Recently the Center for Media and Democracy released “Exposed: America’s Highest Paid Government Workers,” a report highlighting how taxpayers subsidize huge salaries and benefits for very wealthy CEOs of private companies that have taken over public services.
As noted in the report, contrary to their promises to run public services “better, faster and cheaper” than the government, these CEOs instead use public dollars to cut corners when it comes to public health and safety while the corporations the run provide them with exorbitant compensation packages.
So let’s meet three of America’s highest paid “government workers.”
- Ron Packard, of K12 Inc., America’s highest paid “teacher.” As CEO, Packard made more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, despite the alarming fact that only 28 percent of K12 Inc. schools met state standards in 2010-2011 compared to 52 percent of public schools. K12 reportedly reached a $7 million agreement to settle a class action suit bought by shareholders over the firm’s failure to disclose its high dropout rates and poor performance.
- George Zoley, America’s highest paid “corrections officer” and CEO of private prison giant GEO Group. To help Zoley rake in $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012, GEO Group writes language into private prison contracts that force taxpayers to keep prisons full or else pay for empty beds. GEO Group has faced hundreds of lawsuits over prisoner deaths, assaults, excessive force and more, which result in secret court settlements.
- Richard Montoni, America’s highest paid “caseworker.” As CEO of Maximus, a firm that handles government services for poor and vulnerable residents, Montoni made more than $16 million off of taxpayers between 2008 and 2012. In 2013, Maximus landed in hot water for improper billing in Wisconsin. In 2007, Maximus paid $30 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into fraudulent billing.
As noted by AFSCME President Lee Saunders, despite their exorbitant compensation packages, the CEOs mentioned above aren’t the “government employees” politicians love to use as punching bags when they talk about what’s wrong with government.
But the politicians and pundits I mentioned earlier don’t complain about CEOs like Nicholas Moore. They prefer to talk about public service workers like nurses, librarians, and emergency service workers. These folks aren’t highly paid. The average AFSCME unionized public service worker makes $45,000 each year. They also earn an average pension of $19,000 a year, and for roughly one third of public service workers this is the only retirement security they have because they are not allowed to participate fully in Social Security benefits as public service workers.
That kind of wage and retirement package is a ladder to the middle class for millions of American families. (And by the way, isn’t that the whole point of unionization? To grow the middle class?) But $45,000 a year is hardly lavish. Nor is a $19,000 pension breaking the bank.
As the nation seeks to understand the causes and solutions of income inequality, the recent trend of outsourcing public services to for-profit corporations should be a focus of study. We’ve allowed huge corporations to assume control of our schools, roads, prisons and libraries. In return, a few CEOs pocketed millions from taxpayers, as many workers at the bottom saw their wages and benefits gutted. Even America’s highest paid “teacher” ought to admit that’s a disastrous equation.