feel it’s worth making a lot more? Everybody has a different tolerance for length of work.

      In Manhattan, I would shoot for $500,000 steady state for a family of four to live very comfortably. And if you were lucky enough to buy in Manhattan 10+ years ago, then perhaps $300,000 is all you need.


  6. Middle Class Millionaire

    There are tons of police officers and sheriff’s deputies in California making well over $100k per year. In fact, there are even a few agencies that START at (or around) $100k per year.

    Santa Clara Police Department starts @ $112k per year

    San Jose Police Department starts @ $99k per year

    Berkley Police Department starts @ $94k per year

    Many other agencies all over the state (not just the bay area) start at a little less but reach $100k just after a few years of service. Just a thought for those thinking about a career in law enforcement… if you want to make six figures… look to California.

    1. I don’t think these numbers are high. They are well deserved. In fact, I would propose higher pay for police officers, fire fighters, 311 staff, 911 staff, and teachers. The higher the pay, the higher the quality of service.

      But yes, there are a lot of well paid jobs in this service work.

      1. Jack Catchem

        I agree Sam, and support the concept of higher quality of service in return for higher pay. I’m always willing to speak to my customers about the dangers of being a “life course persistent offender”, the criminological factors behind their perpetrated crime, or the exact legalities of “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” that led me to detain and arrest in the first place! However, most want to quibble over nonsensical issues and my ability to educate and inform is severely curtailed. C’est la vie.

  7. The whole Democratic party’s agenda is based on larger government to oversee the larger numbers of people on welfare, transfer millions of corporation jobs overseas NAFTA, TPP.

    Expect more welfare because all the department, plant, manufacturing, assembly jobs are no longer in our country. Expect more people to be hired as government overseers of the millions on welfare. Expect the clintons personal wealth to reach $200 million as corporations continue to pay them $500,000 for ‘a hr speech’ which is really just asking the corporation what they want to happen then modifying the laws, or putting together acting bodies to make the corporation’s wish come true.

  8. Wow that’s nuts about both of those articles. That is a crazy amount of money to go unaccounted for. And the SF budget is totally nuts too. I love SF but don’t think I’ll stay here for the long term bc it’s so expensive tax-wise and in terms of living expenses compared to so many other places.

  9. Finance Solver

    Ah football coaches.. In my college, the football coach got paid $4m+ a year. What a fantastic business to be in! A lot of misjudgments when someone says they’re a public servant for sure.

    I agree with the marginal value of an extra dollar. I don’t think happiness goes beyond $200k. Right now, I’m fighting for every extra dollar that I can bring home, but after a certain extent, I know that it’s not going to matter that much to me.

  10. Sam:

    Good details, but some of those charts conveniently stopped at year 2012. Also, most of the focus in increasing welfare — is from the period of 2008-2012 ** We all know why with the Worst Recession in history ** We all heard headline stories of laid-off Wall street bankers – going around in costly Suits, and Sports-cars — but shopping for groceries with “Food Stamps” !!

    And Worse-yet, the “PROJECTIONS” are also based convinienty on 2008 data.

    Ideally – we are just now-a-days seeing stable economy, job growth, reduced un-employment — and in a year I bet my pretty PENNY that those projections will be off by 30%-50% by the time 2016/2017 data comes out in late 2017 !!

    As economy improving (or is it ?)., not only the “Welfare” growth stops, the trend will actually “reverse” as people move from “welfare-rolls” to “Payrolls”

    I think – this article and data-points serve a point highlighting Govt spending, and (some? or lot?) its inefficient ways. But – those years/projections appear to use “convenient” time-periods.

    BTW – can you contrast with the “Govt budget” Vs the Welfare doled-out for those respective years !? Also, it be cool to know “Govt deficit due to Wars” Vs “Welfare growth” — for the “Same period” !!


    1. Check out the chart on the welfare forecast over the next 10+ years. Also compare that to the US population growth, which is not as fast. If you have any welfare charts or government spending charts to 2016 I would love to have them and I would post them up here. Thank you for your contribution

  11. I am a former Fed employee, who left a 6 figure salary and cushy situation behind b/c I felt my soul was dying.. I’ve worked in DC and in field offices around the country, and now freelance (with only about 10 years experience).

    I make slightly more money, but I work from home, control my own projects, and don’t have to punch the clock and stare at beige walls of a cubicle all day.

    Let me say this – most government employees I worked with are lazy, dumb, and unmotivated. I’m not sure they started their careers bright eyed and bushy tailed, but the way the system is set up, there is ZERO incentive to work hard – their salaries and career tracks are pretty much on a timer. Ride a desk and you’ll magically become solidly middle class.

    One thing you should know though – the old school pension is no more. That was phased out about 20 years ago and the “new” FERS retirement system is much more like a 401k, though with the lowest fees of any such program around. (Before someone corrects me, yes there is still a small pension component to FERS, but it basically is equal to a couple hundred dollars a month.)

