by Joye Barksdale | April 19, 2012
TV’s popular “Myth Busters” show dissects common myths to determine whether they are fact or fiction. We’d like conservative think-tankers Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine to subject their frequent rants about the overpaid public service worker to the show, where that fallacy would go the way of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.
Biggs and Richwine trotted out their favorite trope recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Overpaid Public Workers: The Evidence Mounts.” But AFSCME’s own myth buster, President Gerald W. McEntee, fired right back:
To the editor,
As predictable as hay fever in the Spring, the Journal has once again provided a platform for Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine -- referred to hereafter as BigWhine -- to claim that public workers are overpaid. The members of my union, AFSCME, would be surprised to hear that. In the two states highlighted by the authors, Wisconsin and Ohio, our members working for state and local governments average about $40,000 in pay and retire with pensions, after a full career of service, that are about $19,000 per year. Just how much less do the authors think our members should earn? If BigWhine can guarantee our good health, and promise that we’ll never grow old, we’ll gladly surrender our health care and pension benefits.
Most disturbingly, the authors seek to cast the recall of Governor Walker and the overwhelming defeat of Governor’s Kasich’s union busting bill as backlash to efforts to address overly generous compensation. Nothing could be further than the truth. In Wisconsin, our members agreed to health care and pension cuts to help the state address its fiscal challenges. But Walker was so determined to break the union that he never even talked to our members about the issue. Now, he’ll face the voters. In Ohio, the voters rejected Kasich’s union busting by a huge margin. Yet within two weeks of that historic vote, the Governor and our union achieved a collective bargaining agreement that both sides consider fair and sensitive to the fiscal condition of the state.
Public workers are not overpaid and countless studies corroborate this fact. Some are even cited by the authors. Despite BigWhine’s repeated efforts to confuse the issue, facts can be very stubborn things.
Gerald W. McEntee, President
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees
(A shorter version of the above letter — edited by the Journal — appeared in the paper on April 18, 2012.)
In fact, numerous studies have shown that public service workers earn lower salaries than comparable private sector workers. Maybe Biggs and Richwine should scrap their tall tales and stick with the facts.