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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 02/19/2011

Wisconsin: Dueling statistics about public employees

By E.J. Dionne

As the Battle of Madison continues, I can't resist calling attention to two charts in two newspapers Saturday morning that point to quite different conclusions about the relative pay and benefits of public- and private-sector workers.

The Wall Street Journal has a chart showing that "state and local government workers" clearly do better that "private-industry workers." According to the Journal, state and local government workers make $26.25 cents an hour, compared to the $19.68 an hour that workers in private industry average. This chart clearly feeds the narrative that public-sector workers are - depending on you point of view - "better-paid" or "overpaid."

But the New York Times has a more subtle chart that tells the real story. Focusing only on Wisconsin, the Times chart shows that among workers without a bachelor's degree, state workers are, indeed, better paid than private-sector workers - the figures are $37,000 annually for state workers, $33,250 for private-sector workers.

However, among workers with a bachelor's degree, private-sector workers earn more than state workers -- $57,113 for private-sector workers, $51,921 for public-sector workers.

The Times provides a helpful explanation of these numbers:

Wisconsin state workers have a median wage of $45,691, 22 percent more than the median wage earned by workers in the private sector. But these figures, which do not include benefits, can be deceptive because the state workforce is much better educated than the private-sector workforce. In Wisconsin, more than 60 percent of state workers have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with just over 20 percent in the private sector, according to census data. College-educated workers on the state payroll in fact earn a median wage that is 9 percent less than that of their peers in the private sector.

Bear these numbers in mind in the polemics that we will no doubt hear in the coming months about public employees. It is hugely misleading to compare all public workers to all private workers for the reasons outlined by the Times: A large share of public workers do jobs - one thinks of teachers and nurses, for example - that require a substantial amount of formal education, but they tend to have lower compensation levels than the jobs done by other, comparably educated, private-sector workers. The Economic Policy Institute (a pro-labor group, it should be said) has a fascinating chart on its Web site showing that in Wisconsin, the more educated the group of workers, the larger the gap between the public and private sectors - again, in favor of the private sector. According to EPI, those with professional degrees earn $225,644 in total compensation in the private sector, but $143,569 in the public sector. EPI, by the way, also shows a very small gap ($47,469 to $46,213) in favor of the private sector even among workers with only high school degrees. But the point is clear: the higher the education level, the larger the income gap is in favor of private-sector workers.

Does that mean that less-educated workers in the public sector are "overpaid"? I have to say that I find it pretty outrageous for well-off conservatives to say that -- I'm calculating on the basis of The New York Times numbers here -- that people earning $712 a week are "overpaid" and ought to be making only the $639 a week that comparably educated private-sector workers make. I'd argue it the other way around: that the problem in our society is that private-sector wages for people at the bottom of the income structure are too low relative to everyone else's and this rising inequality is a real problem. You could also say that unions do, indeed, lift the pay and benefits of the least well placed in our society, and that this is a social benefit.

I have left to last a brief reply to my colleague Chuck Lane's post Friday. By the way, Chuck, I was very sorry to hear you weren't feeling well, and I hope you feel better. And just so you don't have to rise from a sickbed over the long weekend, I'll try not to be polemical here and require a reply. Just one factual point: You write that Harold Meyerson, Ezra Klein and I had "retreated" to "a more defensible line" in the arguments we advanced about the problems with Gov. Scott Walker's position. I don't know how I could have "retreated" since the post to which Chuck replied was my first comment on the Wisconsin controversy. I had no position from which to "retreat". (I don't really think Ezra or Harold retreated, either, but I'll let my colleagues sort that out.)

I'll leave any other disagreements I might have with Chuck to next week. And one word of praise for him: I did appreciate his reference to "the glorious blogger-proletarian alliance." He meant it archly, and it was a nice line. And I'm perfectly happy if he wants to think of me as part of that no doubt hugely influential group.