    1. And now, all employees who have been hired since 2014, have to pay 4.4% towards that small FERS pension, a significant increase from the .8% contribution before 2013.

    2. Ouch! “lazy, dumb, and unmotivated” kind of harsh no? What department in particular? I can see how it’s hard to get motivated by only minimal raises and a very rigid promotion structure. But getting a government job seems relatively difficult (college education usually required), so not sure they can be considered mostly dumb at least.

      1. I suppose you’d think so, but I can assure you it’s not uncommon for some feds (I knew several) which do literally nothing all day – and their bosses can’t fire them, for several reasons – and who get a “3 out of 5” rating every year due to pressure from management so that OPM doesn’t come down on the agency for poor performance.

        I was in a small agency, personnel wise, but we we under the Federal Department of Transportation. Literally billions handled by our agency, annually.

        As far as how hard it is to get a job – depends upon your job code – I hold a B.A. nothing special, and had no experience in the job I applied for. I simply came in at the bottom of the journeyman level at a relatively young age, and rode the escalator up. The government in some cases prefers staff to have no training so that they can train based on their own criteria and preferences. Just my experience, anyway.

  12. I’m right there with you on your commentary, especially re: SF. However, it appears that the data in those charts about US expenditures are not per capita. That would be much for interesting – and more relevant – apropos of the above analysis on spending growth in SF. Maybe it is per capita and then shocking indeed.

  13. Very cool website. I’ve been recommending it to friends. I’m already doing several things you’ve recommended, but I’m learning a lot, too. Question for you: why don’t you put dates on your articles?

    1. Sam brilliantly re-purposes his articles by updating them often, thereby keeping his traffic reading older articles for which his time investment has already been accounted. Excellent approach with excellent results.

  14. CPA Housewife

    The true benefit of a government job is that no one looks sideways at you when you work a 40-hour work week.

    My husband is a federal worker with a six-figure salary and only twice in seven years has he had periods of long hours (they lasted for several months). Our quality of life is much better now than when we both had jobs in the financial sector.

    That said, you do have to tolerate a small percentage of dead-weight employees who don’t seem to do anything. And management can seem incredibly incompetent…but that can be said of too many places.

    1. Dead-weight employees are very common in the private sector too, which is why there is so many consistent rounds of firing.

      But yeah, quality of life seems great. A good strategy may be to make some bigger bucks in the private sector for the first 20 years, and then move into a higher government rank role the final 20 years. Seems like what a lot of people in Congress do.

  15. Sam,

    Thanks for the great post.

    I’m retiring from the Army next month. I’ve been quite lucky to have had multiple great duty stations, and great training (both military and civilian) as a physician.

    In coming to a decision for my next work experience, I’ve done quite a bit of research on whether to take a normal civilian job at a regular hospital, hire on in a military hospital as a GS employee, or take a position as a freelance contractor.

    Some helpful information for those looking at bidding on government contracts would be to look at (federal business opportunities). The opportunities listed there are impressive, and cover many different lines of work. It is free and pretty easy to obtain the designation as a sole proprietor or a business to be eligible to compete for contracts. Just go to (system for award management) and register.

    While disheartening to hear of large amounts of money unaccounted for, I am fairly encouraged that there are very real checks and balances on contracts. There are fairly strict laws on fair and balanced open competition for businesses. For individuals contractors, the laws are also clear in that total compensation for any individual can not exceed the salary of the president, or $400K. Even then, individuals need to do their research and have good market rationale for their bids for the work that is solicited.

    It turns out that the GS system, with very good benefits, would have given me the same base salary as what I will be paying myself with the contract I recently signed. I decided to go with the contract so that I would receive a 1099 and be able to utilize a solo 401(k) and maximize that as much as possible. While I won’t have any of the GS benefits, I will still be able to pay low premiums for my family for healthcare, and I won’t have any restrictions from being able to perform some moonlighting at other hospitals.

    I consider myself quite lucky, as I still get to take care of military family members full time and get paid well (quite a bit more than my current military salary).

    1. Great to hear and congrats! And you also have a pension, yes?

      That’s interesting that nobody can make more than the President.

      What is your impetus for retiring from the Army if your contract job puts you back in a similar role?


  16. There is no way a librarian is earning 78k/year. When I worked for the FL DOS in their State Library I was doing website design. This was back in 2005, but I was making $32k and librarians were making 29k for FTE. And that was on the high end; librarians elsewhere were making less than that, and sometimes a lot less.

  17. 12) Librarian – $78,665 ?!?!?!?!?!?

    Man, what a stress free job with good money. What was I thinking going the engineering route.

