We are now less than two weeks away from hitting our debt ceiling, and Republicans have vowed not to expand the limit unless the Democrats agree to some serious spending cuts.
One of the places where cuts could happen is in the Federal workforce. A new analysis by USA Today shows as of last fall there are nearly 18,000 Federal employees who make over $180,000 a year. That's up from about 800 workers in 2005.
Even with that high number - it's still only about 1% of the more than two million people on the Federal payroll. So who are these high-paid employees?
Well for starters, two-thirds are men and about 90% are at least 40 years of age. About 80% of them are doctors including nearly 13,000 physicians at the Veterans Health Administration. But don't expect those positions to be part of any planned cuts, besides being political suicide to go after veterans' benefits.
The number of visits to VHA facilities has skyrocketed to more than 70 million last year, with the number of service-related injuries jumping by 39 % since 1990.
The National Institutes of Health also employs about 579 doctors who research cures for all kinds of diseases.
Attorneys were the next largest group of Federal workers making at least $180,000 a year, nearly 600 of which come from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
So let me get this straight— the agency which let Bernie Madoff slip through the cracks for years pays out more than $107 million in salaries every year? And Chair Mary Schapiro has been saying for the last few months that her agency doesn't have enough money to properly police the financial industry.
I think she'll be hard-pressed to find a sympathetic ear on Capitol Hill. This data by the paper doesn't include the White House, most of the Legislative Branch, or some agencies such as the CIA. Don't even get me started on salaries for our fearless leaders in Congress.
Meanwhile, the House has passed Paul Ryan's budget plan, which calls for a 10%cut in the Federal workforce within three years. But the Heritage Foundation points out the cuts will have to come in the middle income and skill level - where the public salaries are often times much higher than their private counterparts.
I do understand that salaries have to be at least somewhat competitive with the private sector or no one would work for the government... especially in those higher-level jobs.
But this country is practically bankrupt. When a company in the private sector faces the same situation - they cut back on pay.
It's time Washington finally followed suit.
Gerri Willis is the host of "The Willis Report" (6 & 9PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers. Click here to see more from Gerri Willis.