By E.J. Dionne  | February 19, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Next: Tyranny in Wisconsin, Part 4

Comments

It's very clear that the legislature and administration in Wisconsin wants us to believe the workers are overpaid and selfish. It's also clear that they have very cleverly avoided the truth: they want to break the contract instead of bargaining with the union(s) over what are bargainable issues.

E.J. has shown, with facts instead of biased numbers, that the more educated public workers have settled for lower wages in exchange for benefits and pension contributions paid for by the government. Now, the legislature/administration wants to violate the contract and do it with public support.

Shame on you, Wisconsin. Your position is based on a lie and nefarious motives.

Posted by: goodgovernment | February 19, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I could not be prouder of these workers in Wisconsin if they were integrating lunch counters in Birmingham in 1963. Stay the course. You will prevail, and we elsewhere in the country support you.

I know firsthand how union-wage jobs can lift people out of poverty. When my parents first moved to Georgia in 1972, my mother got a non-union job at a book warehouse, making $62 a week, trying to support my brother and me when my father moved back to Massachusetts to find more viable work. A year later she was able to get a civil service position at the post office, from which four years later she was able to send me to college. She didn't get wealthy there, but she had a comfortable lower middle class lifestyle. It makes a difference. It really does.

Georgia is a "right to work" state, where workers have few, if any, rights. Hold onto your rights and hold your ground, Wisconsin workers!

Posted by: snj1 | February 19, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I believe that there is no argument. Rather private corporations are not giving their employees good retirement and benefits. The corporations some how have convinced the population that they do not have a responsibility to provide benefits to their employees such as a defined retirement. Some how they have connived the population that they could only afford to give a minimum of benefits. Billions of dollars in profit going to a chosen few is the new way of doing business. Also manufacturing in the US will mean only lets say a billion in profits rather than lets say 3 billion. The common person should now stand up and let the business world know that in order for the American way to continue they must give back to society in a meaningful way for their survival of the current lifestyle they currently have.

Posted by: marktutone | February 20, 2011 2:40 AM | Report abuse

I find this somewhat like trying to decide if, with nothing in my bank account and no income, I should by the Ford or the Toyota. Which is the better value? The realistic answer is that I can afford neither. The simple fact is that the public cannot today afford the level of "service" that it has become used to receiving from the public sector. However, that is not the central problem. Perhaps an even more serious issue is that government officials have also invented their own unique form of "sub-prime" lending by back weighting their compensation contracts with unrealistic defined benefit compensation promises coupled with unrealistic (actually probably more like knowingly false) market growth projections for benefit plan investments. In addition to this, for years they have gotten way behind or even flat out lied about required employer contributions to fund these plans.
Stated another way, as things stand today, our mortgage is under water (we no longer want or can pay for all of these services) we are behind by years in our mortgage payments (didn't put required contributions into the benefit plans), we signed up for a "teaser" interest rate that has actually increased the principal over the years (unrealistic fund growth projections) and are facing a balloon payment (can't pay pensions and medical expenses as it is.) Just like millions of homeowners, we now are faced with two choices. Move out and let the bank foreclose (i.e. layoff the lion's share of public employees) or work with the bank to renegotiate the terms (change the union contract terms.)
Clearly the unions do not believe we will do the former and will fight us to death to keep us from doing the latter! Perhaps we'll all learn something from the debate, but nothing here has anything to do with whether the house was worth the money we paid for it or whether we could have gotten a better deal in another neighborhood.

Posted by: Scott65 | February 20, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

I've worked for lawyers my whole adult life. I know for a fact that lawyers who work for the government, city, county, state or federal, make much less than lawyers in private practice. The Wisconsin state employees have agreed to the monetary issues, which the tea party folks choose to ignore, but want to retain their collective bargaining rights. I sincerely hope they win and I wish the media would make it crystal clear what the issues are.

