The Rent Seeking is Too Damn High

by on October 19, 2011 at 10:32 am in Economics | Permalink

Bloomberg: Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.

The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.

1 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

Who wants to bet that average income inequality in DC is in the top 5?

2 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

Oopsie! I was right, at least as of 2000 and I don’t suspect it’s gotten anything but worse.
Pure guess but this stuff is just too easy. Hey, get your own crap together before outsourcing your nonsense to the rest of the country. At least stop being so predictably ineffective. Try failing in new and different ways.

3 charlie October 19, 2011 at 11:19 am

I suspect it has improved greatly. We are shipping out all the poor blacks and replacing them with well paid whites.

In 10 years DC will be majority white. In 20, at this rate, it will be the whitest city in America.

4 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

Survivorship bias is not actually an improvement, I know you realize.

5 Cliff October 19, 2011 at 11:58 am

Arlington Junior! Or is it Senior?

6 Anon October 19, 2011 at 10:37 am
7 TallDave October 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

It’s terrible the way those bankers take our money by force.

Oh wait…

8 mw October 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

remarkable…nominally by an economics professor, yet titled like a random person off the street who knows nothing about public sector employees…

on a related note, have you noticed how “the rent seeking is too damn high” among people with higher education degrees compared to the median american? what’s up with that?!

9 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

God let’s not go through the number of degrees stuff again. A lawyering degree is not the same thing as a doctoring degree.

10 S. October 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

The avg person may not associate the title with the principles of economic rents.

11 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 11:26 am

Here’s a little anecdote about trying to compare income to degree level. I left a job to go back to get a PhD in a different discipline but might be considered the same field in some degree comparisons. I made more at the job I left than my advisor. When I get a new job in the private sector I’ll be making double what my advisor makes because he’s, spoiler alert, in a different job even though we’ll have the same nominal degree.

12 Ryan October 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

I know public sector employees and their work and way of life intimately, and I agree with Tabarrok. Now what?

13 Steve C. October 19, 2011 at 10:59 am

Monopoly rents.

14 b October 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

It seems disingenuous to have compensation (cash income + benefits) in paragraph one and then stats on cash income in paragraph two.

Here’s the actual GS pay scale for the great majority of workers in the federal govt in DC: . The CBO reported in 2007 [ page 24] that the average grade is 8.2, which is currently an income of $48k. [Sorry I didn’t track down more recent data, but this is a blog comment.] There are executives off the pay scale and lots of caveats, but the bulk of the data doesn’t point to the average federal worker making anywhere near $100k.

15 Jason October 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

It’s not just federal employees, the article is about Washington, D.C. more generally. e.g.

“Last year Washington also had the most lawyers per capita in the U.S. compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents, according to figures from the American Bar Association and the Census Bureau. In New York State the figure was one out of every 123 residents, while in California the ratio was one in 243.

Associate attorneys in the Washington area who have worked between one and eight years had a median salary of $186,250, compared with the national median for their peers of $123,521, according to a survey by the Washington-based National Association for Law Placement.”

16 Foster Boondoggle October 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

But that’s what the first line of the story says. It does seem highly unlikely that the average comp could be that high, and the story doesn’t source the figure.

17 Shahar October 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

An average household (I believe) has two working people. If both work for the government, the average income for the household would be 96k, ish. Actual numbers (especially for the average number of employed persons per household) welcome.

18 Califorestgirl October 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Page 24 talks about federal workers *throughout the United States*, not specifically those in Washington. Note also that Washington area employees receive a cost of living adjustment of 24% (

19 mulp October 20, 2011 at 3:14 am

As a government worker employed by the government contractor, your wages are not controlled by GS scale or the civil service rules. While these workers have government badges that gives them access to the most secure information of the US, and they are making decisions that have life and death consequences of a government agency worker, or they are responsible for billions in taxpayer spending, and have taken all the oaths of a government employee, they are also private sector workers with extremely high pay and benefits, with the right to use lobbyists to increase your job security and funding.

20 charlie October 19, 2011 at 11:18 am

It is amazing what a stimulus program can do to the economy. We should try this nationally!

21 korbonits October 19, 2011 at 11:23 am


22 Crenellations October 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Watch Archer much?

23 Shahar October 19, 2011 at 11:26 am

I would suspect that contractors and especially contracting company executives have a big impact on this.

24 Turkey Vulture October 19, 2011 at 11:31 am

I am going to write a dystopian novel about a nation where 1/12 of the people are lawyers.