  18. Simple Money Man (SMM)

    Hi Sam,

    Shocking info from the charts you presented. I thought since we are out from our 2008 Recession, the jobs market is great thus people do not need welfare/food stamps as much. I heard on the radio several months back that a cause may be that there are many jobs available, but not enough qualified applicants and thus wonder if people aren’t motivated enough to enhance education/skills because they feel they can get these economic benefits anyway.

    1. SMM,
      I was thinking somewhat similarly, but then I checked out more recent data, and they confirm your impression.

      “SNAP caseloads began falling in 2014 and continued falling in 2015. SNAP caseload growth slowed substantially in 2012 and 2013, and caseloads fellby about 2 percent in 2014 and another 2 percent in 2015. For more than two years, fewer people have participated in SNAP each month than in the same month one year earlier. The number of people receiving SNAP has fallen by 2.6 million people since peaking in December 2012.[4] In 42 states, the number of SNAP participants was lower in December 2015 than in December 2012.”

      From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 2016. “SNAP Costs and Caseloads Declining”

      So SAM, it is not like you to be lazy or set up an article for clickbait, but why are you using info from 2012? There is much more recent info available, and they seem to tell a different story. In fact, your data represent the peak–the biggest distortion from the currrent state.

      1. I’ve added a more up to date chart on SNAP that shows recipients up to 2015 after digging more. The number of participants is fading, but it is still 100% higher than it was 10 years ago, and the economy is larger and stronger than then as well. So what gives?

        Also, why no mention of the trillions in fudged accounting and the huge $9.6B SF city budget? Why turn a blind eye? What is your background? thx.

        1. Thanks SAM–I am impressed by how quickly you are responding to East Coast morning comments!

          My comment was solely around the point that the data seemed to be dated, when recent data is available. I don’t dispute that the level is high–in fact, I see it as an extension of the lack of wage gowth, even as we seem to be at a point of full employment in the economy: there is something holding back the “typical” response to a shortage of labor, which includes wages and overall employment level. The overall tone of your story is not negated by using up-to-date trends.

          My background is in private industry. As a resident of the Midwest, I can only shake my head at the excesses of SF–real estate prices, taxes, wages, etc. I am no fan of the military-industrial complex, but my first response to vociferous criticism is: what would you do differently? Is the problem inherent in the size of the military? And yet, is the size needed to perform the tasks we have assigned it? Certainly, 50 state militias would have their own issues of coordination of duties and burden on border states. (think EU issues with immigration) So, the root cause is to ask what we are committing to–something I don’t think we have seriously revisited since the end of the cold war.

          1. Cool. If I could easily find more recent charts, I would have posted them. But I’m glad you and another brought up the desire for even more recent charts. I take all reader input into consideration to make the posts better after being published. That’s one of the beauties of blogging.

            My goal is to point out the government double standard of going after its citizens, but not going after itself.

            My second goal is to highlight that if you want to make money, you must follow the money. The trillions in misappropriated funds and the $9.6B SF gov’t annual budget as an example WILL be used for jobs beyond greasing people under the table. It is too hard to fight the government due to existing laws.

  19. Fiscally Free

    You constantly talk about how the internet has made access to information so easy. One of the topics it is making more accessible is government assistance programs. It’s easier than ever to sign up for welfare and food stamps, so it makes sense that more people are doing it.

    I have argued before on my site that it is kind of stupid to not sign up for these programs if you qualify. It might even make sense to go out of your way to qualify. Why work a miserable minimum wage job when the government will support you? People seem to be wising up to this, and it could get very expensive.

  20. Hey, I think it’s awesome that you’re going to be a substitute teacher. Kids need as much help as they can get.
    About the government, WTF! $6.8 trillion, oh wait $62 billion. Sounds more improper accounting. We spend way too much money on the military. Couldn’t we at least get the accounting, right?
    About the social programs, the homeless population here is increasing pretty quickly and a lot of people needs help. The cost of living is increasing too fast for the people on the edge. It’s sad and getting worse.

  21. Hi Sam!

    The process might look different for state or local government, but the vast majority of federal government contractors will be getting benefits from their contacting firms (Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, CACI, SAIC, Bearing Point, etc etc). Some benefits will be way worse (eg no pension), but some will be better (eg Feds get no paid maternity leave).

    The biggest issue with being a contractor is the lack of career advancement potential. You will be managed by Federal employees, who will move up the GS scale, while you mainly make lateral moves. IMO, you’re trading short term monetary compensation for long term comp (including a pension) and career progression. My wife is a Fed, and considered becoming a contractor early in her career. I’m glad she didn’t, as after 14 years she is now a GS 15 managing a staff of 30+ contractors.

    You listed professions, but the easier way to look at Federal salaries is to look at the GS schedule for different localities, including locality pay and potential housing allowances. There are different steps (which indicate tenure), but I want to say a GS 15 in the Northern Virginia area should be earning in the $120-140k range.

