With the economy stalled, wages stagnate, and government debt setting new records every month, it must make people furious to hear that the government coddles its workers with higher pay and richer benefit promises at the federal, state and local level. Federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, USA Today reported this week.
But was the story accurate? Does the private sector get a raw deal, or is the gap between public and private employees a myth? To find out I spoke with two experts on public and private compensation, one from the right and one from the left.
Here is an edited transcript of my interview with Christian Weller, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress. My interview with Andrew Biggs, a scholar with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, is here.
Is the public sector pampered?
The people who make that argument often simply compare average wages. That's wrong because the public sector has substantially more degrees than the private sector. One study by the National Institute of Retirement Security by Milwaukee that accounted for education found that the public sector gets paid between 7 and 12 percent less when you control for age and characteristics. That gap remains if you include compensation like pensions and health care.