The Real Wealth Gap

Oregon Transformation

Last weekend Occupy Portland stood shoulder to shoulder with postal workers to protest layoffs at the USPS. As they protest income disparities in America maybe the Occupiers should take a closer look at the public union members with whom they stand.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 state and local public employees in the U.S. were compensated almost 50 percent more than someone working in the private sector.

During the first three quarters of 2011 the average state or local public employee earned an annual total of $84,378. in wages and benefits. Compare that to the average private sector employee who earned $58,565.87.   That’s over $25,000 less.

The chart below shows that the income gap hasn’t changed much over the last eight years.

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Public Employee Unions | 13 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • This is misleading. First, it is already partially privatized but contracted to the US Government. This occured in 1971 during Richard Nixon. The next thing happened in 2003 under Bush. This is the problem. “Rolando lays out the real root of the problem: “The problem lies
    elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future
    retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a
    decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The
    roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007 — $21 billion total —
    are the difference between a positive and negative ledger.””

  • Teyuna

    Why focus on income disparities between regular folk, and not on the income disparity of the 1% with the highest incomes who own 40% of the nations’s wealth, achieved through corporate influence (read:  millions of dollars of campaign contributions) on politicians?  Do we so admire the rich that we don’t care that their lobbyists write the legislation that deregulates them and that allows them to often pay zero taxes?  Are we that mesmerized by the “successes” of the elite that we just busy ourselves with carping about others who had a union and achieved the wage protections that ALL of us should have??

    • JoelinPDX

      What total bull! According to the IRS the top one percent made just under 17 percent (that’s 17 percent rather than the 40 percent claimed by the “occupiers”) of the income in 2009 but paid almost 37 percent of the total income tax. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent of AGI taxpayers made 13 percent of total US income but paid a mere 2 and a quarter percent of the income tax.

      So, the wealthiest ONE percent of Americans paid THIRTY-SEVEN percent of the income taxes…not the ZERO percent claimed by Teyuna.

  • 3H

    I like the assumption – public employees are overpaid — not that private employees are underpaid.  

    We are talking about a wage gap, by the way, not a wealth gap.  Not that precision matters I’m guessing.  OWS is about distributing the wealth in a more equitable manner – perhaps if we did we could bring private sector wages up.  That seems like a win-win to me.

    • JoelinPDX

      So, 3H, we should raise the private sector wages and give private sector employers even more reason to send US jobs out of the country. Yeah, that’s right…that’s the ticket.

  • Ardbeg

    Private sector averages include the millions of HS/college kids working for minimum wage.  The only way to find a lower demographic would be to look at minorities.  Try comparing apples to apples.  Similar education and responsibilities between private and public.  But your still missing the boat.  The shrinking of the middle class should be a concern to all American’s.  The fight isn’t between public and private sector though Catalyst folk love to focus on it.  Don’t get distracted fighting the wrong fight.  The focus should be on better wages and benefits for everyone.  The average person doesn’t cares if the head of a for profit college makes 13 million a year when the head of Yale makes 1.6 million or who makes more; private or public as long as the average person can make a decent wage.  There are a lot bigger problems with or society than comparing public/private.  For example: why is the US ranked 37 in health care?  Why does the US (5% of global population) have 30% of the  global incarceration population? Our “democracy” and I put it in quotes because with the amount of money involved it makes me wonder if we are truly a democracy. The environment, the fact the US doesn’t manufacture much anymore, the expanding size of our government, immigration issues……shall I continue?  The fact a cop makes 60k plus benefits and that’s twice of someone working at Walmart isn’t even in the top 100 of important issues.

  • Billthecarrier

    In case anyone was wondering, it is not easy to deliver mail.

  • HBguy

    Oregon Transformation is now Advocating class warfare? I wonder if Allen Alley, Dennis Richardson and some others at OT read this before it went out under their organizations banner.

  • None

    As usual, OC is posting garbage information.

    This appears to be comparing ALL public sector workers vs. ALL private sector workers without allowing for differences in education and job activities. 

    Government sector jobs tend not to include low-income, low-educational-requirement jobs.

    An actually USEFUL post would be one that compares compensation for jobs with similar job requirements. But do we see that here? No.

    OC is not interested in having a real discussion about how public sector workers are compensated. Instead, they post an attack on public sector workers based on misleading information.

    OC should be ashamed of themselves. I’m sure they’re not, but they sure should be.

    • JoelinPDX

      True, an apples to apples comparison is kind of tough because a lot of public sector jobs just don’t exist in the private sector and vice versa. There are some comparisons: Teachers in private schools make considerably less than public school teachers and public sector legal secretaries make a little more than private secretaries.

      And, while public sector attorneys make less than career private sector attorneys, job security in the public sector is much better than in the private sector. There is no such thing as a private sector firefighter but if you compare private cops to public cops, the public officers prevail and by a goodly margin be they cops or prison guards.

      This says nothing about teachers who only work six hour days, nine months of the year with a couple of breaks in the spring and winter, or the extra holidays all government workers enjoy or the lavish pension plans. And you’re all wet when you say “…without allowing for differences in education…” How much education is required to lean on a shovel at a construction site or to be the aforementioned prison guard.

      • None

        Joel, do you EVER look anything up?

        “There is no such thing as a private sector firefighter”

        http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/fire/

        “We are one of the largest private fire departments in the world.”

        Joel, there’s this thing called “Google.” You may have heard of it. It’s true that you can’t trust everything that you find using it, but you can often find useful information there.

        It can be very useful in avoiding looking like a fool. I highly recommend that you become familiar with it.

      • valley person

        Teachers in private schools are primarily religious zealots who teach out of a spiritual calling. Public sector attorneys don’t just make less, they make far less. Private cops have little education, training, or responsibility compared with public cops.

        Teachers work more than 6 hours a day, 9 months a year. That is class time only. If you have ever taught, you would know they also have to prepare for classes, grade student work, conference with parents, and keep up on their own training.

        I’m in the private sector and get the same holidays as government workers. Pension plans are better for public workers because they are more unionized and made pensions a priority over weekly pay. Prison guards don’t make all that much. If you think that is a great job, then get in line.

      • valley person

        Teachers in private schools are primarily religious zealots who teach out of a spiritual calling. Public sector attorneys don’t just make less, they make far less. Private cops have little education, training, or responsibility compared with public cops.

        Teachers work more than 6 hours a day, 9 months a year. That is class time only. If you have ever taught, you would know they also have to prepare for classes, grade student work, conference with parents, and keep up on their own training.

        I’m in the private sector and get the same holidays as government workers. Pension plans are better for public workers because they are more unionized and made pensions a priority over weekly pay. Prison guards don’t make all that much. If you think that is a great job, then get in line.

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