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Want boat sales? Target public employees!

It’s a New Year, so I want to start off with a clean slate by getting something off my chest. All across this nation, people are spending less. Just about the only group that hasn’t gotten that message is our elected officials in Washington. They’re blowing every last penny of taxpayer resources, then borrowing trillions more and blowing that money, too!

But it’s not just in Washington. Oh, no — it’s in states and municipalities, too! Public employees — you know, the ones rumored to work for you and me – are living better than ever. The facts are, if you’re a government worker, you’re pay level is soaring, your benefits are superior and you don’t have to worry much about layoff. Not bad compared to the rest of us private sector types just struggling to pay bills and keep our businesses open.

This really bugs me. The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during this Great Recession. Federal employees with salaries greater than $100,000 jumped from 14 percent to 19 percent of civil servants during this recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted, according to a recent study of federal salary data done by USA TODAY. The conclusion: Federal workers are enjoying a boom time in pay and hiring during a recession that has wiped out 7.3 million private sector jobs.

 At one time, public employees would earn lower salaries than the private sector but that was balanced out by a much better retirement program and more paid days off. Now, they get higher average pay, far higher benefits, more days off and other fringes. Today, the average federal worker’s pay is $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector. Only 21 percent of private workers enjoy a defined-benefit pension, but 84 percent of state and local workers still get DB plans. Moreover, public employees have obtained reduced work schedules that trim public services. Still, pay and benefits go higher!

 While Congress and state governments impose tax increases and service cuts, public-sector workers just keep gobbling up money. Not surprising, the highest-paid federal employees do the best, according to the USA TODAY research. Like, Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to a whopping 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available. Or, when the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more; 18 months later the number with salaries above $170,000 was 1,690. Incredible!

Public-sector unions have been thriving as politicians show little incentive to say no to demands. Unionized government workers are now nearly five times more than in the private sector. In fact, in 2009, for the first time, public workers comprised more than half of all union members in the nation.

 All this while the nation’s small businesses in general, and our boating industry in particular, can’t get any needed credit and financing but face increased taxes and regulatory restrictions. I can’t help but remember political accusations on the last campaign trail that our country had become a two-tiered society. I didn’t buy it, then. But, guess what — now that I think about it, I was wrong. We apparently do have a two-tiered society. It’s all the government employees . . . and, then, the rest of us! Well, at least we now see who we should target with our boat ads and promotions.

 There, I’ve said it . . . I feel better . . . I can move on to 2010. Happy New Year.


35 comments on “Want boat sales? Target public employees!

  1. Comrade Karl

    Great report & it exposes another gasoline soaked log being thrown on the funeral pire of capitalism & private business. The government now looks at us as the cash cows not to be feed & milked like a golden goose but to be slaughtered- you remember that cows are a leading producer of methane gases, so they must think killing us is a win/win.
    Vote this fall for some real change. Get active now or get run over…… How about this global warming weather???

  2. capt charlie

    What is this, political One party got us into this mess and the other continues the carnage. By now, any master of the obvious is aware that both parties are stacked with morons. We’re here for Marine Business info. If we want political info, we’d be on fox/msnbc/cnn news.

  3. GTO

    Dear Norm,
    Your comment …”this really bugs me” totally misses the mark. You should be outraged. This c _ _p
    has been going on for years. This country needs a total housecleaning and we Americans should wake up and take care of it; locally, statewide and federally in the upcoming elections; especially the 2012 national election.


  4. Chris A

    While I agree that public emploee pay should be realtive to private employees. Part of the reason our economy moves at all right now is because these employees have disposable income. I disagree with the state employees statement My wifes family has several state employees in it and all of them recived pay cuts and reduced benfits this year.
    I find thisparty line anti union argument almost as moronic as the midwest boat dealers who would complain about the unions in the past. With out auto unions and other manufactuering unions the midwest would have a marine retail market half the size of what it is. I had a friend who worked in a Searay dealer for a while in Ohio he stated that almost 45% of their customer were Union auto workers in the mid 90’s. Even here in CT back in the glory days 8 years ago I’d say 8-15% of our customers were state employees. (plow drivers etc)

  5. chip

    Normally I have some pithy comments about where you missed the mark. Not this time. This is great sales advice! Go after the folks who have job security and increasing wages and are not going to get laid off! Brilliant target market. Seems that now the dealers or mfrs. need to be offering Union and govt. employee discount coupons, special offers, etc. Would guess the govt. employee credit unions are still making boat loans too! Great tip and thanks.

