For anyone that did not read Jon Perr's post here from back in 2010, I'll just refer our readers back there for a detailed analysis of why what Chris Wallace was repeating here on Fox News Sunday about public sector workers being overpaid is complete nonsense; Republicans Launch Phony War on Public Employees.
Thankfully Chris Wallace did get some push back as well from his guests, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association and deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO, Thea Lee. As Van Roekel pointed out, it's all a game of divide and conquer they're playing, trying to pit private sector employees against government employees to drive a wedge between members of the working class. As Jon noted in his post and as the two union leaders pointed out as well, public sector workers are not overpaid when you take into consideration their education levels.
As Jon wrote:
The report by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University revealed that public employees are undercompensated compared to similarly skilled private sector counterparts:
The study analyzes workers with similar human capital. It controls for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity and disability and finds that, compared to workers in the private sector, state government employees are undercompensated by 7.55% and local government employees are undercompensated by 1.84%. The study also finds that the benefits that state and local government workers receive do not offset the lower wages they are paid.
The public/private earnings differential is greatest for doctors, lawyers and professional employees, the study finds. High school-educated public workers, on the other hand, are more highly compensated than private sector employees, because the public sector sets a floor on compensation. The earnings floor has collapsed in the private sector.
I find it particularly cynical that these overpaid millionaires on television are carping about those greedy government workers that get $14 or so average an hour in benefits. I wonder how far that would go towards paying what Chris Wallace receives as part of his benefits package as a paid propagandist for Fox? Corporate America wants a race to the bottom on benefits and wages and Wallace is happy to play along to help them to get it.
Transcript below the fold.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let's look at the comparison that we put together of what public workers get and what private workers get. Let's put it up on the screen.
Sixty-four percent of private workers have access to pensions. Ninety percent of state and local government workers do.
Sixty-nine percent of private workers have access to health insurance. Eighty-seven percent of the public workers do. And private workers average $8.53 in benefits per hour work. Public workers get $14.31 in benefits per hour work.
Ms. Lee, why should people in the private sector be paying their taxes so that the government workers get more than they do?
LEE: Well, I think we have to turn the question around. It's not so much why do some people have a pension and others not, how do we take away the pension from the people who have it. That's un- American.
I think we need to figure out how do we make sure that everybody in America has a decent pension. This is a wealthy country.
WALLACE: But would you agree that show that more public workers have access to pension, more public workers have access to health care, and that they are getting more per hour work in terms of benefits than private workers.
LEE: Well, the balance of benefits versus wages in the public sector is a little bit different. But if you look at overall big picture, between public sector and private sector workers, if you compare them according to education and experience in the job category, in fact, public sector workers are not overpaid.
WALLACE: Yes, but that mean workers salary, it doesn't work for benefits.
LEE: No, that's when you take salary and benefits.
WALLACE: Well, I'm asking about benefits, though, which is considerably more, $14 an hour versus $8 an hour.
LEE: But some public sector works have chosen to take some of their composition in a form of benefits as oppose to wages. They are not overpaid on average.
In fact, especially on top end where you have doctors and lawyers and accountants and professionals in the public sector, they are earning less even than the private sector can afford, even taking into the account the benefits.
WALLACE: Mr. Van Roekel, can you understand where some people in the private sector would sit there and say, wait a minute, I don't get the benefits and then I have to pay taxes so public workers get benefits that I don't get.
VAN ROEKEL: First of all in the comparison with the wages of private versus public are the qualification and education needed for those jobs, so --
WALLACE: Yes. But having said that, there are people, for instance, in your -- teachers, they get a degree so they can teach, which wouldn't be very marketable in the rest of the world.
VAN ROEKEL: And the other part about the pension is we need to understand that he employees are also paying into the pension. So, in cases like in California, where they want to take away from people that are retired, they paid in every paycheck into to their pension. Government didn't live up to their end. Poor management on the part of government for managing their pension funds denied now the benefits.
In the private sector, the same thing happened. United absolutely blew their pension system, workers got pennies on the dollars, who bailed out the private company who didn't manage their pension system well? The U.S. government.
And so you have a responsibility as management and employee. We pay in and we expect our employers to pay their share so that the system works.
WALLACE: Let's look at exit polls from Wisconsin this week, which are instructive. Among people who life in union households, private union households, 62 percent voted for Tom Barrett, but 37 percent, more than a third, backed Governor Walker, who instituted these labor reforms. Mr. Van Roekel, we've seen this in other state, New Jersey, for example, a lot of people who back private unions think that government workers are getting too much.
VAN ROEKEL: I think it's part of divide and conquer. The reason they went after the public sector unions and left private sector alone is part of the things to trying to drive a wedge between people.
I also understand that unions are not monolithic.
But I also understand that when you're outspent seven to one, 68 percent of all of the people saw more ads for Walker than Barrett, I understand their message from the corporate side has been heard better than the one from the common every day workers.