Under the authoritative-sounding headline: "FACT CHECK: Are Federal Workers Overpaid?," the Associated Press runs out the following dispatch from Washington:
Are federal employees overpaid?
Republican leaders in Congress think so, and they are calling for an overhaul of the entire federal pay system to help slash government spending.
Democrats and other defenders of the government work force say federal workers are actually underpaid compared with their private counterparts.
A closer look at the data shows that both sides have a point but that supporters of federal workers are a bit closer to reality.
As support for its claim that "supporters of federal workers are a bit closer to reality," the Associated Press offers this:
Among lawyers, for example, the average pay in the federal government was about $127,500 a year in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average lawyer in the private sector earned $137,540. And the starting salary at large law firms in Washington, D.C. — where most government lawyers work — is $160,000, and can grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to the National Association for Law Placement.
The comparison fails to mention that many government lawyers work a mere fraction of the hours worked by many private sector lawyers. If one looked at the wages on an hourly basis, the government lawyers might well come out ahead. At least, the gap would be narrower. Furthermore, the "compensation" earned by government lawyers includes not only the money paid by the government but also the future earnings potential that comes with the knowledge that they can cash out by leaving through the revolving door for a private-sector job in which the former government lawyers can charge high fees for the knowledge and relationships they accumulated while working on the inside. Finally, there's the job security aspect — those $160,000 a year starting jobs at large law firms last for a few years until, odds are, the young lawyer doesn't make partner. In contrast, lawyers can stay in their government jobs pretty much for as long as they want.
Newsbusters.org has already tagged the AP reporter as a lefty on the basis of his prior work, and, to judge by this dispatch, that may be right.