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Krugman in High Dudgeon

Paul Krugman is, as usual, in a state of high dudgeon. Today’s dudgeon generator is the president’s call to freeze the pay of federal employees (other than the military). Krugman writes,

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.

Typically, he backs up his flat assertion that federal salaries are “somewhat less” than what the private-sector workers get with … nothing. It is a pure ex cathedra statement. It is also contradicted by statistics that come from the federal government itself. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal workers’ salaries average 60 percent more than what private-sector workers earn in salary. And notice that Krugman says that “salaries” are lower. If you count the benefits, federal workers earn twice what private-sector workers earn: $123,049 to $61,051.

Perhaps the BEA is wrong. But without some evidence to back him up, why should anyone believe Krugman? Except for the true believers, of course, I’m pretty sure no one does.



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