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  • Federal Pay and the Ryan Budget: Brazen Falsehoods from a Federal Employee Union


    Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) budget outline calls for federal employees to contribute more to their pensions, but the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is none too happy about it.

    In noting that total federal employee compensation is currently excessive, Ryan is on solid empirical ground. But instead of trying to counter with evidence of its own, the AFGE has resorted to brazen falsehoods and obfuscation. From the group’s press release:

    Once again, [Ryan] repeats the bald-faced lie that compensation for federal employees exceeds that of their counterparts in the private sector, when the reverse is true. His conclusions are as inaccurate as his citations: the CBO did not conclude that there was a 16% differential in favor of federal employees when comparing total compensation. Even the CBO acknowledged that its data on benefits were unreliable, even though without that element of the comparison, there was no differential in favor of federal compensation.

    Let’s unpack this, starting with the first line. The AFGE tells us that excessive federal compensation is a “bald-faced lie.” By implication, here are some other bald-faced liars: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Project on Government Oversight, the American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the current chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, and dozens of academic economists who have studied federal compensation.

    Most egregiously, the AFGE says that “the CBO did not conclude that there was a 16% differential in favor of federal employees when comparing total compensation.” Actually, that’s exactly what the CBO concluded: “Thus, total compensation was about 16 percent higher, on average, for federal workers than for similar private-sector workers.” (See page 11 at the link above.)

    The Washington Post’s Joe Davidson, normally sympathetic to the union position, asked the AFGE how it could justify a claim that is clearly not true. He was told by an AFGE spokeswoman “that the CBO did not reach a conclusion.” Again, brazenly false.

    Next, AFGE claims, “Even the CBO acknowledged that its data on benefits were unreliable.” No, it did no such thing. The CBO noted greater uncertainties with its benefits numbers, but at no point did the CBO suggest that these uncertainties could invalidate its conclusions.

    Note that the AFGE began by saying that “the reverse is true,” meaning that federal employees are undercompensated. But the union offers no data or evidence to back this up.

    So, just to summarize: The AFGE tells blatant untruths about evidence that it doesn’t like and then offers no counter-evidence of any kind. It does, however, accuse Congressman Ryan of needing “to resort to lies and name-calling.” The irony in that statement speaks for itself.

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