Congress and the president have been outspoken about the bonuses and salaries paid to officials of companies who received bailout money through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In fact, the feds have imposed salary limits on top officials at firms that fell into the safety net designed to save their bacon.

Their reasoning: Why reward individuals at entities that are mired in red ink?

In the words of the president, he doesn't want taxpayers subsidizing excessive compensation packages. He also noted in the midst of an economic crisis it's in bad taste to award lucrative increases in pay levels. As so often happens with the federal government, what's good for the goose apparently isn't good for the gander.

While the elected officials have been garnering well-timed sound bytes beating up on the private sector, they have apparently turned their backs on a level of salary inflation in the federal employee ranks that is literally unprecedented. And, at the same time, the federal government is racking up debt at a rate destined to paralyze future generations.

It would appear the same standards of punishment for managing a dysfunctional budget operation do not apply in the public sector.

Why else would the number of federal employees making six-figure incomes be skyrocketing in the midst of one of the worst recessions to hit this country in seven decades?

Latest reports indicate a whopping 19 percent of those on the federal payroll are being paid north of $100,000, not including overtime and bonuses.

Based upon federal figures, in the defense department, for example, the number of individuals making more than $150,000 per year jumped from 1,868 in December of 2007 to 10,100 in June of 2009.

At the beginning of the recession, there was only one person in the U.S. Department of Transportation making more than $170,000 per year - now there are 1,690.

The average federal worker is paid $71,206 according to the Office of Personnel Management. In the private sector that number is $41,331.

The OPM, according to USA Today, tracks the salaries of two million federal workers not including Congress, the White House, the Postal Service, intelligence agencies or military personnel.

Their figures show 382,758 individuals earning more than $100,000. There are 66,538 above $150,000 and 22,157 making more than $170,000.

The message from the nation's capitol regarding pay inflation in the midst of a recession would make a good deal more sense if federal officials were practicing what they preach.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the East Oregonian editorial board, comprised of Associate Publisher Kathryn Brown, General Manager Wendy DalPez, Managing Editor Skip Nichols, Editor Daniel Wattenberger and Senior Reporter Dean Brickey. Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of the East Oregonian.

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