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Where’s Waldo at Club Fed?

By: Senator Joni Ernst and Adam Andrzejewski

Government bureaucrats are slowly returning to the office after three years of working remotely. Washington, D.C. has the highest work-from-home rate in the country, and the mayor is angry because the city is a ghost town.

Despite empty government cubicles, President Joe Biden tucked a 5.2% pay raise for the 1.4 million employees of executive agencies into his proposed budget. That would be the single largest pay hike for the Swamp since 1980.

They don't call it Club Fed for nothing.

According to newly released data obtained from the Biden administration via the Freedom of Information Act, these same bureaucrats are already collectively making $1.2 million a minute, $72 million an hour, and over $576 million a day. And that's just the cash compensation cost to taxpayers!

Last year, the average salaries for employees at 109 of Washington's 125 agencies were over $100,000 per year. And the lucrative perks included 44 days of paid time off "earned" after just three years on the job—nearly nine full weeks paid to sip margaritas on the beach.

It's long past time to review the "cost effectiveness gap" at the Swamp's manifold agencies and ask why federal employees are paid so much to deliver so little in the way of results.

For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is supposed to ensure the safety and soundness of our banking system. 5,800 employees and auditors at the FDIC make an average annual salary of nearly $160,000. With the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and headlines pointing to a fragile and distressed banking system, are taxpayers really getting what they're paying for?

Then, there are the little-known agencies, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, where the top-paid executives make close to $176,300. The commission is charged with helping pull residents out of poverty in 423 counties across 13 states. However, since the agency was created in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson, only four counties have attained that goal.

Besides high salaries, there were the 1 million bureaucrats who received $1.5 billion in bonuses, after a whopping 99% of federal employees were rated "fully successful." That's not even plausible.

As the COVID-19 pandemic waned in 2021, Congress established a $570 million federal worker relief fund. The half-billion-dollar program provided paid leave for federal workers who had children not yet back for in-person schooling. Eligible bureaucrats could earn up to $21,000 over 15 weeks.

One of our Senate offices, alongside the other's private organizational auditors, are now demanding answers to three existential questions posed by the reality of the modern federal workforce. Who is working? Where are they? And, most importantly, what are they doing?

Taking stock of the administrative state is difficult: The Biden administration just redacted the names of a whopping 350,861 rank-and-file federal workers from the Fiscal Year 2022 payroll disclosure. And it isn't that these are all intelligence officers or spies; by comparison, in the final fiscal year of the Obama administration (FY 2016), only 2,300 names were redacted.

The administration also redacted 281,656 employee work locations. So, we can't accurately map the Swamp because it's a literal game of "Where's Waldo?" when it comes to the modern administrative state.

Again, we aren't complaining about names or locations redacted from the National Security Administration, the Pentagon, or the Central Intelligence Agency, where there is a legitimate secrecy shield for national security.

The Biden administration is deliberately hiding key information on hundreds of thousands of regular employees within the alphabet-soup of agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Education, and so on.

We estimate that roughly $36 billion in salary and bonus compensation is hidden from oversight. We don't yet know who, what, where, or how much. But we plan to find out.

All of which raises the question: Are these federal workers actually working, and what is their real value for the American taxpayer?

Joni Ernst of Red Oak is Iowa’s junior senator in the U.S. Senate. Adam Andrzejewski is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit


As published in Newsweek.