25 Lazy Federal Employee Posting from Work October 19, 2011 at 11:34 am

I appreciate the fact that this article mentions that there are 12 lawyers for every person in DC. It may focus some of the hate onto lawyers and away from us bureaucrats.

26 libert October 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

12 lawyers for every person?! That would be unbelievable, but then I realized most commenters don’t count lawyers as people.

27 Crenellations October 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

We Are the 91.66%!

Occupy the ABA

28 question the question October 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I wonder what % of those lawyers are, in practice, lobbyists.

29 Ryan October 20, 2011 at 9:31 am

Maybe, but undeservedly so.

30 Steven Kopits October 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I have clients and contacts in all of Houston, DC and New York. In Houston, it’s all engineers, pretty well paid, Little League coach types. Most of them don’t know what a tie is and have children only thanks to initiative of their wives. In New York, it’s all hardcore Ivy League finance types: sleek, sharp and self-confident. In DC, it is policy wonks. Curiously, the only cynical ones are those in Washington. As one wonk said to me, “It’s where initiatives that can’t make it in the marketplace come to beg.”

Cynicism arises when incentives are not aligned, when duty and self-interest are divorced, when the system creates an incentive to seek the failure of others. The issue in DC is not cost. Running the country is a far more valuable use of time than doing a micro level deal. Public servants should, by rights, be paid more than the private sector, in my opinion.

However, if incentives are not aligned, then political and bureaucratic productivity will be low. Congress’s low approval ratings suggest as much. For economists, the single most important reform should be aligning incentives, first and foremost, at the political level. And that means being paid for performance. When we have achieved that, democracy will be ready to move on the the next phase of social evolution.

31 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Running the country may be more valuable.

Ruining the country is not.

32 CBBB October 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Ruining the country? Like what the Wall St. types did?

33 TallDave October 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I agree, it’s terrible the way they loaned the wrong people too much money largely because the government encouraged them to. Clearly the solution is for the gov’t to just give the wrong people money directly instead.

You are free to put your money in the hands of whichever bankers you choose, just as you’re free to buy products from whatever company you like, and in either case nothing is stopping you from shopping around to find bankers or CEOs that are paid what you think is fair. They will not send men with guns to take your money if you decline to do business with them.

34 question the question October 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

“You are free to put your money in the hands of whichever bankers you choose…” blah blah blah.

I know that the the loaning of money to brown people is thought by some to be the root of the problem, but those who bandy that excuse about are woefully, woefully uninformed.

It was the massive over-leveraging that brought down the banking sector. Lehman and Bear Stearns were taking enormous risks.

35 Jim October 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm

>loaning of money to brown people

Where would the left be if they couldn’t spread fear of racism 24/7?

36 guffaw October 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I would never accuse you of racism, Jim.

Having read your comments it’s obvious you are borderline retarded.

37 TallDave October 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm

I’m not sure why you immediately assume people who were bad credit risks had dark skin.

You do understand that “over-leveraging” and “loaned the wrong people too much money” are essentially the same thing?

38 Chad R. October 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

@TallDave The over-leveraging goes beyond the consumer and mortgage lending. They were making leveraged bets and then insuring these leveraged bets, metastasicizing the problem of the toxic mortgage assets.

39 charlie October 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

You’re leaving out overpaid state university professors.

40 CBBB October 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I really question pay-for-performance as a way of aligning incentives with productive behavior. In theory it sounds all nice and sensible but it really comes down to how the pay-for-performance rubric is structured and I think generally whenever it is applied it is not structured well and ends up merely being gamed.

41 TM October 19, 2011 at 4:45 pm

It always ends up being gamed, but sometimes you can achieve your larger organizational goals at the same time. There are limits imposed by history, culture and technology support to name a few.

42 davver October 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Yeah, I’m not sure why people think a guy at the Transportation Department making 80k for trying to plan highway repair schedules is bringing down the country. We get up in arms over that but criticize those, “sleek, sharp and self-confident” types that ruined the economy to enrich themselves and your a socialist.

Singapore pays its top public servants investment banker money, and in exchange they’ve had some really good public servants! Its why they have one of the best governments in the world, and its done a lot for the wellbeing of its citizens.

43 JD October 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Singapore: Great public servants. And caning. Don’t forget the caning.

44 Marian Kechlibar October 20, 2011 at 6:36 am

“pays its top public servants investment banker money, and in exchange they’ve had”

This kind of primitive behavioral thinking is one of the problems in the Anglo-Saxon world.

You seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that Singaporeans enforce such high level of productivity on their public servants, that unions of US public workers would scream bloody murder, and that non-performing bureaucrat will be fired mercilessly – once again, an anathema to the “worker’s rights movement” anywhere in the west.

Combination of these factors AND high pay (the latter more as a prevention of corruption incentives, than simple motivator) give Singapore its edge.

Somehow, Americans, even on the left (I would say, more so on the left) are only obsessed about the money part of the equation. Throwing money at problems sounds to them like the right answer anytime, anywhere, and if it does not work, well, more money! All other incentives are marginalized, trivialized or ignored outright. That is how you end with the most expensive education in the world, while seriously lagging behind much cheaper systems of Finland, Japan, Israel … etc in terms of efficiency.

Anyone is capable of collecting a large salary. Not everyone is capable and willing to be a good worker. If you intentionally weaken and corrode the mechanisms for removing the latter from your workforce, you end up with hellishly expensive structure which cannot get anything right. But that is what the current US bureaucracy labor laws were written for!

45 Floccina October 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm

One way to aligned incentive might be to unbundle. We could elect a drug tzar and he would set the tax to pay for the drug war. A Medicare commissioner. Elect a defense secretary with his proposed defense tax. etc.

46 spencer October 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

The article is technically correct in saying that compensation — including all fringe benefits — exceeds

According to the BLS the average salary of a full time federal employees in 2009 was $74,403.

The top federal salaries by occupation are:
General attorney…………….128,422
Financial management…….119,671
General engineering ………114,839
Air traffic control……………..109,218
Economist…………….. 108,010

By way of comparison the average salary of a
George Mason economics professor is $127,120 .

47 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I’m not in economics, but we had 115 applications for one tenure-track position in our department.

You think a federal economist is even in the ballpark of competition like that? I suspect you go federal exactly because you can’t be a tenure-track professor.

48 Chris October 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

May I say as a federal economist that U.S. EPA averages 200 applicants per position. Treasury is similar. The top positions in the top agencies are hard to get, and people are dedicated civil servants. I guarantee most of us wouldn’t be caught dead making such lazy blanket statements.

49 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Oh come of it. We aren’t talking about the top positions at the top agencies are we. We are talking about averages, of which the Federal jobs include BA and MA whereas a tenure-track position is almost exclusively a PhD with a long CV.

50 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Additionally, I was typing from memory on the 115, in a non-economist field. That makes me suspect that for a tenure-track economics post there might be you’d have well over 200 applications. That doesn’t take into consideration any qualifications and self-selection.

The point is that Spencer tries to equate the average Federal economist with a major university tenure-track professorship. They are not comparable. Do you want to present evidence that they are remotely comparable?

51 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

To beat a dead horse, no I don’t think the top Federal economist cannot be the lowest professor. That’s not what the discussion is about.

One of the issues is whether a comparable person doing a comparable job that provides comparable utility in a comparable cost of living market make more as a federal employee or a private/non-federal employee.

Noone has actually made this comparison.

52 Itchy October 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Over 200 [Qualified] applicants for 1 position? Does that mean there is an oversupply of Economics PhD’s, and universities can pay even less for top talent? {sarcasm}

53 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm
“Incomes are highest for those in the private sector, followed by the federal government, with academia paying the lowest incomes.”

According to this:
I could stand corrected on the degree of how hard it is to get an academic post. Looks like you guys have a sweet racket going on.

The point is this, economics is a very bad comparison. Tim Geithner took a 50% pay cut to work for Treasury. This has almost no bearing on average Federal versus non-Federal.

54 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm

“Over 200 [Qualified] applicants for 1 position”

That was a speculation, probably wrong, and not germane in any event. Surely the low-ranked schools are not going to have that number of applications. I don’t know what the number is but the point is not the number. The question is what is the level of competition between comparable jobs. Chris puts the number for “top” federal posts at 200. Okay, what is the pay scale for a top post? What academic post is this comparable to? I can certainly see the competition at the very top being comparable. But what is the number for a ‘typical’ academic post compared to a comparable Federal post? But the jobs are not even remotely comparable. That’s the point.

If you are trying to get an academic job you are likely going to have a different focus on research and such. They are going to be different people on average. You can’t compare publications because that is the currency of academia. A university is almost never going to accept a BA as a professor. The Feds have plenty. This skews the numbers we are trying to compare. So, you have to strip out all the irrelevant data from Spencer’s numbers. So, what would the numbers look like for comparable applicants? It’s near impossible to know because the people in academia are going to focus on the margin on the things required to impress academic hiring committees- such as excess education! It’s not a criticism from me to say you can’t or don’t want to be a professor. I’m not the one trying to ‘correct’ the numbers for education level because I think that doesn’t matter. The further we go down that road, it seems the further we get from an answer to the question. I didn’t bring it up.