  6. Captain Andrew


    I am not sure about State employees. Most of the States have been laying workers off. Take Pennsylvania for example, one of their agencies, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection received a 30% budget cut and laid off over 20% of their work force.

    As far as Federal Govt employees, the public complains about Federal employees no matter what their salary. Public employees made a choice of security and dedication to national service at the expense of limiting their long-term earning potential. They do not deserve yours or the public’s attack just because the country is in a recession. Would you still be complaining if the private sector was booming and private sector employees were becoming millionaires?

    I know a Federal Civilian employee –not Military—Civilian–who makes a six figure salary–and he earns every penny of it—He is Master of a ship with 120 crew and 8 officers. This ship is a supply vessel for a battle group (i.e. Air Craft Carrier Battle Group) plying the east coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean trying to prevent piracy as well as doing other support work for US interests. You think he would take that job if you paid him $40-$70K a year?

  7. Captain Andrew

    Of course if you lay these government workers off and/or cut their pay significantly then there would be a decrease in demand for purchasing boats and related products.

    So I guess it is better to increase the unemployment rate and further decrease demand for goods and services.

  8. Mark

    I have to agree with Capt. Andy. One of my closest friends works in the intelligence community and enjoys one of these six figure incomes . . . To attain it he spent a lot of time and money for advanced degrees at the best schools in his field, and as of this month has spent twenty years of long hours and incredible stress working his way up the ladder. In the private sector his skills and experience would garner triple what he makes now, but he is dedicated to public service. He does it in a world where your failures are public, your successes are classified, and on weeks like this some of your coleages become stars on a wall.

    Funny, three years ago when guys in year two of their boat selling career were making more than he was I don’t remember him complaining . . . .

    It is public sport to trash government employees, but how many would like to trade places for those salaries?

  9. Captain Andrew

    Al–No offense– a Licensed Master and Instructor, I know most boat purchasers never learn how to pilot (i.e. drive) a boat. There is a lot of research on this exact topic done by various govt and non-govt organizations–including the insurance industry. The industry knows this fact. Indeed, that is why boat industry lobbyist always fight and lobby against any bill brought before congress requiring recreational mariners to obtain a license. So quit your Federal Employee bashing.

    If I was a boat purchaser, especially a new boater, I would be really POed at the industry because the industry thinks their customers (i.e., me) do not have the intelligence, ability, skill or desire to actually learn how to be safe on the water; Furthermore I wouldn’t think very highly of an industry who cares more about boat sales than safety. The biggest selling point for recreational air-craft is safety and industry encourages owners to continue training above and beyond basic pilot licenses.

    As a professional mariner I would like to see recreational vessel operators licensed–everyone would be safer on the water.

  10. Jason

    Good piece! Sickening as it is…

    THose of you defending this all have something in common–a family member or friend who has now benefitted from expansion of government. It is not fair to call an intelligence agent to take light pay after all the work they had to do, but it is also insane to claim that this is reasonable in a year like 2009. I get paid by selling consumers what they need/want, and recovering a profit on each sale. The government is paid solely to manage those things that private businesses cannot or will not address, such as interstate infrastructure, or war. However, they are not earning marginal profit, nor increasing their services to obtain increased wages. This means that while they do the same job, many are receiving greater wage. THOSE ARE OUR DOLLARS! Could you not have spent your portion of the 170k as well as they could? Could you not have provided a service as valuable for such compensation?

    I know I sure could.

    And I have family in government positions. Therefore, I have seen it first hand. One of them just got 20% increase in pay with a lightened workload, all while keeping the same job title! Where else does that happen?

  11. Captain Andrew

    Jason–Take command of a 700 foot ship, with direct responsibility for 128 lives in the most hostile sealanes in the world while at the same time afffecting the lives of 5,000 crew on a air craft carrier.

