Regulators! Get Paid.

By Jamelle Bouie

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to learn this, but both House and Senate Republicans have proposals on the floor to cut President Obama’s proposed 1.4 percent pay raise for federal civilian workers. House Republicans argue that the raises — which would cost approximately $2 billion in 2011 — are necessary to getting the budget deficit under control. What’s more, this push to eliminate the federal pay raise has picked up steam among conservative stars. Rep. Michelle Bachmann actually introduced the first bill to eliminate Obama’s proposed raise, and Rep. Eric Cantor has picked up the torch. Indeed, if you google “federal pay raises, conservatives” you’ll find quite a few conservatives lambasting the fact that federal employees are paid so much.

Of course, federal workers are only paid “too much” if you fail to take into account the fact they tend to be both more highly educated and have more experience than their private sector counterparts. When you control for both, the private/federal pay differential makes perfect sense.

It’s worth saying that in my marginally more favorable perfect world, federal employees — particularly those in regulatory positions — would receive significant pay increases. In the battle between regulators and the regulated, the latter have the distinct advantage of being able to offer a lot of money. In the finance sector especially, the pay differential is so huge that it makes little sense for someone with a head for finance to work in government. Which, as we’ve seen, is a real problem. Of course, the federal government will never be able to match the private sector in terms of compensation. But it’s possible that more pay could lure some of those kids away from Wall Street, and into the welcoming arms of Uncle Sam.