55 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm
56 question the question October 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm

“Do you want to present evidence that they are remotely comparable?”

He just did.

57 bartman October 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm

The number of econ doctorates minted in the US every year is lower than the number of jobs posted on JOE. Besides, lots and lots of doctored economists, like me, work in the private sector in jobs that never get advertised in JOE. And a major share of those new doctorates go to foreigners, many of whom go home.

This is one discipline that has done a good job managing supply.

58 endorendil October 19, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Actually, received wisdom is that those who can’t do, teach. I think it’s more accurate to say that being an academic professor in economics takes very different skills than being a high-level economist. I doubt few professors would volunteer to get into the middle of high-pressure brawls where results only matter when they are provided in time, and where the price of being wrong, or being right at the wrong time, is a one-way ticket to spend more time with your family…

59 TallDave October 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm

The solution is obvious: we need to replicate the successful economic model of Washington D.C. throughout the country.

60 jason October 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Ha! Love this.

61 allan October 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm


I would rather see the median income, rather than the mean.

If the median is near $124,000, you might have a point. If not, then try again.

62 jason October 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm

So apparently I’m the only commenter who sees the irony that this is posted by a university professor who lives in the DC metro area?

63 Bill October 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

No, it’s just that the tenured faculty don’t want you to look behind the screen.

64 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm

No, I was going to make that point to Spencer, but didn’t feel like figuring out if GM qualified as DC.

65 Carl the EconGuy October 19, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I’ve owned a house in the DC area for 30 years, and I love this successful rent seeking by federal employees. Because their salary-rents are quickly turned into land-rent on my real estate. Even in the downturn in housing in recent years, DC area real estate values declined much less than elsewhere, and it was one of the very few areas that recovered value last year (Detroit was another one). And, as we know, it doesn’t matter who rules Congress or the White House — DC employment follows the federal budget, and so I’m guaranteed more land-rents to come. Thank you all!

66 Floccina October 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm

My brothers are both Fed Gov. employees and though I make 2x what they do I envy the life style that live. They have defined benefit pensions. They almost cannot be fired. They get more than double the vacation days that I get. Their jobs are low stress. I only the other hand could easily go out of business. I cannot be out of the office for more that a week at a time our the users might be angry.

Like my brother says, It is good to work for your uncle (by which he means uncle Sam).

67 Craig October 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm

“They almost cannot be fired.”

I worked in the public sector for a few years. The good news is that it’s almost impossible for you to be fired. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible for any of your coworkers or supervisors to be fired as well. I’d rather take my chances in the private sector.

68 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I wonder how people carefully account for such perks in their careful analysis (haha)

69 Bill October 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Federal salaries are too low.

You could not hire a fourth year associate away from my firm based on the GS schedule.

All those who think federal slaries are high for their occupation level should be leaving their private occupations to enter federal service.

They do not.

The market is telling you something.

70 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Bill, Bill, Bill. So, you think that a “fourth year associate” provides the same utility for the government in the job the equivalent person would have as they do at your firm?

I can work for a pharmaceutical company, a chemical company or a petroleum company. I will make much more in the petroleum industry, same ol’ G. Why is it so hard to communicate this point?

71 Bill October 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm

What do you think you would be paid if you were in the government than in private practice? I am curious about those who think the government pays more than business. They must be really inefficient in finding those higher wage government jobs.

72 TallDave October 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Why do you assume government jobs are not in fact coveted, especially by the less productive who would have to worry about being fired in the private sector?

This is where the fact that we’re talking about the gov’t becomes paramount: a private company would have to worry about cost, competition and productivity. The government doesn’t get its revenue through voluntary exchanges but through coercion, so it can pay whatever it likes without regard to those factors. That’s how we get $200K lifeguards, six-figure jobs for maintaining a department’s Facebook page (I bet there was quite a queue for that one), and Bell, CA.

73 Andrew' October 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Careful Bill, if word gets out that Feds are underpaid, DC will empty out as workers flee to the higher paid private jobs. That’s what the market is telling us, right?

Anyway, this analysis ( says…well…no one has a clue.

Mr. Obama says “high-skilled workers in government are slightly underpaid. Lower-skilled workers are slightly overpaid relative to the private sector.”

Do you have evidence to present refuting our President?

