If you have never seen a pay study at work, it’s probably because you have never worked in government before.

Here’s how it goes: A department or agency gets a notion in its head that its workers are underpaid. So it hires a consultant who spends about a year finding a yardstick that proves it.

A corrective program is put into place and pretty soon everyone is making more money. Everyone except Joe Taxpayer, that is.

We have never seen a government pay study yet that has come to the opposite conclusion — that everyone needs a pay cut.

It’s about time we did.

While the bitter pill of austerity has been forced upon state and local government workers over the past two years — in the form of pay freezes, furlough days and lost jobs — federal employees have been immune to the recession.

No, check that … they have continued to prosper as if there isn’t a blessed thing wrong with the economy.

While private-sector wages and benefits have stagnated since 2008, federal employment and pay has increased apace.

Meaning, as the federal government has gone deeper and deeper into debt, it has continued to hire more and more people at higher and higher cost.

In fact, federal civil servants have received pay and benefit increases larger than private employees for each of the past nine years.

As a result, the gap between total average federal and private employment pay has doubled over the past decade, going from $30,415 to $61,998 in 2009, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The average federal employee now earns pay and benefits totaling $123,049, according to the bureau. The average state and local government employee nationwide receives pay and benefits of $69,913, and the average private-sector employee gets a relatively paltry $61,051.

This is partly because federal benefits are wildly more generous, averaging $41,791 compared to $10,589 for private-sector workers.

Those benefits range from generous pensions to employer-sponsored day care.

Public employee unions generally credit the pay gap to what they say are higher average levels of skill and education required for federal jobs.

However, a detailed analysis by the Heritage Foundation found otherwise.

In fact, in most high-skilled positions — such as lawyers, accountants and scientists — federal workers earn salaries comparable to or even less than private-sector workers.

It is within the vast bulk of federal employees — the paper-pushers, bureaucrats, assistants and secretaries — that the pay gap between federal and state workers is the widest.

Then there are the remarkable benefits above and beyond wages. For instance, federal employees with 30 years of service can retire at 56 years of age with full benefits.

Federal employees can also enroll in a Thrift Savings Plan, similar to a 401(k), and receive matching contributions of up to 5 percent of their pay.

From vacations to sick leave to group life insurance to help with student loan repayments, federal benefits exceed what private employers offer.

Which brings us to the point: the pay study. With American workers losing jobs, pay and benefits, we desperately need a pay study that truly aligns federal jobs with those in the private sector.

Otherwise, we will end up with even more of what we have now — a privileged group of government employees living far better lives than they people they are supposed to serve.

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