t the core of Wisconsin's budget showdown is Republican Governor Scott Walker's argument that public employees are handsomely overcompensated, and that reining in their benefits is key to erasing budget shortfalls. Liberals point to studies that show public workers are, in fact, paid less than their peers in the private sector, and argue this GOP crackdown on unions is about power, not money. Who's right? (See Scott Walker's fireside chat)
Wisconsin's public workers are underpaid: Have you ever heard of anyone joining the public sector to get rich? asks Matt Steinglass in The Economist. I haven't. And according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, public employees in Wisconsin are no different. Compared to private-sector workers with similar education and experience, "they're paid less."
"Don't join the government to get rich"
Wages aren't the issue — "pension obesity" is: It's not hard to find examples of "how good life is for those who once worked for the city, the state, or any one of several public agencies," says Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. Take the NYC fire department official with a $242,000 annual pension, or the California cops who retire before age 50. No wonder there's a "feeling of disgust" for civil servants: "Some of them retire on larger stipends than the average American makes in salary."
"Government pensions, an obesity epidemic"
Why nickel-and-dime civil servants? In Wisconsin, at least, public servants earn 5 percent less than their private sector counterparts, even when you include benefits, says Alex Knapp in Outside the Beltway. But "I don't see the point of comparing private vs. public sector compensation." You get what you pay for: Better-paid workers mean a "more-efficient government," while "underpaying public servants is a one-way ticket to a system of more bribery and corruption."
"Are Wisconsin public servants overpaid?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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