Two Americas

There really are two Americas after all–one rich, one relatively poor. The Wall Street Journal explains:

It turns out there really is growing inequality in America. It’s the 45% premium in pay and benefits that government workers receive over the poor saps who create wealth in the private economy.
And the gap is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 1998 to 2008 public employee compensation grew by 28.6%, compared with 19.3% for private workers. In the recession year of 2009, with almost no inflation and record budget deficits, more than half the states awarded pay raises to their employees.

The road to solvency for state and local governments isn’t too hard to identify, either:

What if government workers earned the average of what private workers earn? States and localities would save $339 billion a year from their more than $2.1 trillion budgets. These savings are larger than the combined estimated deficits for 2010 and 2011 of every state in America.
In a separate survey, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis compares the compensation of public versus private workers in each of the 50 states. Perhaps not coincidentally, the pay gap is widest in states that have the biggest budget deficits, such as New Jersey, Nevada and Hawaii. Of the 40 states that have a budget deficit so far this year, 28 would have a balanced budget were it not for the windfall to government workers. …
So if your state is broke, this is a major reason. Eventually, governors, state legislators and city council members are going to have to decide whether protecting America’s privileged class of government workers is a higher priority than funding such core functions of government as public safety. Something has to give. It’s time to close the biggest pay gap in America.

Why doesn’t the public/private pay gap get more attention? Partly because most people don’t know about it. Maybe we should start referring to those of us who work in the private sector as “private servants.” We certainly have a better claim to the title “servant” than our masters in the public sector.

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