We addressed these myths in early 2012 with a six-part series called "Let's lay this myths to rest once and for all." If you're unfortunate to have a family member or friend who still believes these myths, here's a quick refresher course:
MYTH: Public employees are paid more than employees in the private sector.
TRUTH: The average public employee IS paid more than the average private-sector employee. This ignores, however, the fact that this involves an "apples to oranges" comparison. The "basket" of public employees contains many more employees with college educations, including many with graduate degrees. In fact, the average public employee is more than twice as likely to have a college or advanced degree. If you believe that more education should lead to better pay, you should have no problem with better-educated employees being paid more. The research-based conclusion is that "Wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those of private sector workers with comparable earnings determinants (e.g., education). State employees typically earn 11% less; local workers earn 12% less." For details see:
1) Let's lay this myth to rest once and for all.
2) Part 2: Let's lay this myth to rest once and for all.
MYTH: Pubic sector benefits are excessive compared with those in the private sector.
TRUTH: Pundits have told us time and again that excessive pension benefits have brought Detroit to its knees. The average police/firefighter pension is $36,000 for Detroit retirees. The average for other city employees is $19,000. These hardly seem excessive! Taking the country as a whole, we find that " benefits as a share of total compensation across the entire private sector amounted to 29.15%. In large private firms (100+ employees), benefits were 31.42% of total compensation. The figure for local and state governments is 32.65%, hardly a dramatic difference!"
The research-based conclusion is that " When comparing total compensation [wages plus benefits] state workers are behind their private sector counterparts by 6.8%, while local government workers trail by 7.4%. If you compare them with just the large firms in the private sector sample, state workers trail their private counterparts by 10.4% with local workers trailing by 9.8%." For more details see "Part 4: Let's lay this myth to rest once and for all."
MYTH: Public sector unions, through their political influence, are exacerbating state and local financial problems.
"The large state deficits have frequently been blamed on a growing public sector. For example, Governor Scott Walker warned that Wisconsin 'cannot grow if our people are weighed down paying for a larger and larger government.' However, the size of the public sector has not grown in recent years, neither in terms of public sector employment levels nor public sector compensation."
"Let's look at the numbers. "State and local government workers as a share of the workforce has been relatively steady since 1979....Overall, the share of workers in state and local employment averaged 14.2 percent over the thirty year period and ranged from a low of 13.6 percent at the height of the boom in 1999 to a high of 15.2 percent in the great recession in 2009 reflecting the greater loss in private sector employment—over 5 million private sector jobs were lost that year. By midway through 2011, the share of workers employed by state and local governments had fallen back to 14.6 percent."
"Not only has the share of state and local government jobs remained relatively steady as a percentage of all jobs, but state and local government employment per thousand residents has also remained steady....In 1990, the United States as a whole had an average of 17.2 state workers per thousand residents. In 2009, there were 16.8."