  22. I work in government…used to be in a federal agency (not listed above) and now for the state. I would say the highest paid jobs a normal person can get, sometimes working in the private sector will pay better, though the benefits of working in government are undeniable. However, for lower skill positions, I think they are much better paid than in the private sector. For ex, admin position will be paid poorly in private sector and have little job security but in government, you always get the COLA increase, the step increase…things are based on seniority not merit. In my current job, I see a lot of politics involved. You want a cushy high paying job…you better be involved in politics…know the right people, help them, donate to them, etc. Not a meritocracy either…it’s cronyism.

  23. Sam,

    Good article. However, I have to say that the contractor portion might need some additional information or edits. When you said contractor, did you mean as a 1099 independent contractor? I work for a govt contractor but work in a govt facility. So I’m a W2 employee, for a company that’s a govt contractor. That’s the most common way to be a “govt contractor”. I hardly know anyone who is a govt contractor who doesn’t get benefits, unless they’re a 1099 independent contractor with a govt contracting company and that’s rare.

    I’m 31 and made $150k last year. I also have great health benefits, 10% automatic 401k contribution (no match), 11 holidays, 4 weeks of PTO, $5250/year for tuition reimbursement, and other good perks. I work along side other contractors and civilians at a govt facility. That pay and those benefits are typical among the hundreds of small govt contractor companies in this area, too. I’m in the Baltimore/DC area.

    1. I also want to add that I started making 6 figures at 25. A friend of mine started making 6 figures at 23. It’s pretty common here.

      Think companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, SAIC, etc. but the small companies instead. The small company govt contractors seem to have better benefits and pay more than the larger ones.

    2. Bob, you’re right. Using “contractor” when there are government contractor companies like Lockheed Martin is confusing. I’ve changed the word to Freelancer.

      $150K at 31 working for a gov’t contractor is great. Is there a pension system?

      1. No pension. I’m fine with that, especially with a 10% automatic contribution to 401k. Some of the big companies still have pensions, last I checked but only a few do. There are a few companies I know of in this industry that make a 15% automatic contribution to 401k and is immediately vested. There are several that do 10% and immediately vested.

        I should also add that this is in the IT field as a Fed Govt Contractor. I’m a Sys Admin currently. And I’m not allowed to work more than 40 hours. That’s the same for everyone around here.

        There are PT jobs available though. I’m currently looking to find a company that will pay me as a 1099 and work 20 hours a week for them.

  24. Dollar Engineer

    I’m actually a contractor for the government and you’re right Sam, if I were to transition to a gov employee I would be taking a pay cut. However, I do get benefits with my company so it’s a little bit of a win-win right now.
    Great post though! Also I’ll try to make sure your tax dollars are being put to good use!

    1. Thanks! Spend my money well!

      Do you notice a different in attitudes between being a gov’t contractor and gov’t full-time employee? A contractor told me a full-timer hates him for some reason. There’s some bias against contractors/freelancers. Meanwhile, the contractor thinks the full-timers are really inefficient.

      1. Dollar Engineer

        That’s actually a pretty true point. I see many government employees that are constantly complaining about the various trainings, meetings, etc. they have to attend and the restrictions they have when they travel for work. However in many cases here, the gov employees were once contractors and decided to make the switch themselves!
        If you made the conscious choice as a contractor, sorry but that’s on you. Don’t complain to me how much easier it is for me to travel.
        I personally haven’t seen a lot of full-timers who are inefficient though. Many do a great job with the work they do, but they really enjoy complaining.

        1. I also am a contractor with the government. They hired me (through an agency) because they want me in and out as their projects demand. The government workers I am under are laughably inept, but that is not true of all of them. It feels like the same ratio of good workers to people collecting a paycheck I have experienced at every type of job I’ve ever had. I think most bureaucracies (whether corporate, government, or religious) are created to have the appearance of importance. There are very few people working or wielding power.

      2. A difference between Govt Contractor and a Civilian Fed Govt employees? Not too much really. Some civilians aren’t happy that us contractors, for the most part, are doing the same exact jobs as the civilians and getting paid so much more, so there might be a comment made about that. But civilians can easily do the same job as a contractor if they want, and vice versa. It happens all the time. There are some things contractors can’t do that civilians can, of course, like direct another civilian, make key decisions, etc. But for the most part, the job is exactly the same, just better financially.

  25. Been a long time since I’ve visited this site. I started a business that’s going well and recently quit my job as a software engineer at a defense contractor. I spent roughly a decade with defense contractors so I feel like that makes me pretty qualified to comment.

    So this article is pretty off-base. The government does salaries based on a pay scale whether you be employed by the federal govt, army, navy, air force, coast guard etc. I linked a chart below for federal employees. Also govt salaries aren’t some mystery, they’re public record. Link 2 is literally a website where you can look up people’s salaries by name.