    Have you apprenticed for 14 years starting as a 3rd Mate at sea for 8-10 months per year away from you family, your children in order to provide a better life for the citizens of the US? All this after going through over 4+years of basic maritime education then continuing to take the equivalent of 1 year of college education every other year (i.e an additional 7 years of education) to get to level of Master Mariner and being require to continue your education every year.

    No offense but you sound like you are a salesman with a sense of entitlement.

    So you sell to make a profit–big deal–do you have peoples lives in your hands? Have you ever given to your country either in the Military or in Civilian Service; Or have you only enjoyed the benefits these government workers have provided you so you can make a profit?

    Want to sell your boats? People need waterways to use their boats right? Well that requires the waterways to be maintained..right? It requires the waters to be navigable…right? it requires the waters to be fish-able and swim-able…right? Well that requires Army Corp, USCG, USEPA, NOAA, and other agencies to provide logistics, purchase items, scientists & engineers (Read: Educated people) mariners, surveyors, geologist, geographers, etc. etc. to the work which is in many cases inherently governmental. Oh and how about the maintenance of GPS satellites for GPS units which appear to make it easier for new boaters (READ: New customers) to purchase boats and associated goods and services. People have to maintain these GPS satellites. Guess what? you need advanced degrees in math, physics and engineering to do so; Are you going to pay these people 40K/year when they can make 400K per year? Additionally it costs literally billions of dollars to support these systems. Do you think GPS systems would be so inexpensive if the private sector had to support it? I would argue recreational boaters wouldn’t even have access to a GPS if it weren’t for the govt. Are you going to pay these engineers and scientists double what they are getting paid now? The private sector surely will pay them that and more.

    So–here is an idea–lets privatize the GPS system and charge each user a fee for access to the satellites. I saw a study a couple of years ago that indicated that if the system were privatized, the minimum costs to recreational mariner would be $5000/year (2006 dollars.) You want that cost past on to your customer? Do you think they will pay it?

  12. Jim

    For George: Here’s an idea for you–don’t make comments for which you have no basis. Norm has done more for the boating and marine industry; especially in Ohio and on the Great Lakes, than probably anyone else alive. He’s lived it and breathed and busted his behind for it all his life. Do us all a favor and keep your negative crap to yourself.

  13. Dave

    Very intereting post and response.

    We have our own form of a small government agency in the marine indusrty, its called the NMMA.
    Would anyone like to venture a guess at what the pay grade is for the top 10 positions in that organization? There are many similarities between these two governments. Its worth a look if your interested.

  14. Comrade Karl

    Captian Andy:
    The GPS system was jointly developed by private enterprise with government assistance ( the capability to launching satitilites, & to come up with the desired functionality, & the money) – in other words just like a customer.
    The design, engineering & manufacturing was all private sector under contract with many government agencies. These satilites are not called GPS satilites but GOS Weather satilites. A name that was used early on & today to soften their true capabilities. Most were designed & built in Northern Indiana at Magnovox.
    The recievers were built & designed the same way. ( Motorola, Magellian, etc)
    These satilites are equiped with alot more capability than simple GPS. they can thermally profile any structure, wastermass, etc. they have IR capbilities & the best optical capabilities know to man, and they can hear you.
    GPS was not the primary directive or goal. Spying was/is, & now it’s primary reason for existing is the electronic battlefield capability we now employee in Iraq & the rest of the world. It is a key component in the anti missle shield system the Russian fear & do not want deployed.
    In your theoretical $5,000 individual cost accounting,you fail to include the amount that the government would have to pay for their majority of the use of the capabilities of these satilites if it was a 100% privately funded & owned system.
    The USA private sector, because of competion, does provide the better mouse traps in the world.

    Oh all those nessary agencies you mentioned,yea some Italian guy along with a few spaniards arrived here & navigated our rivers lakes & bays without anything more than a compass & sexton they did not need any of those agencies you mentioned.
    I believe that all boat owners should be educated but not licenced. Education you pay for in advance- a licence you pay a yearly fee (like commercial drivers licences in Illinois) with little proof of knowledge.
    We here all support the folks protecting us everyday & want them to have the best but growing the government – not so much…
    Oh yea, Capt Charlie:
    here’s the latest news on the Marine business It sucks right now but will get better if we educate ourselves & the local politians that want our votes to start listening to us. Parties be danmed.
    Now that felt better — I like this venting Norm

  15. capt charlie

    “did this guy work or just hang at boat shows and act important”–George, thats the best one liner I’ve heard for many arm chair generals in this business. You can also put the so called leaders of the NMMA and NMBA on that list. This industry is full of blowhards who lack any frontline dealership experince.

