David Brooks calls high public sector wages "the Democratic Party's epic failure," the same day the Washington Post reports on a tsunami in municipal pensions. It's time to debate public sector retirement packages again!
I've hosted, and commented on, the ongoing debate about compensation for federal and state employees here and here. The argument tends to go like this. One side says, correctly, that public sector workers on average receive slightly higher wages and much higher retirement promises than private sector workers. The other side says, correctly, that public sector workers tend to hold more degrees than the average private sector workers, which explains almost the entire difference.
But there are two debates living in this argument. One is how we should pay public sector workers. Two is how we should structure retirement packages.
First, let's talk public salaries. Brooks writes that "[Democrats believe] in the positive uses of government. But if you want the country to share that belief, you have to provide a government that is nimble, tough-minded and effective." Is it unproductive to pay government workers high wages? If we want a "nimble, tough-minded and effective" public sector, shouldn't our compensation packages attract nimble, tough-minded, and effective public workers?