Posted by: jpawlik1 | February 20, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

How is collective bargaining a "right" in Wisconsin-or anywhere else, for that matter? I doubt that it's in their state constitution or there would have been no necessity to grant that PRIVILEGE to public employee unions by statutory authority in 1959. Laws can be changed, children. Just ask a teacher-- if you can find one who is honest and not deliriously "sick."

Fire A.W.O.L. public servants and their physician enablers.

Posted by: elgropo1 | February 20, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

How serious is the new governor of Wisconsin? Has he set a good example for public employees by voluntarily taking a pay cut? Has he asked his appointees to take pay cuts? Has he looked for people on the state payroll who have no-show jobs? Has he found the public employees who are on the payroll only because they have "connections?" If he does those things, he might get some cooperation from the unions, and he might find that some of the budgetary problems will have been eliminated.

Posted by: sailhardy | February 20, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Elgropo1 is a prime example of the selfishness that has somehow become politically and socially acceptable in today's world. As long as they've got theirs, to hell with those who don't. This prevailing attitude really diminishes us as a country and saddens me as a citizen.

Posted by: jpawlik1 | February 20, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Elgroppo (and others) re collective bargaining as a right. It is, under Wisconsin state law (courtesy politifact Feb 18th) to wit:


"Two sections of state law -- one for state workers and one for local government and public school employees -- give public employees the right in Wisconsin to collectively bargain.

The law issues a mandate to both the employer (the government) and the collective bargaining unit (employees represented by a union).

The two sides must "meet and confer at reasonable times, in good faith, with the intention of reaching an agreement" on wages, hours, fringe benefits and conditions of employment.

In other words, the workers -- through their union -- have a say in those areas. They do not have such a say under civil service rules."

Posted by: Floretta | February 20, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Does EJ's numbers include defined benefit pensions in the wages of public sector workers? If it doesn't, then it really isn't an apples / apples comparison. DB pensions are a thing of the past in the private sector.

The other thing public sector workers have is security. They can be barely mediocre and still be pretty much un-fireable. In the private sector, you don't have the option to "coast" your entire career as you do in government. Sometimes after 12-hour day in the office, I think it would be nice to be a 9-to-5 clock puncher for the government who never takes work home, never has to do anything on the weekend, and can basically have a job for life as long as I refrain from committing a felony.

Posted by: sold2u | February 20, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

To jpawlik1:

Save your crocodile tears.

What we're seeing in Madison is mob intimidation on the taxpayers' dime. It is dereliction of duty and a corrupt example for youth. It is a perversion of democracy led by default by elected Senators who are cowards for running from a legitimate debate and vote.

Those of us who have "gotten ours" after many years did so by showing up for work every day possible and obeying laws or rules we didn't necessarily agree with.

I suspect you are very early in your working career. Wherever you happen to be, you'd better learn the meaning of the word "earn."

Posted by: elgropo1 | February 20, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

EJ you Democrat shill.
You can't just compare Bachelor degrees as if those are equivalent (in the Democrat world maybe they are- education is just dollars not outcome). Engineers, accountants and teachers get more jobs and higher salaries than art or history majors (I know- in the Democrat world this is unfair). Again the comparison must be equivalent jobs.

Even you must admit that private sector employee pay in part for their retirement and health care if their even have them. Public employees generally don't.

And even you EJ would come out of your skin if the government automatically deducted dues for memberships in Catholic societies and other religious group for that group's convenience. Or for political parties, United Way etc. without your permission. The Wisconsin government collects the dues for the union, all union members, there are no options.

Listen to your President. He said these government workers are your friends and neighbors. And as such they should be compared against those private sector neighbors and friends- 10% of which are unemployed, 50% don't have either health insurance or a pension and the rest pay in part for those benefits.

Or I can take your viewpoint that they are underpaid. In that case we have too many of them for the budget. Lay them off.



