Look there (dscn3630.jpg)

Oscar Wilde Samuel Johnson* got it half-right: Patriotism is indeed one of the last refuges of a scoundrel, but bashing government employees is also a favorite refuge for those seeking to draw attention away from their own actions. Witness the case of the infamous Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), who recently ordered up yet another Whoopeee! Let’s Race to the Bottom! report and got the arch-conservative-talking-points-distributing Moonie Times to push it for him:

About 77,000 federal employees across the United States — including lawyers, air traffic controllers, medical personnel and information technology specialists — had higher salaries in 2009 than the governors of the states they worked in, a new report shows.

The data from the Congressional Research Service could add fuel to a debate on Capitol Hill about whether the salaries and benefits of federal workers are too high compared with their counterparts in the private sector. The study was first reported by the Washington Times.

The information was requested by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has argued that federal workers should be paid less as the government seeks ways to rein in its deficit.

Let’s set aside the utter silliness of the idea that state legislatures and not the United States Congress and Senate should be dictating Federal salaries. (Gee, are there any other Congressional powers that Senator Coburn thinks should be given away to the states?)

Let’s also set aside the fact that Coburn has this upside down: The study shows that states don’t pay their governors enough. Governors must deal with lobbyists who themselves make far more than the governors do, and whose employers have CEOs who make millions. That’s just not right — no CEO should be making more than the governor of a state, much less the President of the United States.

Let’s even set aside the fact that the doctors and lawyers and air traffic controllers Coburn’s bashing are all people at the very tops of their pay scales, often in high-cost localities (much of Colorado, for instance, has extremely high costs of living, on par with New York City and San Francisco). Furthermore, these are people who in most cases had to work many, many years to get to these pay grades. Considering that Federal salaries top out well under $160,000 a year even in high-cost localities (and that’s only after ten or more years of service) and many new doctors and lawyers have well over $250,000 in college student loan debts alone (debts which are almost impossible to discharge via bankruptcy), what Coburn is doing is telling the best and the brightest new doctors and lawyers that he doesn’t want them working for Uncle Sam.

Let’s look at the interesting timing of this report.

Funny how Coburn decided to order this up just as the legal heat’s being turned up on his good buddy John Ensign — heat that’s starting to scorch Coburn himself:

Hampton’s attorney testified that Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Hampton and Ensign, and that the role included proposing specific resolutions.

On May 22, 2009, the report states, Hampton’s attorney spoke with Coburn on three occasions.

In addition to the letter to the Department of Justice, the Senate committee sent another referral letter to the Federal Election Commission, stating that Ensign and others might have violated laws under that agency’s jurisdiction.

Hey, if I had something like that staring me in the face, I’d probably try to distract attention from it too.

*Thanks, MFI!

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post and Mercury Rising.)