    The idea that even a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of people who work for the govt and various branches of the military are getting big fat salaries and bonuses is crazy-talk. They get paid decently, and better than that they have good benefits. Their jobs tend to be safe almost no matter what (tough to get laid off), they get decent amounts of vacation time and generally good health care etc. But they’re not living like kings above us all, I can assure you.

    Government contractors are another story but largely more of the same. There are definitely instances in government contracting where guys are making a killing. That said, those people are usually VERY high on the org-chart. It’s the people who own the businesses that are generally the ones making off with all the money there. Usually employees are paid pretty in-line with industry standards. As a software engineer I was never offered more than I could have made if I’d moved to silicon valley and worked for… Well literally anybody. And all of my co-workers were doing roughly the same as me, it wasn’t as if I was underpaid.

    Something you have to keep in mind is the government is incredibly big. They employ millions of people. Even 1 million people making $50k per year and you’re talking $50B.

    Now take that sheer size and then add to it wastefulness that a normal business wouldn’t do. Eg a defense contractor when its contract ends will likely lay off everybody if they don’t have work for them to do. The govt will likely not be laying people off like that when they don’t need them anymore (which is one of the reasons they hire contractors, so they can fire the labor after).

    Businesses might do things to save on costs like let employees work remote because it saves on how much expensive office space they need to buy and maintain. That’s not something the govt does. You can go on and on with little slight differences like this and when you multiply it by the epic size of the Governement you end up with a HUGE number.

    Here’s my best example of what I’m talking about. Near me the jet pilots are doing training pretty much non-stop. It varies by jet but the cost of flying a jet is 10’s of thousands of dollars per hour in fuel and maintenance costs. The pilots do training maybe every couple days for a couple years I’d say before they start doing deployments on aircraft carriers.

    Do the math on that. Even if it was only $20k per jet hour, and even if pilots were only in the air twice a week for one hour (it’s WAY more than that) we’d be spending about $2m/yr to train a pilot that is only making a little over $100k/yr in salary.

    Given that we’re likely spending 10’s of millions of dollars in fuel costs to train these people you’d think they’d be pilots for life right? Well no usually after a decade of deployments or so they move on to other desk jobs within the govt.

    Now I’m OK with that because sentencing a guy to a lifetime of deployments to justify the costs of training him sounds almost cruel. But that’s the type of stuff that a business simply wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t dump $100,000,000 over a decade training an employee to fly a jet and then move him to a cubicle shuffling papers that literally anybody else could shuffle.

    “Waste” like that multiplied by the massive size of the government(millions of employees) is why everything costs so much. I think it’s way off-base to say you should aspire to be a govt employee or contractor because you see a HUGE budget number and assume it’s because of exorbitant salaries across the board. While maybe there are small instances of that for 99% of the people involved that’s simply not the case.

    1. I would say 99.9% are not involved in the siphoning of money from a mismanaged $6.8 trillion DoD budget money that went missing. And even if it was “only” $62.4 billion, only a handful of people and organizations at the very top have gained. I think you’ve misread my post, or I just need to make things more clear. It’s the same for the public blaming Wall Street for everything, when only the very top people are the decision makers and make mega millions while everything goes to hell, along with the employees.

      This is under “BEST GOVERNMENT JOBS”

      “Let me be clear that I believe the overwhelming majority of our government employees are good people. Those who serve in our military and in our foreign service are some of our finest citizens. It’s the politicians at the top who lie through their teeth to feed their egos who are the problem. Every week there seems to be a new political corruption story that makes me shake my head.”

      Perhaps I need to put this paragraph more at the top of the post given people drop off towards the bottom.

      My question to you is: Are you not wondering, or even a little angry that billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars go missing EVERY YEAR? This is your tax dollars at work, if you pay taxes. Think about how many people in need this money can help.

      1. Well I think the thing that triggered my rant is the idea that govt employees are somehow raking in cash vs commercial industry. You listed “The Highest Paying Jobs That Normal People Can Get” (which somehow didn’t have Dr on there) and then the “The Highest Paying Government Agencies” which has a much higher number for salary and it’s just misleading.

        The GS payscale I linked to tops out at $133k/yr with some slight adjustments for high cost of living areas. It takes a long time working in govt to get to the top of that payscale. I think telling people interested in early retirement that if you get into government work you might be making $120-180k/yr (like your govt pay chart suggests) anytime soon is INCREDIBLY misleading. They’re likely to be REALLY disappointed if they follow that implied advice.

        Am I angry at the money going “missing” like the article states?

        Ya absolutely. I feel like my taxes as a business owner are overly complex and I spend way too much time documenting expenses in the 10’s to 100’s of dollars range while the army is misplacing trillions on its books. No reason to not be mad about that.