Posted by: flyover22 | February 20, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

No matter what you think or feel, you have no power to do anything about Wisconsin, or any other decision. The election has consequences, and the people chose a strong governor to lead them out of the mess. Time to stop the special treatment of unions/ minorities/ anyone. We can not afford these special deals and free passes anymore.

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | February 21, 2011 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Here are some more data:

It is well known that public workers gave up salary for benefits. You have to look at total compensation. As Nick Johnson reported in Ezra's posting, the total compensation of public workers is LESS than that of comparable private workers. There are many studies. You might want to look at This refernce from the Washington Post:

Washington Post:

"Jeffrey Keefe, an associate professor at the university's (Rutgers) School of Management and Labor Relations, said public employees do not make more than comparable private employees.
According to Keefe, comparing private and public employees with the same educational level, experience and work schedule shows private employees make 11 percent more in wages and 5 percent more in total compensation than public workers."

There is also the following:

The nonpartisan National Institute on Retirement Security found that, on average, total compensation is 6.8 percent less for state employees and 7.4 percent less for local employees than for comparable non-government workers.

Finally, here is a factoid that has some bearing on the situation:

Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores: South Carolina, 50th; North Carolina, 49th; Georgia, 48th; Texas, 47th; Virginia, 44th. Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is 2nd.


Posted by: lensch | February 21, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Who started the myth that public sector workers don't pay part of thier health and pension benefits. Federal workers certainly do and always have. In Texas state workers and teachers do. Where did this lie orginate and why do so many people continue to spread it when information to the contrary is readily available?

Posted by: withersb | February 21, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Everyone knows the definition of statistics. The bottomline is that Wisconsin cannot afford the union pensions any longer. Run the union thugs and their DNC counterparts out of the state and come to some agreement and everyone will benefit.

Posted by: rscott1293 | February 21, 2011 8:16 AM | Report abuse

In Missouri the public employee unions gave great concessions on benefits and pay and are still facing more potential cutbacks. This done by a Democrat Governor, and the cuts to pay and benefits of public service employees continues. Teachers are being laid off, and funding for state programs are being cut. This to balance the budget which is a constitutional requirement. Yet the issue is not that the public servants are suffering and their collective bargaining rights are all but eliminated as well. Something not mentioned by the national press I wonder if it is because he is a democrat and a strong supporter of our President? On a side note many americans today do not work in jobs that are unionized and the job sectors that most desperately need unions do not have them nor are they ever likely to get them. This to me demonstrates the death of unions more than the actions of one governor.

Posted by: opspwcjc | February 21, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Nice try EJ...but when you print liberal press releases you are going to get slapped down...easily.

When you cherry pick data, as you did with the college degree vs non college degree to try and make your point that the public sector is not overpaid you must include TOTAL COMPENSATION. Only then can you make a fair comparison.

So EJ - add in the health and pension benefits the public workers in Wisconsin receive on the taxpayer dime versus what the private sector employees are receiving. NOW INCLUDE DAYS OFF AND OTHER COMP TIME.

THEN WHO IS MAKING MORE EJ?

I'M WAITING....

Posted by: manbearpig4 | February 21, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"I've worked for lawyers my whole adult life. I know for a fact that lawyers who work for the government, city, county, state or federal, make much less than lawyers in private practice. The Wisconsin state employees have agreed to the monetary issues, which the tea party folks choose to ignore, but want to retain their collective bargaining rights. I sincerely hope they win and I wish the media would make it crystal clear what the issues are."

