The reason they charge $150 is that market forces, let them get away with it.
They are not getting away with anything. They are being paid what they are worth. The business profits from their effort. Otherwise the business couldn't afford to pay those high wages.
At the aerospace co I worked for I was able to save the company $10 million (in direct costs) and save a year of effort (and do you have any idea what aerospace big project schedule slips cost?) because I saw the way to do it that no one else in the company saw. And the company had thousands of engineers. And I did it at a cost of 3 months of my high rate salary.
Suppose they had paid me 10% of the savings (plus the value of the avoided schedule slip) would they have had to pay more or less than my 3 months salary?
And that was just one project I did. I was known as an expert in bringing troubled projects back on schedule. And doing in times considered impossible at costs that were minuscule. I was involved in another project and was told I had 3 months (and that was considered impossibly tight) to get it back on track. All the overtime I wanted to put in. I said I wasn't a big fan of overtime. That was not received well, but they put me in charge of the recovery plan any way. Cost no object. I did it in 6 weeks with no overtime and a budget of maybe 25K in materials. Was I worth the big bucks?
The point of paying people what they are worth is so that some one who also sees value in their labor is less likely to hire them away in the middle of the project. Paying people what they are worth is defensive. It assures continuity. What does it cost a project to have one of its top producers jump ship for more money in the middle of a project? A lot more than the savings in salary gained by hiring some one on the cheap.
Get top producers and pay them what they are worth. It is the cheapest way to get things done.
You are thinking like a bean counter. Me? I think like a project manager. Because that is what I do. And guess what? After the projects were done the bean counters were always pleasantly surprised.
You absolutely do not want to have personal decisions made the same way that you make decisions on a lot of 4-40 screws. It is self defeating.
What I want is a team of 10 people that are the very best I can find at their market rates. It is cheaper than having 30 people at "average" rates. Much cheaper.
Get a copy of the Brooks book. It will enlighten you.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/020183 ... 0201835959
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
Brooks discusses the cost of communication efficiency and the value of top producers. He does make one glaring error. He equates efficiency with the lines of code per unit time metric. The correct method is problems solved per unit time.
It is much better to have one line of code that took a week to develop than to have 30 lines done in that same week to solve the same problem. Maintenance gets greatly reduced. Explaining it to others on the project is easier. It multiplies.
On projects I would often spend what was considered inordinate amounts of time staring at the walls and doing nothing "productive". Every single place I ever worked had that complaint. And yet in exchange for paying me to "do nothing" the companies got superior results. Both for time and budget expended.
I want 10 more like me working on the various aspects of the Polywell. If I ever get in a position to do anything about it.
When it comes to talent taking a bean counter mentality is never wise.