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The Right-Wing Zombie Lie About Public Workers That Just Won't Die

A new study on government employees' earnings has the Right buzzing -- and some progressive pundits repeating the myth that government workers are "overpaid."

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Price pointed out:

“It is a view that assumes the degree of equality in the public sector is unnatural and that the degree of inequality in the private sector is natural. The fact is that neither is natural but the result of policy choices. Worse still, Weissman and Drum both assume that more inequality in the public sector would boost productivity. Several decades of rising inequality in the private sector have yet to produce a surge in economic growth greater than we experienced in the decades following 1945, when there was much less inequality.”

Pundits seem to love the idea that less-educated workers deserve to make less money, while the educated among us should be making more—perhaps because the pundit class itself tends to be educated and well-paid and want to believe that their own success is a matter of merit. Otherwise, why don't we see more of them making the argument that those well-paid high-school grads working for the federal government must be deserving of their higher wages the same way they assume that PhDs in the private sector deserve to be paid so well?

At a time when the economy remains stagnant because the average worker doesn't have enough money to spend, anyone arguing that wages should be cut at the bottom and raised at the top is missing the point. Those underpaid, highly educated workers that Drum and Weissman are so concerned about are doing just fine, while those overpaid uneducated workers are forming the base of our rapidly disintegrating middle-class.

“Rather than trying to balance budgets on the backs of the 99 percent, we should be finding ways to lift up private sector workers, increase their pay and benefits, and let them drive the growth of our economy again,” Browner-Hamlin said. 

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

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