74 mulp October 20, 2011 at 3:23 am

Andrew’, you completely miss the opportunity for a government job in the private sector as a government worker paid by government contract wage scale. You should work for a period as a government employee to get the right training, and most important, the full FBI background check and the highest security clearance possible. Now you can get a much higher paying job doing the same job, but as a government contractor. Or rather, you can get the job you wanted that can’t be created in government because Congress won’t fund the investment, and will only fund contracts with private firms to do at ten times the cost.

75 DK October 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year.

Must be all these GMU professors in the area.

76 Appu October 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Tangentially related, Canberra which like Washington is a capital city where most of the federal bureaucracy is based has an average household income on $95,000 (USD) {92,000 AUD}. I tend to agree in general that the Public Service is over paid, however, while I earn more than the household income as an individual public servant (equivalent to GS 15 level in the US Civil Service) – I have been offered significantly more by the pvt sector (Economics Masters, working in Energy Market Design). The high public service incomes in Australia would also seem to be driven by a lack of skill shortage i.e. low growth of population.

77 mulp October 20, 2011 at 3:38 am

In their research on the “top secret government” that was built up over the Bush years, authors Dana Priest and William Arkin identified 7 out of the 10 richest communities in the US as having been created by all the government spending on all sorts of top secret security activities. They were clued in on how to research the size of industrial organizations: look at the real estate market. They found huge secret industrial build ups concentrated in a few locales, and surrounding them were huge housing booms in upscale communities.

quoting wikipedia, their real estate key findings:

– The report states that in approximately 10,000 locations aross the United States, 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies are employed. Their work is related to homeland security, counterterrorism, and intelligence.

– More than two-thirds of these locations “reside” in the Department of Defense, where “only a handful of senior officials — called Super Users — have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities.”

– An estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances.

– The publicly announced cost of the U.S. intelligence system is “$75 billion, 2½ times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.”

– Since September, 2001, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are either under construction or have been built. The total area is approximately 17 million square feet, equivalent to about three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings.

78 Nicoli October 20, 2011 at 9:09 am

Are there any good, relatively non-biased studies that try to fully identify the components that make up the growth in federal salaries in DC? The federal workforce in DC is very different then the private sector workforce in terms of age, skill level, and job function among other differences. Simply comparing the medians of the two tells you little and is really only done by those looking for cross the board cuts.

I think it could be productive to look at revamping the federal pay structure to better reward high performers etc. but thoughtlessly titled posts like Alex’s won’t help make that happen.

79 Ryan October 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

Being a bureaucrat is almost like a mental illness.

80 Popeye October 20, 2011 at 10:22 am

Good thing there are no bureaucrats in the private sector.

81 NW October 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I think it should be pointed out that DC, San Jose, Bridgeport, CT, and San Fransisco (the four metro areas with the highest median household incomes in nearly every year since 2000–see ) are also the four cities with that have the highest share of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Maybe the best story to tell from these data isn’t one about rent seeking, but one about returns to education.

82 Adam October 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm

We always seem to be exempted or just forgotten in these discussions because we don’t fit the popular notion of a “bureaucrat” in the sense that we don’t actually take any part in governing in spite of being paid by the government, but I can tell you with complete certainty that military officers are paid far below what a comparable employee in the private sector makes, and that is a big part of the reason that most leave the service after their first service obligation is up. Corporate executive training positions, as well as private contractor positions, are offered as we come up to make the decision, often doubling our current salaries.

And, of course, we face the option of twenty years down the line being a private sector executive making over $1 million a year or being a Colonel making $150,000 a year with exactly the same demands on our time and level of responsibility and the additional demand of being deployed into combat zones.

There’s a reason the salaries are high in DC. These aren’t mid-level bureaucrats. Executives of departments and agencies commanding multi-billion dollar budgets work there. What salary would Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, or Tim Geithner comman in the private sector? I’d imagine they could make more on speaking fees alone, without the need to have a job at all, simply by resigning.

83 TallDave October 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I don’t think too many people are concerned about military pay (though it may be worth pointing out their outsize benefits and training opportunities).

It’s probably true the political appointees and military brass in Washington could make more elsewhere, but they’re a tiny fraction of the federal workforce, the large majority of whom are compensated well beyond their private sector peers for being much less productive.

84 TallDave October 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Also, the point about “commanding multi-billion dollar budgets” is somewhat ironic. Generally, outside of Washington you are trying to keep expenses down rather than shovel money out the door, and a private company has to produce revenue from customers rather than seizing it.

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