Not So “Good Enough” – On the need for competitive compensation & benefits in government

Let’s assume for a moment that you are an entrepreneur. Or the CEO of an existing successful business. What are your goals going forward for the next year? Five years? Ten years?
What about the people you want to attract, and recruit to come work for you? What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you want them to have? Are “average” performers good enough?  
What kinds of things can you, or should you, try to offer prospective employees in order to both compete with other employers, and to assure you have the very best chance of success and of meeting your customers’ expectations (recalling and paraphrasing the words of Peter Drucker, that the only reason an organization exists, is to meet its customers’ expectations)?
In the private sector, firms from Costco to Google offer competitive wages and benefits. While people sometimes complain about the cost of a latte at Starbucks, it is important to note that Starbucks is a rare employer in providing health insurance to part-time employees. They also provide free four-year tuition to get a bachelors degree through a partnership with Arizona State University. Companies like 3M and Gore encourage innovation, giving employees the incentive to use some of their work time to explore innovative ideas.  
What then, should be the practice of government, with regard to compensation, career advancement, and benefits? I have heard some argue that government has no market share issues since it is a monopoly, and that there are no shareholders to please (for those who think shareholder value is the primary concern in an economic market). My response is that Congress is the driver of “market share” decisions for government. If customers- citizens- are unhappy with government service, then agency funding will be cut or even eliminated. There are, in fact, powerful incentives for government to do its best for us all.
With regard to compensation, career advancement, and benefits, government has long been at a disadvantage. Salaries for many jobs, have never been comparable to those of the private sector. Significant advantages in government recruiting have come from comparative job security, advancement based both on adequate performance and seniority, and a very good package pension and health benefits portable (not for free, it is important to note) into retirement under most circumstances.  
So if we recognize that government needs to be competitive to attract, hire, and retain great employees, why would an administration propose significant cuts in both compensation and benefits? A business short on funds might have to do “more with less” and let people go. Government has the responsibility to deliver the goods and services citizens make clear they need and want. From defense, to interstate highways, to safe food and drugs.  
Why, we must ask of our leaders, would they propose significantly damaging the government’s ability to recruit, hire, and retain competent, capable, and willing employees? The possible coherent narratives to explain this all seem to suggest an intention counter to building a highly effective and stable workforce. 

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