You've obviously never been to Nevada. I am an attorney, and I know plenty of governmental attorneys where I live who make more than I do, not incuding benefits (better retirement & health benefits, more time off, etc). For instance, an attorney working for the Attorney General's Office can retire after 30 years (25 if he exercises a 5 year buy up) with a pension that's 80% of the average of his last 3 years pay (my father, a Vietnam veteran, ony received 50% of the average of his pay over his entire career when he retired from the military). So someone from the AG's office can conceivably retire at age 50 to 55 with a pension that is almost six figures (I know several people in the AG's office, and they are all making six figures), while I will be lucky to ever be able to afford to retire. The issue, which you apparently missed, is whether state employees should continue to receive these kinds of benefits while members of the middle class in the private sector pay for it. Why should I have to work until I die so someone in the public sector, who works less than I do to begin with, can retire in his 50s? If I have to rely on Social Security, then so should public employees. If I don't get a defined benefit pension, neither should they. Public employees do not pay my salary, but I do pay theirs, and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay more taxes so they can retire decades before me (assuming I'm even able to retire).

Posted by: lvnv99 | February 21, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Read what Wisconsin is really about...unfettered wealth taking over our country  http://wp.me/pNmlT-BT

Posted by: Dh1953 | February 21, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

@dh1953: "Read what Wisconsin is really about...unfettered wealth taking over our country "

Presumably, if **fettered** wealth was taking over our country, it'd be okay.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 21, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

How mucg the public/private sectors make is not the point. The Governor wants
public employees to contribute half the cost of their pensions -- up from zero -- and about one-eighth of the cost of their health insurance premiums. It's called sustainability. If the public sector doesn't want to pony up for a share of their benefits, like the private sector has had to do for the last 20 years, the public sector will sink the ship.

Posted by: nosuchluck | February 21, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

@dh1953: "Read what Wisconsin is really about...unfettered wealth taking over our country "

Presumably, if **fettered** wealth was taking over our country, it'd be okay.

@rscott: " The bottomline is that Wisconsin cannot afford the union pensions any longer."

You don't have to get rid of collective bargaining rights in order to restructure pensions.

@withersb: "Who started the myth that public sector workers don't pay part of thier health and pension benefits?"

I pay for all of my health insurance and retirement (I work in for the county schools). The insurance is decent for the money and my retirement (a defined benefit pension) seems reasonably well-structured, so that I will get to collect enough to help supplement my social security, but not so much that it might collapse under its own weight before I retire).

I've worked 20 years in the private sector and 1.5 years in the public sector, and I can tell you that, for the most part, it's better in the public sector. But it's not 1000% better--it's more like 10% better. And there are trade-offs. I always found time off and vacation scheduling a lot friendlier in every private sector business I worked in. Recently, I had to take off vacation time (which is very limited, unless you've worked in the system 15 years) to attend the funeral of a cousin. And there's very little wiggle room.

Really, in my personal experience, it is six of one, half-dozen of the other. I like what I'm doing, I like working for the schools, I look working on large scale projects--so, whatever minimal trade-offs there are, I don't plan on going back to private-sector work unless I have to.

Also, I have friends who have, over the years, made the move from private-to-public sector, and almost none of them would ever even think of going back. And it's not that they don't work--many of them work as hard or harder than they did in the private sector. But pay and benefits and seniority and job security tend to make public worker the sweeter deal, if you can get it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 21, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

@nosuch: "The Governor wants
public employees to contribute half the cost of their pensions -- up from zero -- and about one-eighth of the cost of their health insurance premiums. It's called sustainability."

Many public employees contribute to, or fund over 50%, of their pensions. In Tennessee, we fund a lot--a mandatory 5% of every pay check goes to fund the TCRS. Based on what I'm likely to get back, it's entirely possible I'll get less back than I pay in, though if I live to be 100 I'll probably get more.

But . . . my understanding is that the unions have conceded on those issues and the governor won't make the deal unless he can take away collective bargaining rights, correct?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 21, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

OK, let’s look at the outright LIES of the right wing in Wisconsin:

#1-The public employees don’t pay for their benefits. Pure BS. They do and always have paid a part of the cost.

#2-They make too much. Public employees have already agreed to wage cuts over and above the fact that they have not had raises, which are in their contract, for the past three years.

#3-Republicans say it’s not about unions, it’s about the budget. Horse manure! The unions offered wage givebacks and further talks with the governor, if he took union busting out of the equation. The moron refused.

