At a time when unemployment is low yet wages remain stagnant, people want to know where the best-paying jobs can be found. It’s a tough question, but there’s always one employer with unlimited amounts of money: the U.S. government.
Whether you look to state employers or the federal government in Washington D.C., you’re going to find people with impressive titles and salaries who lack the credentials to hold that job. In fact, some of the top earners on the taxpayers’ dime don’t even wear a suit and tie to work. Instead, they stand on the sidelines with a clipboard while a college’s athletic program competes.
But you’ll find more than a few such people in the White House and other high-profile jobs. Here are the nine most overpaid government employees in America.
9. Stephen Miller, White House adviser
- Salary: $179,700
What does $180,000 get you in a White House employee these days? That depends. Cabinet secretaries like James Mattis make a little more ($205,000) and oversee vast bureaucracies with thousands of employees. Others, like Senior White House Adviser Stephen Miller, work mostly behind the scenes as an “assistant to the president.” Miller landed his $179,700 job at age 31 with little relevant experience.
His lack of professionalism was painfully obvious during the Trump administration’s roll-out of the travel ban when Miller’s handiwork sank the executive order. However, his media performances came off even worse. John Dean, a former adviser to Richard Nixon, described Miller as “the most obnoxious WH staffer” he’d seen in five decades. Dean went on to call out Miller’s “ignorance” and predicted: “He will fall.”
- Salary: An average of $280,000 for administrators
By now, most Americans know what a disaster the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has become in recent years. Despite a massive surge in ridership, investment in the subway is way down, making delays the norm and train accidents a new fact of life for New Yorkers.
One thing the MTA still invests heavily in is the agency’s employees. According to an exhaustive report in The New York Times, MTA administrators make an average of $280,000 — more than double the salary of comparable positions elsewhere. When you consider the MTA’s poor service, that sounds like taxpayer robbery.
- Salary: $9 million
University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t just one of the highest paid sports figures in the country; he’s America’s top-grossing government employee. You see, Harbaugh coaches at a public university funded by taxpayers, and he earns $9 million a year for his troubles. Sure, he’s good at his job, but we have much higher standards for anyone who earns the most of anything. Unless you’re among the top five teams every year, you’re overpaid at $9 million.
- Salary: $179,700
When Omarosa Manigault Newman was reportedly dragged out of the White House by the Secret Service, it ended her bizarre tenure in the Trump administration. Omarosa, the former reality TV star who served as communications director in the Office of Public Liaison, officially earned the top salary of $179,700.
However, no one could be certain what she did for that money. A bewildered Daily Beast reporter spent one morning following Omarosa around the West Wing as she prepared a bridal luncheon for herself one day. Yet she left unable to get any answers. Later, the reporter asked someone close to the White House about Omarosa’s duties. She heard a great answer: “No clue,” the source told her.
- Salary: $7.1 million
While Harbaugh paces the pack in college football, Kentucky’s John Calipari earns the most among basketball coaches living off the public dime. Calipari earns a fat $7.1 million a year to guide the Wildcats through the SEC and later the NCAA tournament. To put Calipari’s salary in perspective, all 50 U.S. governors earn less ($6.9 million) than he does, ESPN reported. Even with that national title in ’12, he’s earning too much.
- Salary: $5.2 million
Who among us would turn down $5.2 million for not coaching? We’re guessing no one raised their hands, so we shouldn’t blame departed Texas football coach Charlie Strong. After a third consecutive losing season, Texas fired Strong in the third year of a five-year deal worth $5 million a year. As a result, Strong earned $5.2 million from the state of Texas in ’17 while serving as South Florida’s coach. That’s the way you do it.
- Salary: Received an $11.8 million buyout after being fired
Wasn’t Arkansas coach Bret Bielema fired before he came off the field after a November 2017 game? He was, in a particularly humiliating incident. But that doesn’t mean the school (i.e., the state of Arkansas) will stop paying him anytime soon. According to a report in ESPN, Bielema’s buyout package sent him off into the sunset for a cool $11.8 million. That’s a nice paycheck for a job he doesn’t actually have.
- Salary: $179,700
Kellyanne Conway and others in the Trump administration have lied so much they had to come up with a nicer way of describing the way they speak. Conway, Trump’s senior counselor and assistant, fixed on the phrase “alternative facts” one morning speaking to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.
Actually, Conway was defending the falsehoods of Press Secretary Sean Spicer that day, which brings us to an important distinction. Though current Press Secretary Sarah Sanders receives the top White House salary ($179,700), Sanders goes out to spin half-truths and tell lies on behalf of Trump every day. Conway, on the other hand, disappears from public view for weeks at a time. She makes too much money for the occasional public lie
- Salary: $6.7 million
In November 2017, the Tennessee Valley Authority, a state utility, announced it would pay its 10,000 employees an average bonus of $11,000. Naturally, at the top of the list sat CEO Bill Johnson, whose total compensation package topped $6.7 million for 2017. How does a state utility pay employees salaries like a corporation?
The federal government owns and funds TVA, which provides power to Tennessee and other states in the region. The fact Johnson makes so much could raise eyebrows because the agency is $4.6 billion in the red. But hey, when it’s bonus time, you pay out that money, especially when the taxpayer is writing the check.