Factcheck.org Report Confirms GOP Talking Points on Federal Pay are LiesThursday, December 2, 2010
Contact: Randy Erwin, Legislative Director
Phone: (202) 257-0948
Washington, D.C. – Late yesterday, Factcheck.org – a non-partisan, non-profit group affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics – released a report called “Are Federal Employees Overpaid?” That report concluded that the often-cited Republican talking point that federal employees are paid twice as much as private sector workers is incorrect and misleading.
Federal pay has received a high level of attention in recent months as GOP candidates made federal pay a key issue on the campaign trail. The issue gained even more attention when President Obama announced this week that he would freeze federal pay for two years. But the Factcheck.org report adds a new wrinkle to the federal pay debate because it discredits the premise that federal workers are over-compensated.
“Finally, we have an independent report that confirms that the bogus statistics about inflated federal pay are lies,” said William R. Dougan, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees, a union representing 110,000 federal employees. “This independent, non-partisan report confirms the statistic about federal employees being paid double is a blatant fabrication.”
The statistics about federal pay that have been frequently cited by the GOP – and recently by soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner – were generated by conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and CATO Institute and were used as the basis for a front page story in USA Today. The Factcheck.org report, however, says these studies “exaggerate the pay gap between private and federal workers.” The Factcheck.org report discredits the conclusions of these studies because they used crude Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) statistics that include funds destined for federal retirees and count them as benefits for current employees. The result was a greatly overstated picture of compensation for the average federal worker.
“They cooked the books,” said Dougan. “They tried to make it seem like pension money being paid to retirees was going to compensate current federal employees. That’s how they made the federal pay figures seem so outrageous. But it simply isn’t true. It was a blatant misrepresentation that has now been exposed. The American people have been lied to.”
The Factcheck.org report also confirms what federal employee advocates have been saying for months – that comparing the federal and private sector pay without considering all the other variables like education level, age, and experience leads to an apples-to-oranges comparison.
“We don’t expect this report to end the public debates about federal pay,” said Dougan. “But at least we can now have that debate with a clear understanding that federal employees are not significantly over-compensated as the GOP has asserted."