August 11, 2010

I warned you all -- it's definitely silly season. Summer recess means spaghetti-throwing contests, and the Republicans have theirs all ready to go. We've seen Social Security attacked while they sing a song of praise for keeping the Bush tax cuts. Today's Stupid of the Day is a big whine about how much public employees make, compared to private employees.

First, the facts:

At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.

Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.

Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.

Isn't it amazing that the federal government has managed to keep pay rates and benefit levels competitive for their employees without breaking the bank? On the other hand, private industry has laid off a good chunk of their workforce while squeezing every last bit of productivity out of those who remain, held back raises while telling their employees they're lucky to have a job, stopped making 401k matching contributions even after their profits have soared to record highs and they've banked a ton of cash that they're NOT spending to hire or rehire laid-off employees.

Cato Institute jumped on the data like swine to the trough:

Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks otherwise. "Can't we now all agree that federal workers are overpaid and do something about it?" he asks.

I have a different question:

Can't we now all agree that private industry workers are overpaid to pad the bottom line and do something about it?

Or this one:

Can't we all agree that even a small portion of these bloated profits should go to the employees who make that bottom line happen?

Instead, it's turned into an attack on unions, which is the other theme of this summer of discontent. Attack the unions. The reason Republicans opposed the bill extending federal aid to states for police, firefighters and teachers was because they were trying to break the unions. It's the Dick Morris strategy in action.

One of the most disingenuous talking points of this study:

The average federal salary has grown 33% faster than inflation since 2000. USA TODAY reported in March that the federal government pays an average of 20% more than private firms for comparable occupations. The analysis did not consider differences in experience and education.

Those "free markets" again. Why isn't anyone talking about the fact that the average private sector salary hasn't even kept pace with inflation? Workers today earn less than they did ten years ago. So tell me again, which of these is the bad thing?

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