Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lies conservatives tell: part 387

"Municipal (government) workers make more than workers in the private sector."

You hear this every day now, and it is baloney. The standard statistic supposedly reporting this is that the average salary of a municipal worker is higher than the average salary of a non-municipal worker. This is a highly misleading comparison, since municipal workers are almost all selected for particular skills and/or educational levels. It's a little like saying that professional architects earn more than general workers, or that college grads make more, on average, than the population at large. Most municipal workers must take civil service exams or show evidence that they have completed special training. Examples are obvious: fire-fighters, teachers, police, EMTs lawyers.

There are many sources evaluating these statistics; below is a quote from the Michigan Municipal League:

"Two studies, one released by the Snyder Administration [Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder] and another by a group of public employee unions give conflicting views in comparing public employee compensation to private sector compensation.

The Snyder Administration study, conducted by the Anderson Economic Group, shows that over the last decade, public sector workers have been compensated more than double private sectors workers. However, Governor Synder admitted that the report did not compare similar jobs in the public and private sectors, nor the educational attainment levels required for those jobs. The governor urged caution in the analysis of those numbers, agreeing it was not an apples-to-apples comparison.

However, a second study, released by Citizens for Accountability and Reform and the Economic Policy Institute found that after correcting for education levels, state workers have total compensation 9.67 percent less than their private sector counterparts.

Let me repeat the important point:

After correcting for education levels, state workers have total compensation nearly 10 percent less than their private sector counterparts.

In fact, we've all heard high-ranking "public servants" claim that they are leaving their posts because they can make much more in the private sector. Politicians say this all the time, except when they are trying to bash government workers.

It is true that municipal workers have somewhat better job security than workers in the private sector. This is because municipal workers are more organized into unions, and unions protect workers. As usual, conservatives try to use this as a way of seeding resentment and thus dividing salaried workers. It is another one of "management's" sneaky tools, which include exploiting racism, sexism, and religious prejudice. The appropriate response is: "If union members get treated with respect, maybe I should join a union."

The same people who underwrite the spread of these statistical fairy tales are the same wealthy and conservative people whose incomes have soared since Ronald Reagan's administration -- while the rest of us have seen our purchasing power essentially remain flat.

Oh, and one other thing. It was WALL STREET, not wage workers of any kind -- government or private sector -- which caused the mess we're in now. Wall Street cheated millions out of their savings and investments, and cheated states out of their retirement funds. And it is exactly Wall Street that the conservatives have protected every step of the way.


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