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EDITORIAL: The real pay gap

We hear a lot about a wage gap in this country, and we do indeed, have a worsening economic inequality issue that needs to be addressed immediately. However, that compensation gap is not between wages and the cost of living, or even the comparative salaries of men and women. No, the worst inequality lies between the public and private sectors.

According to a new study by the Cato Institute, federal employees on average earned 78 percent more in total compensation than comparable private sector workers in 2014. Cato’s Chris Edwards cited data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to show that the average federal worker receives roughly $119,000 in salary and benefits each year, compared with $67,000 for the average private-sector employee performing the same job. When benefits are left out of the equation, federal employees collect paychecks that are 50 percent bigger than their private-sector counterparts.

As the HotAir blog pointed out recently, the gap used to be smaller. In 1990, federal workers received compensation, on average, 39 percent higher than those in the private sector. Then, later in the decade, the tech boom caused private-sector employees to catch up to — and then pass — their government colleagues, whose raises were tied to stricter (and slower) schedules.

But the smaller, slower raises kept coming and coming, and when the tech bubble burst and Wall Street tanked, private-sector employees once again found themselves trailing those in government. Add in the overly generous government retirement benefits that are no longer available in the private sector and the fact that it is virtually impossible to get fired from a federal job, and the disparity is even bigger.

Private-sector wages have been stagnant for years. Taxpayers should not be forced to provide government employees with wages and benefits that are better than their own. Meanwhile, much of the overcompensated federal workforce actively works to stunt the commerce that provides the taxes that compensates said federal workers. And they do this while, at the same time, bearing absolutely no consequence for their actions. Instead of being penalized, they’ve spent the last 30 years being handsomely rewarded for hindering the wage growth of Americans.

While many in our nation are fixated on the gender wage gap myth or the idea that entry-level fast-food workers somehow have a right to earn $15 an hour, the government is perpetuating and promoting a very real system of economic injustice.

Presidential candidates must be willing to address this issue head-on and either defend this system or put forth a plan that creates some wage parity between the federal government and the people it purportedly serves. Right now, we work for the federal government, not the other way around.

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