Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Outside Observer Goes to Madison

As the recall elections in Wisconsin wind to a close, Ann Althouse has been providing excellent coverage of the events in Madison, including wonderful coverage of the various protestes that have happened. As it turns out, a preacher from Kansas went to see first hand what was going on and he provided some interesting comments, which Prof. Althouse was kind enough to republish. Some of the less clever protesters dubbed him The Nefarious Kansas Preacher, who made the following comment:
4. Folks who work for the government, union or not, you are not oppressed. You make good salaries compared to your counter parts in the private sector, have more job security by far, more holidays, vacation days and comparatively outstanding health and retirement benefits. The problem for you as I see it is that you thought it would never end. Well, guess what, while you are singing about saving the middle class I want you to know, I AM the middle class and I pay for you! If you want to help the middle class then you are going to have to accept compensation that is more in line with reality. If you are fearful of the future may I suggest to you that your friends have been fearful for a long time. Change is coming and the old arguments born in the industrial age and honed in earlier eras of fatness sound incredibly hollow today. You singing songs and beating drums in what sounds like a Salvation Army street meeting only underscores how old and out of touch your ideas have become.(emphasis added)
Madison is but one battle ground in the contest between public sector unions and the rest of the public. People in America who work in the private sector now fully understand that it takes several of them working and paying taxes to pay for one public sector worker's salary and benefits. When you start getting to the point where that number if 5:1 or 7:1 or 10:1 (that is 10 private sector taxpayers for 1 public sector worker), people are starting to balk. To be honest, I have no idea what the ratio of taxpayers to public sector workers is, but here are some back of the envelope calculations.

According to the IRS, for FY 2009, the average taxes paid by individuals was approximately $8,156. (Note this does not count anything other than individual tax returns so the calculations are necessarily off, but individual income tax returns are the biggest category of tax revenue). If the average federal employee makes $50,000 per year, it takes 6 American taxpayers to pay for 1 federal employee. This clearly doesn't count state workers, city workers or other public sector workers. Nor does it cover the fairly generous benefit package (including a defined benefit pension plan for many federal workers). So a ratio of 10 taxpayers (or more) to 1 federal worker is not an unreasonable deduction based on the above calculations.

So the Nefarious Kansas Preacher is right, public sector workers are not an oppressed group by any stretch of the imagination. Change is coming and it may have started in Madison, but it is not going to end there. An adjustment is coming and it is long over due.

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