#4-There is a budget shortfall, and the reason is the high cost of public employees. Another outright lie, and Walker knows it. Everybody knows it. Wisconsin was fine …. until Walker got elected by the Koch brothers and the Tea Party lunatics. The minute he got into office, the new governor had to pay off the people who put him there, so he rammed through $140M in tax breaks to large corporations, almost the exact same amount the state now has to cover by STEALING it from honest, hardworking citizens. WI has no fiscal problem, it has a criminal problem, and the criminals names are Walker and Koch.

Posted by: totallyaware | February 21, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"#4-There is a budget shortfall, and the reason is the high cost of public employees. Another outright lie, and Walker knows it. Everybody knows it. Wisconsin was fine …. until Walker got elected by the Koch brothers and the Tea Party lunatics. The minute he got into office, the new governor had to pay off the people who put him there, so he rammed through $140M in tax breaks to large corporations, almost the exact same amount the state now has to cover by STEALING it from honest, hardworking citizens. WI has no fiscal problem, it has a criminal problem, and the criminals names are Walker and Koch."

Actually, the government has to steal it from the private sector and then redistribute it to public employees.


Posted by: lvnv99 | February 21, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

The inferences of this piece may be correct, but they seem unsupportable by the "statistics" you report.

The population makeup of the professionally degreed in the public sector is likely very different from that in the government sector.

I would find a comparison of the relative lots (including benefits) of 45 year old attorneys, architects, civil engineers, MDs in similar situations far more instructive.

The existence of the unfunded pension burden of many governments suggests that there is an iniquity in there somewhere.

Could it be that the governments withheld and squandered the employee contributions?

Posted by: jferguson4 | February 21, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The inferences of this piece may be correct, but they seem unsupportable by the "statistics" you report.

The population makeup of the professionally degreed in the public sector is likely very different from that in the government sector.

I would find a comparison of the relative lots (including benefits) of 45 year old attorneys, architects, civil engineers, MDs in similar situations far more instructive.

The existence of the unfunded pension burden of many governments suggests that there is an iniquity in there somewhere.

Could it be that the governments withheld and squandered the employee contributions?

Posted by: jferguson4 | February 21, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

On Presidents Day, let a President (a Republican one at that!) chime in:

"All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn
between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet he hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool"

According to Honest Abe there is a pack of liars, fools and traitors in the Wisconsin legislature and gov's office.

Posted by: Spiritof761 | February 21, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

WI government employees do not contribute to their retirement plan, civilian work force does. WI government employees contribute a minimum (12.8%) to their health plan, commercial segment contributes around 50% on average. WI employees have to have an act of congress to be fired. Civilian workers can be fired simply by walking them out of the plant. We can argue all day about the plus and minuses of these sectors, but one thing stands tall...government workers get paid by the civilian workers tax dollars and are there to support the needs of the citizens of the state. If the state is going bankrupt, their jobs are in jepordy and the service to the people of WI is in jepordy. The government has the responsibility to not bankrupt the people who pay the wages...not simply a debate over pay and benefits...it is a debate over government spending.

Posted by: staterighter | February 21, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

yes public employees make less than the private sector but why not include the benefits and garenteed pension benefits they will recieve. most public pensions are hugely unfunded and will consume more and more of the taxes paid to support government services, leaving less for all the other state obligations. how can this continue. in california our state pensions and health care for retirees are going to bury the state. pension managers should have to follow standard accounting practices and realistic rates of return to determine the solvency of their plans and publish them in their state papers for the people to see.

Posted by: jwangell1 | February 21, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

How can states meet their obligations to run the state in a fiscally sound manor with the pension bubble looming over their heads? The guaranteed retirement benefits and life long health care for state workers will bankrupt state coffers. The pension funds should have to use standard accounting principles to project the soundness of both the pension fund and retiree health fund. They also should assume realistic rates of return on their investments. Without this they just hide the under funding of their plans. Pension benefit in California they are guaranteed under law, so if they run out of funds they are taking from the general fund and which decreases funding for schools healthcare and so on. They should have a maximum pension dollar amount cap annually.