        That said, when I read that article, I don’t envision people stealing money or trying to trick the public on what they’re spending. I envision an inept accounting department that just totally botched its job because it was poorly run and had no oversight. To me the scandal is how poorly run the govt is and not that they’re necessarily spending money on things they don’t want us to know about.

        1. I don’t think anybody is foolish enough to believe that they can make the average salary from the beginning. I don’t know anybody who is that entitled or clueless. Do you?

          But if you can put in a good 20 years, you’ll be under 45 and can retire with the pension. And then you can have a tremendous amount of freedom to do whatever it is you want because you have some financial stability even if you didn’t save any money, which I do not recommend.

          But I didn’t take the early retirement angle with this article. I wanted to highlight the double standard the government has regarding not being responsible with their own budget and accounting and also highlighting the various jobs one can get from the government given growing government is a long-term trend. Are you sure you’re not thinking about your own early retirement which is why you are talking about early retirement?

          I actually know a lot of government officials and a lot of government employees. Theyve told me a lot of stories. It’s not a bad career path to take. Join an industry that is growing, not one that is dying.

          Focus on big long-term trends to make more money.

          1. Federal employees aren’t eligible for pension until they turn 62. They get 1% per year served as per FERS, applied to the average of their highest 3 earning years. This is the the federal pension that was enacted since 1984. There are different rules with higher percentages for federal law enforcement.

            You also get a separate 401k equivalent called TSP. The gov will matchup to ~4% contribution. TSP has extremely low expense fees, 0.029%.


            The vast majority of Federal Employees making a killing are in DC, where there is massive grade inflation (job positions are in higher pay grades that justified). Have enough friends and you start maxing out on your pay (GS15 step 10) in your last 3 years to get your pension up.

            Other people, at the highest level of government are still getting paid shit for C level positions (Senior Executive Service in government speak). DHS can’t retain SESers because $180k isn’t worth being grilled by Congress several times a year, when you can skip on Congress and make 2x the money ripping the government off.

  26. Steve Adams

    Good luck with the teaching application process. I hope it works better then it did in Wisconsin four years ago. We had a High School teacher retire that taugh math and a couple computer programming classes. They didn’t find a replacement in time for the school year so canceled the class. I know a board member and offered to teach a section or two. They said they couldn’t do it as I didn’t have a teaching certificate. Never mind twenty years plus experience programming, a masters in engineering, teaching assistant experience while in grad school or hundreds of hours coaching kids and a willingness to work for free. The government school industry is so captive and broken it’s sad and disgusting. My money will be used to help my grand kids go to charter school or grandpa home school. :)

    1. Thanks. I’m looking at the application process now, and it is pretty damn thorough!

      Here are the Minimum Qualifications of being a substitute teacher:

      * Have a current credential or be eligible for 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit (CBEST & B.A). The 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit is valid for one year, and allows substitutes to teach a single assignment for no more than 30 working days. We encourage applicants to complete the 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit application, but have our Credential Office submit and mail the application to the Commission on Teaching Credential after being hired . This allows the District to issue hired substitutes a Temporary County Certificate, a permit that enables substitutes to work immediately while his or her 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit to be reviewed and approved, a process that typically takes two months. Click here to review: 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit.

      * Have a Bachelor’s degree

      * Have a passing score on the California Basic Skills Test or ACT and/or SAT. Sign up to learn more about the basic skills requirements here: Basic Skills Requirement Information

      * Have a negative TB test administered within 60 days of hire

      * Be available for assignments at least once a week, particularly on Mondays and Fridays

      * Be flexible and willing to work all SFUSD schools, particularly at our Hard to Staff schools

      After you are hired:

      * Upon HR review, a member of the Recruitment Team will contact you to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting and paperwork. You will also receive an email from HR informing you of the steps you will need to complete prior to starting.
      Employment is contingent upon fingerprint clearance, reference checks, credential compliance, and completion of all necessary hiring paperwork

      * All potential employees will be required to complete the following:
      a) Fingerprinting/background check
      b) Verification of authorization to work in the United States
      c) Negative TB results (within 60 days of hire)
      d) Official undergraduate and graduate college/university transcripts (official transcripts are transcripts bearing an official signature and/or the embossed seal)

      Remaining on the Substitute List

      To remain on the substitute list, substitute teachers must:

      1) Work at least one day per week or a minimum of 36 days per school year

      2) Have a valid and active credential. Employees must renew their credential when expired

      3) Have a current negative TB test result on file, (updated every 4 years)

      Hmmmmm……… why is it so hard to try and help? I guess this is a good thorough entrance process because you don’t want a crazy fella to teach your kids things, or worse, do harm to your kids. The certification is what I need to look at as well.

      Given the pay is low, I can see why some people just don’t bother to try. Maybe I can just be a Guest Teacher/Lecturer instead. Seems so much easier.

