The other day I read in a discussion of the Wisconsin affair that public sector unions do not actually get free pensions and health care, that “every penny of that cost comes out of their wages” in the form of lower wages because public sector workers make less money than private sector workers do. Unfortunately, the poster stopped there, without providing any evidence to support his claim, so I discounted the claim altogether.
This is, unfortunately, altogether all too typical of the nature of our political discourse. We present half of the argument, the part which seems to support our side, and then are too lazy to complete the presentation in a manner that would be convincing.
Tom Levinson at Balloon Juice is far more thorough in this post, as he takes a different approach and presents documentation and references which show that in Wisconsin specifically, public workers are paid 8.2% less than in the private sector, and that even with the inclusion of fringe benefits they make 4.2% less. The link he provides is to the website only, not to the specific article, and I was unable to locate the article in question on that website, but I’m not questioning his reference. Websites change from time to time.
His argument is well presented and makes a difference in the way I view the Wisconsin issue specifically. The numbers in California are much different, as are many other factors, so I think each issue needs to be argued on its own merits, but it’s refreshing to see a case well presented.
What he doesn’t mention, and is not really significant to his point, is that those numbers indicate that the fringe benefits received by public sector workers are of a rather dramatically higher order, or at least cost a great deal more, than those received by private sector workers. It might be interesting to explore why that is the case, since the buying power of the large union should be able to get more benefit at lower cost.