Posted by: jwangell1 | February 21, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Spiritof761: On Presidents Day, let a President (a Republican one at that!) chime in:

"All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn
between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet he hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool"

According to Honest Abe there is a pack of liars, fools and traitors in the Wisconsin legislature and gov's office.
-----------------------------------------
So, what do you think Abe would have done to government employees who walked off their job? What would he have done to representatives who left their state because they were now no longer in the majority and couldn't control things? How many public employee unions existed in Abe's time and, if they did exist, what do you think he would have done to them when they tried to tell him he couldn't do what he thought was needed to preserve the state?

Posted by: Marin823 | February 21, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

College educated private $57.1K, public $51.9K.

That $5000 difference does not provide enough space for a private secure worker to continue to fund all that he is asked to fund. Remember, a public sector worker is a net loss to the economy: his salary, benefits, taxes are all payed by someone else. He produces nothing of value to the country that increases national wealth.

Posted by: katorga | February 21, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

The Wisconsin Senate needs a quorum of 20 for any spending votes but only 17 for anything else. This being the case, the Republican should simply call the legislature back into session and start shoving through all sorts of "social" legislation designed to annoy various democratic constituencies. Hopefully, this will force them to return to work and do their duty, if only to defend these interests. At the very least, it will sow disension in their ranks as interest group after interest group sees themselves being sacrificed for the union bosses.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | February 21, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

What boggles my mind is that Wisconsin like other states have been underfunding their pension plans for years and using those funds to balance their budgets. Now that it is time to pay up as older workers retire, the politicians want to blames the workers.

States made bad investments in the stock market and lost a lot of money; that's not the fault of the workers. Many states chose to eliminate worker contributions to pension plans in lieu of pay raises and employees went along with the plan because they were under the impression that the states would keep their promises.

In may cases, it is the governments that are being dishonest in blaming the employees. I believe the unions will compromise, but I don't the governor of Wisconsin is really that interested in compromise; he wants to destroy the union.

Posted by: zzishate@yahoo.com | February 21, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

This is absolutely about changing the power equation of public unions and their so-called employers.
Unions do not have rights. They have privileges granted by law. They have used those privileges to secure benefits beyond those that their benefactors enjoy or can afford (given other government commitments).
Now the duly elected representatives aim to balance that equation. Talk of tyranny is bogus. No house rules are being broken. No violation of the state constitution is taking place. What is taking place is a concerted effort by state employees to violate their employment contract by deserting their jobs.
I recommend that these disgruntled workers find their closest neighbor that works in the private sector. They should then protest in front of their home. After all, who are they taking this money from anyway? Just demand a direct monthly contribution. Cut out the middle man. It should work nicely.

Posted by: jbtaylor77 | February 21, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

EJ...remember why unions were created - to protect the worker...but is this not two priciple referandums for you ? Your pro Government - so are you stating that 'employess' need to unionize to protect themselves from the government you support?
This is truly the tax payers last stand and why the unions are desperate. But one must remember - why were 'political' unions formed in the first place? Government unions are a relatively new phenomenon, and were created not because they served a legitimate economic or social purpose, but out of cynical political considerations. In otherwords - to buy votes. This began in the 1950s when New York Mayor Robert Wagner issued an executive order unionizing city employees to create a new constituency for his re-election. Traditionally, union organizers oppose government unions because they were concerned that their industrial union workers would be forced to pay higher taxes if civil servants were able to artificially force an increase in their compensation.

Posted by: short1 | February 21, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"Which do not include benefits..."

End of your analysis, right there, isn't it?

Posted by: Gooddogs | February 21, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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