      So that’s the solution, if the city/state governments can make it easier for more people to teach/substitute/be mentors, more people will! Ah, so simple. Just look at Uber and Lyft “instahiring” so many drivers after electronic backgrounds checks. Unfortunately, some nefarious people have slipped through the system.

      1. I’m on the other side of the computer right now clearing substitute teachers. It’s a hard process and there are tons of regulations, but many are there for good reason. Curious what substitute teacher pay is out there? Keep in mind to be a “guest” in a school often requires some type of Board approval too. And there are reasons for that… I teach Education Law and if you got a hold of some cases and checked them out it would make more sense. And if you are thinking about lecturing (or adjuncting) at a college – it can pay less than a substitute teacher at many places.

        1. Through the application process I’ve discovered it is very difficult to become a substitute teacher! Check out the comment where I highlight all the requirements.

          I’m obviously not in it for the money. Substitute teachers hard to get paid don’t have many hours. But I wanted to look into it in order to try to help my community. But I’m realizing there is so much bureaucracy To get these positions that many people just don’t even bother.

          1. In SC you just had to have a HS diploma and pass a background check, but the schools also don’t expect the subs to teach anything for $55 a day.

  27. “Further, if the public sidewalk outside your property is cracked, you must pay to fix it too.”

    San Francisco doesn’t even maintain their SIDEWALKS?! That. Is. Insane. And this is coming from a Canadian who is all too familiar with high taxes, but at least they maintain our sidewalks!

    1. Todd Guthrie

      I heard a while ago that San Francisco has no schedule or budget for repaving the streets, in the same way that other municipalities do as part of their regular maintenance. When the streets do happen to be repaved, it is by the utilities, after digging them up, but no additional maintenance is ever performed.
      Not sure how true it is, but there definitely are a lot of potholes in some areas.

      1. Jack Catchem

        Los Angeles is so far behind, they have largely given up. The wait list is decades long.

  28. The Green Swan

    Man, what a post. I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or crying while reading (don’t worry, I wouldn’t actually cry). There was some humor and then there was some hard truth. I am not a government employee and I too am skeptical of many government systems (kind of like I’m skeptical of our healthcare industry!) However, on the flip side I offer no solution or counter action. Thanks for a great and powerful read today.

  29. Before choosing a career path, one should know themselves well enough.

    Let me expand a little:
    There is a psychological test called DISC (can be found online for free). It helps you determine your personality – D – dominant, I – influencer, S – stability, C – control (rules) .

    The DISC personality types usualy come in pairs: DI, SC, etc.

    Therefore, if you want a job where you have to speak alot, inspire others – DI is a perfect fit.

    For accountants, C is an awesome trait to have. Getting those numbers right, checking every small detail.

    Know yourself. Choose a suitable path. Stick to it!

    P.S. A fine post, Mr. Samurai, thank you!

  30. What GS level were you looking at when you described average government worker’s salaries? It really depends on that.
    I myself am trying to become a government ecologist (what a weird job title). I graduated over two years ago with a master’s degree and am just now being hired into that field as a technician (not even an ecologist yet) – but I only make about $34k/year right now. I’d love to make $76k/year!

    1. You have choose to be hired in a lower position than an ecologist. I got hired as a GS-7 back in 2001 and made $34,000. Granted I was in the NYC cola area so it was higher but $34k is entry level support and not something I’d expect someone with a masters to apply for.

    2. Once you’re in you can move around/ up very easily. I took a GS-9 to start and was a GS-13 when I retired, 4 years later. Moved agencies/ jobs when I was not promoted. If you’re even marginally intelligent and motivated you can make it happen.

  31. My mother works for the state of Massachusetts and is constantly complaining about their mismanaged spending. That said, she’s a social worker and does feel like she’s making a difference in her clients’ lives. She feels like she makes more of an impact by being part of the system. I don’t know what the answer is. Many government organizations need a complete restructuring, but is it fair to take away what’s been promised to the workers?

    1. It’s not fair to take away what’s been promised to the workers. It’s the people like your mother who make a difference in directly helping people most at need. We should pay your mother, teachers, and other public employees more.

      We should also hold the people at the TOP and our politicians to a higher standard so they have better fiscal discipline. Do not promise what cannot be promised. Do not spend money that you do not have. Do no railroad people or lie.

      Let’s be ACCOUNTABLE for the $6.8 trillion in mismanaged DoD funds. Come on. That figure is RIDICULOUS! Even $62.4 billion is ridiculous every year. With $62.4 billion, we could give 1.25 MILLION social workers $50,000 raises EACH YEAR.

      I really want everybody, including government employees to recognize that the people at the top are not doing their jobs. This double standard of looking the other way, but going after regular folks for peanuts has to stop.