  16. steve s

    Good points on the NMMA & NMBA “leaders”. Lets examine how much they earn to hit the links & show circuit. With the salaries they take, they should attend shows with masks and get away cars.

  17. Captain Andrew

    Comrade Karl,

    The idea for a satellite navigation system was first envisioned in the early 1930s–of course the technology was not there to make it happen at the time. The idea was first and foremost to assist with the navigation of ships and secondarily the emerging ballistic missile sciences that began in Germany with the V-1 rocket. The idea of using Satellite technology for intelligence collection did not start until, I believe, 1951, when by that time it was clear satellites could be used for that purpose. Weather satellites are separate and distinct from global positioning satellites. The $,000 figure included the amounts the government would have to pay to get access to the system–according to the study I read.

    One example of my point about the other agencies is this: If you don’t have fish-able waters–how many people who by boats to fish would not purchase a boat? I wouldn’t.

    With regards to licensing–the US is the only first world country that I know of that does not require a license. Anywhere in the Mediterranean and most of Europe requires boaters to get a license; The industry has a clear record of fighting and winning the licensing requirement-bills. I believe the industry fights the bill for one main reason only–the belief that boat sales will decrease to due to people not obtaining licenses to operate a vessel. Quite frankly–If people don’t want to take the time to do it right–they shouldn’t be on the water in the first place.

  18. Public Employee

    I don’t know, Norm. My last several COLAs: 2007 = 1.92%, 2008 = 1.63%, 2009 = 0% (even though my union negotiated one at 2.5%), 2010 = 0%. I’ve been working my Public Sector job for 17 years, and currently could not even think of owning any kind of boat. The university where I work has cut over 800 jobs, and while my department hasn’t let anybody go, nearly everybody’s hours have been cut…

    On the other hand, I’m not in that six-figure strata! Government jobs are two-tiered, as well, and I’m in the lower one.

  19. Anonymous

    Thinly veiled Obama-hating.

    That someone still has a job that can’t be outsourced is lucky for them, not sinister. We’re not in this mess because people who work for the government make a decent wage. We’re here because the free-market cult won the hearts and minds of both businesses and employees… and then succeeded in transforming our economy from one of production to one of services and consumption and screwed the employees along the way. This has been a 50 year effort under that watch of both parties, but under the influence of the GOP and the lobby.

    This is the last time I return to this page, and the beginning of a campaign to ask others to boycott it. Think before you speak. And it you vote GOP again, it can’t be because you’ve learned anything. It only confirms your racism.

  20. Comrade Karl

    Capt Andy- I’m just not a big government guy like you.
    The family in Wisconsin a few years back who lost nurmerious children to an unqualified illegal alien with a valid Illinios CDL licence driving a state licenced rig with faulty equipment would agree with you & me about not being on the road but as for all the laws, licencing and regulations… alot gets through the licencing & certifing systems these days. That driver by the way bought his licence from the government watch dogs in Illinios.
    And lets not for get the Christmas TSA fiasco on the jet headed to Detroit. All TSA inspectors must be certified & presented a document but what the hey we are only talking about family & friend who could have been killed.
    I’m sure you like that the government is going to require all Americans to purchase medical insurance as well… Who will be inforcing that Oh yea the IRS….. Back in the USSR
    Because other countries do things so we must also?? Say it an’t so. If that was true then Hitler would have won as we would have stayed home… The Euro’s accepted him, be it at the point of a gun….Agian I don’t want my country to be like every other country & I also believe that is why folks left Europe in leaking wood sailing ships to get here..
    Norm this venting is wonderful.

  21. Captain Andrew

    ..and by the way, I never said I am “Pro Big Government.” What I have been trying to convey is that public employees provide essential services and significant number of them are justly compensated. The fact that there are problems in the government is not unique to the public sector as we have seen the past few years. As a practical matter, if you lay off tens of thousands pf public employees, what do you think would happen to the economy in the short-medium term?

