The Corner

Economy & Business

In California, 220,000 Public Employees Earn Six-Figure Salaries

California’s liberals are infamous for railing against the top 1 percent and the income inequality that has supposedly plagued our economic system. Democratic governor Jerry Brown assured his colleagues in this year’s State of the State address that “California has not been passive” on the issue of income inequality. Just last week, voters passed Proposition 55, which extended — for twelve years — Brown’s tax increase on high-income earners, redistributing the wealth to help fund public schools and health insurance. But as California endlessly passes progressive laws that are intended to combat wealth inequality, public employees rake in lucrative salaries. In 2015, 220,000 public employees earned six-figure salaries, costing taxpayers $35 billion. Some of these employees earned salaries north of $400,000.

It’s not only public-sector executives who make these sizable salaries. Open the Books, a non-profit dedicated to disclosing government spending, found that 171 assistant city managers earned an average salary of $201,550 (in other words, some of California’s assistant city managers were in the top 6 percent of income earners nationwide). In the City of Riverside, not one, but two, assistant city managers made over $200,000. What’s more absurd is the income of their bosses: City managers in nine cities, including Escondido, Fremont, Napa, Ontario, and Palm Springs, made over $300,000, two of which (Escondido and Fremont city managers) cleared $400,000.

Other noteworthy high-income earners in the public sector were the “motor coach operators” and the “animal collection curators” who earned over $100,000, the lifeguard supervisors who made $250,000, the Los Angeles harbor-boat-pilots who made $483,000, and the city librarians who made $220,000. And the list goes on.

If four in ten California residents are living in or near poverty, and the progressive ideology is to redistribute the wealth as widely as possible, why are 220,000 public-sector employees earning these substantial government-funded salaries that place them in the top 25 percent of salary-earners nationally.

Unfortunately, California isn’t the only state where government-employees earn eye-popping salaries.

Open the Books found that in Illinois, 50,000 public employees earned six-figure salaries, costing taxpayers $8 billion. Republican Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has said that the state is “broke” — this level of largesse could be one reason why that’s the case. But that didn’t stop Rauner from hiring a personal assistant for his wife at a salary of $100,000.

Many of the same public employees who rail against our nation’s top income-earners are in fact top income-earners themselves. Hillary Clinton, who gave a speech on income inequality while wearing a Giorgio Armani jacket worth $12,495, may have been an extreme example, but she’s hardly the only prominent hypocrite.

Austin YackAustin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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