  32. The military contractors are the biggest cause of concern for military budget overruns. If you think a low paid soldier fighting overseas is pocketing money from the military budget, you are dreaming. The federal government will be giving $4 billion alone each year ($1 billion increase) just to Israel in the new contract and other countries get lots of US tax money money too (Colombia, Egypt) and I’d rather see at least some of that money spent domestically (on poorest school districts in country for one), but you don’t see mainstream media complaining about those amounts.

    Secondly, San Francisco has high taxes because it can. Governments have learned that it’s difficult to highly tax businesses because they can always leave along with the jobs they provide (and businesses usually do leave if taxes become onerous). But people–people who love an area don’t like leaving. If you have a city like San Francisco, with tons of wealthy people, especially in the never-ending tech sector, then they can tax those wealthy people more. If the people don’t like it, they can move. Some move (like NYers who move to Jersey to avoid city earnings taxes) but usually another wealthy person takes their place in some other high end job so no tax revenue is lost. I know San Francisco has a big homeless problem and rent prices keep skyrocketing which can lead to more homelessness so I imagine some of those monies are going to alleviate the problem. I know Hawaii for instance who also has a huge homeless population has to spend money on one-way tickets for homeless that want to go home (many tried to make it with a job, couldn’t, and remained as homeless due to temperate climate).

    If you think all the taxes are going to peoples salaries then by all means, you should take a $55k job working for the city. Please tell us how it is.

    1. I’m not dreaming. Where does the article say a low paid soldier fighting overseas is pocketing the money? That’s projecting Tara.

      “Its going into the pockets of the government employees charged with handling the budget in the form of under the table money, salaries and bonuses and the pockets of companies that receive defense contracts.”

      And if this is not the case, where do you think the $6.8 trillion or “only” $62.4 billion are going every year that can be used to employ 1.3 million social workers each year with $50,000 a year salaries, shelter the homeless, and provide training and aid to those most in need? Why are we not holding people at the top, who are responsible for managing the budget and doling out contracts responsible?

      “San Francisco has high taxes because it can.” – Your reasoning is great. Which is why I am encouraging people to make less and move. To take it down a notch and live life more.

      Regarding salaries, did you miss the entire section below with jobs that pay more than $50,000? If so, check it out. There’s a lot of information out there.

      What is it that you do Tara? I’m intrigued.

    2. You might look more closely into the Israel deal you referenced.

      In the old deal, 26% (I bellieve) had to be spend domestically in the US as a subsidy for McDonnell Douglas and others. In the new deal, after 5 years, it gets progressively more skewed to being 100% spent in the US (i.e. 3.7 billion to be spent exclusively on US Defense products). Forgetting about the amounts is all the free return R&D the US gets out of the deal. I’d contrast that with a lot of other aid that the US doles out that gets frittered away in a pile of graft and/or never reaching its intended beneficiaries. The US gets quite a lot of bang for its buck in terms of the aid package to Israel. Besides its less than 2% of Israels GDP…they dont specifically need it, but the deal benefits both sides and makes things easier all around.

      Just saying.

  33. You see it all the time in corporate America. Over time, organizations grow larger, more bureaucratic, mired in red tape and sluggish. Investors get irritated and bring someone in to reorganize, chop heads, and start all over again. That never happens in government, right?

    I keep wondering what’s the natural mechanism to keep the government lean and mean when it just keeps increasing in size and bureaucracy?

    Also, related to your charts above showing the increased dependence of the population on welfare and other government services, I wonder if that is just the baby boomer population “retiring” into poverty because they did not save enough during their working years?

    Nice article with lots of food for thought!

    1. I actually have ask many 65+ year olds on the golf course and in the public parks where I pay tennis about their retirement savings. Almost all of them have told me they didn’t save much because they were promised a pension, which they are now receiving. That’s logical to not save extra as a result. The problem lies in the underfunding of pensions and Social Security, again due to mismanagement and errors in forecasting.

      Those 65+ should be fine. But for those 45 and under……. relying on future promises, I would NOT bet your golden years on being taken care of. Instead, save more money and invest on your own. Best to wind up with too much than too little.

        1. I don’t have a problem with government pensions as long as they are fully funded. The problem, as the article makes clear, is that they are rarely fully funded. This means that somebody in the future will need to pay to bring the pension up to full funding status. The alternative (cutting pension benefits) is almost impossible to make happen, due to the strength of the lobbying from the various unions.

    2. Governments, like all institutions, exist to grow. Moreover, due to government taxing the productive and subsidizing the unproductive to have kids this problem is only going to get worse. Only 53% of the country pays income tax. The other 47% have every incentive to vote for as programs as possible because they don’t pay for it. What is the solution you might ask? 1) (As Sam mentioned) You can make less, you can move to countries that have more favorable government incentives/policies. As long as we live in welfare states/democracy these same problems will eventually arise.

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