  22. Captain Andrew


    The reason why the TSA failed is because they are not doing what other countries are doing—notably Israel. Israel came to the US after 9/11, and explained to the White House how to make your security/intelligence systems work. The response to the Israeli officials were “very impressive but too expensive.” Read some periodicals and watch some TV that does not originate in the USA so you can get a more worldly perspective.

  23. Komrade Karl

    Capt Andrew So I take from your coment you are saying – I don’t read- espcially about current events, & I’m unaware of the world out side the USA borders. How presuptious of you. I speak to Europeans on a weekly basis, I do business around the globe, & when at home here in the USA I do like to watch the BBC though I think they are slanted to the global progressive side of things. When out of the counrty I also watch the english Al Jazzera broadcasts. By the way the Israeli’s profile everyone getting on their aircraft. I wish we did here… now lets’ take off our shoes and sit a spell.
    You didn’t have to say you were pro big Gov. It just leaks out.
    Oh to answer your question about what would happen if 10K public employees were layed off ?
    The sun would come up life would go on, Spring would follow winter, life would go on for better or for worse. By the way I’m not for laying off 10K public employees, I’m just answering your question.
    See I’m not a big corporation guy either….

  24. Captain Andrew

    See this article. This training costs a lot of money–it would probably require a raise in taxes. Are the citize3ns in the US prepared to pay higher taxes to get these people trained. I know one of EL Al security people, their basic training last 12 months and costs A LOT of money. Is the US willing to pay to train these people. Will the people of the US trust these people? In my opinion, they answer is NO the people of the US are not willing to pay for this expensive training and 2) they wouldn’t trust these employees even if they did pay for them to be trained like the Israelis.

  25. Komrade Karl

    It is also required everybody has to serve in the Israeli military. Maybe something to concider here just maybe. Maybe we could be more efficent with the taxes already collected.

  26. Captain Andrew

    I am sure one can be more efficient with the taxes already collected; It is my understanding it costs $500,000 to train these people properly. Given the number of people the US would need to train, and the individual cost per person I think taxes would have to be raised even with increased efficiency.

    Israel is the size of New Jersey, imagine the number of people we need to train here given the size of the USA? Even if we did train them, given the prevalent attitude toward public employees, as as exampled if some of your prior posts, there is still a trust issue.

  27. Komrade Karl

    Military doesn’t always translate into infintry but you do have to learn how a gun works. They have cooks in the service they have nurses, dr’s etc. in the services, they have all the job catagories & needs that civilian life requires & they train those folks. This would be a good training ground especially for high school grads who are clueless as to what they want to be.
    How many people do they train for the $500k you mentioned?
    Why not offer it at community colleges as for a fee that is partially paid back over time on the job?
    Votechs & colleges charge for education & training. Agian if they have to pay even a partial % of the cost they may be more focused on the training. This could even be a zero offset.

  28. Captain Andrew

    Well-I know in Israel the training is held in secure locations. The Israelis see this is a national security issue so they don’t charge for the education. It is my understanding it costs $500,000/person.

  29. tired act of karl/andrew

    Karl and Andrew, enough already with the endless rebuttals to each other. Stop cluttering up all the blogs. 90% of your posts have nothing to do with a comment on the original article. Exchange mails and have your political/military debates off this blog.

  30. Kevin

    In the early 80’s, conservatives began a twenty year program to dumb done government agencies by cutting agency budgets and outsourcing the agency work. This involved many agencies. Often, unqualified political appointees were placed at the head of agencies and they proceeded to outsource work to “efficient private industry”. If you believe government agencies are inefficient and wasteful, be careful; you are likely calling your neighborhood government contractor lazy. If you go to a meeting in a government office building, ask the people at the table if they are a career civil servant, or an outside contractor. You will be amazed at the answers, and you’ll discover the source of “government inefficiency”.

    Regardless of the how we got here – in Washington DC, the average, two government income family, still cannot afford a house, two cars, and a new boat. Hope you have a good used boat in your inventory for them. Sell fishing, tubing, water skiing, not a boat.

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