The Illinois Policy Institute has just released a study comparing the pay of state employees and private sector employees, and they don’t like the results. The conservative movement has been quite successful in its 30-year-long campaign to destroy labor unions and reserve the benefits of this country’s productivity for the wealthy. Yet government employees have stubbornly remained middle class.
According to the study, “Out Of Sync,” the average private sector worker saw his wages drop 2 percent from 1993 to 2008. If life were fair, government employees would also be cancelling their premium cable packages and sending their children to Truman College. Alas, life is not fair. Teachers, firefighters, cops, nurses and street sweepers earn 18 percent more than they did in 1993.
“Despite higher jobs security,” a video accompanying the study notes, “state employee compensation has been immune from economic reality.”
The economic reality of the 1990s and 2000s? The share of income collected by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans increased from 15 percent to 23.5 percent.
The report goes into detail about the unfairness of working stiffs continuing to enjoy middle-class lifestyles this far into the 21st Century:
Compensation per state government employee averaged $69,500, which is 23 percent more than the private sector worker average of $56,500. Much of the difference was in employer-paid benefits, which were more than 1.5 times that of private employees. State employees received 16 percent more in wages and salaries than private employees…There are additional advantages of government employment relative to private sector employment. These include superior job security, superior sick time accrual, earlier retirement and higher retirement incomes.
Do you know what else in unfair? In the 2000s, those of us in the private sector were laid off repeatedly to protect the profits of the wealthy. Then the state of Illinois raised taxes on those profits to avoid laying off prison guards and state troopers. If life were fair, the Top 1 percent would have been allowed to keep its money, while prison guards and state troopers were laid off at the same rate as tool-and-die makers, journalists and roofers. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where some workers don't wake up every day terrified their next paycheck will be their last.
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