Having gotten curious about the situation in Wisconsin, I decided to see what data I could pull to get a feel for the size and scope of the problem.  First up, a look at union membership in the state, via BLS.gov:

Source:  Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state, BLS.gov

The trend is clear:  “Members of Unions” has declined from 456,000 to 355,000 from 2000 to 2010, as the percentage of employed who are members of unions has declined from 17.8% to 14.2%.  Note that the table does not represent solely public employees — it represents the entire work force of the state, both public and private, which is to say the problem Governor Walker is targeting is some fraction of the “Members Of” or “Represented By” Unions.

Via another BLS database (a bit dated, but it’s the most recent available and likely close enough to current numbers for discussion purposes), I thought it would be interesting to see who’s actually breaking the bank in Wisconsin.  So I pulled a group of occupations that I’d consider “the usual suspects” — teachers, fire fighters, police, librarians — and compared mean and median annual wages for those jobs in Wisconsin versus the United States as a whole.  Lo and behold, it appears we might lay blame for the crisis at the feet of Wisconsin’s  Teacher Assistants, who are pulling down, on average (not median), $240 more than the $24,280 being paid to their counterparts in other states.  I’ve highlighted in green the wages in Wisconsin that are higher than those with the same occupation in other states;  it occurs in 3 of 16 potential possibilities.

(Click through for larger image.)

Source:  BLS.gov

(Note:  It should go without saying that this raw data does nothing to account for cost of living differences in various parts of the country.)

I could add to the list — drop other potential culprits in comments — but figured I’d start with the most egregiously greedy bastards who came immediately to mind.

For the record, here’s a complete list of what we pay our police and fire fighters nationwide.  If we are to have an honest debate about what folks are paid and what benefits they should (or should not) receive, we owe it to ourselves to at least start with some facts, and I’d suggest what appears below is the bare-bones minimum.  Wisconsin is 21st in Patrol Officer pay and 43rd in Fire Fighter pay nationwide.

Finally, I’d dare say that this budgetary problem seems to have crept up and taken most governors by surprise, as evidenced by the fact that references to it (in State of the State speeches) skyrocketed over the course of one short year, going from only 20 mentions (of 44 speeches) to 33 (of 42 speeches) from 2009 to 2010.  Even fewer — far fewer – have been mentioning “Pensions/OPEBs” (Other Post-Employment Benefits).  Have they just not been paying attention?  If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it smells a bit political.

Source:  The Council of State Governments

For an interesting look at state government compensation by state and branch, see here (pdf).

And for an outstanding look at state-by-state budgets, see here (pdf) — this is an excellent piece that I only found this morning and am still exploring.  It is a veritable treasure trove of budget data by state nationwide.

More on this file as time allows.

Adding: I appreciate the thoughtful commentary on both sides.  I intend to further explore many of the comments that have been made.

Category: Current Affairs, Economy, Employment, Politics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

146 Responses to “Who’s Breaking the Bank in Wisconsin?”

  1. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Anyone giving credibility to the Republican governors involved in this effort to remove rights from the People is not thinking clearly. The unions involved in the Wisconsin situation have already agreed to wage and benefit cuts. Demanding that they give up rights in addition to these concessions can only serve corporatist interests.

    Never give up rights. Ever.

    The governor of Wisconsin has said that he would begin laying off workers as early as next week if his demands are not met. That is the only recourse he has, and it’s the only one he should have.

    Why do the Republican Governors hate America? Maybe they hate us for our freedoms (exactly what these fucks say about the countries we illegally invade).

    We have gone full retard.

  2. rip says:

    @invictus: Thank you.

    You provided data. Not talking points. And there was nothing in it for you. Except the data and the truth.

    Well, that’s my talking point.

    You always do good things when you show up.

  3. Sarge says:

    Well, who’s breaking the bank? Why does Wisconsin expect a 3.6 billion shortfall next year? I’m sure unfunded pension obligations have nothing to do with it.

  4. rip says:

    @petey: Correct. Some kind of stupid. Except this generation does not know.

    They’d just prefer their yacht slot in Monaco was a little closer. Or that they have the latest game update.

    You still impress me with your brain, wisdom and heart.

    Not to mention your wordsmithing skills.

  5. Moss says:

    Well the most egregiously greedy bastards who do not come immediately to mind would be none other than the Koch clan. This whole episode is really about stealth corporatist interests. The unions must conceded something and will. If he lays off people the whole scheme will backfire on him.

  6. viewwin says:

    Is there any way to track investment returns for pension funds? I have a feeling some of our proud, Too Big Too Fail banks gave rather bad investment advice to these funds.

  7. wsm3 says:

    @ Invictus -

    This analysis misses the main point (until the final paragraph – but even then there were no ‘pretty charts’). It is not the wages and salaries of these unionized leaches that are out of line; it is their egregious benefits. You do get around to referencing pension/OPEB by the final paragraph, but if you collected the same amount of data as you spent on the wage/salary portion of the post, I suspect this is where you would find strong support for the premise that taxpayers are subsidizing outsized benefits to unionized workers.

  8. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    What is this, a treaty with the Indians?

    Obligations being what they are (partial definition) . . .

    [ob-li-gey-shuhn] Show IPA
    1. something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.
    2. something that is done or is to be done for such reasons: to fulfill one’s obligations.
    3. a binding promise, contract, sense of duty, etc.
    4. the act of binding or obliging oneself by a promise, contract, etc.
    5. Law .
    a. an agreement enforceable by law, originally applied to promises under seal.
    b. a document containing such an agreement.
    c. a bond containing a penalty, with a condition annexed for payment of money, performance of covenants, etc.
    6. any bond, note, bill, certificate, or the like, as of a government or a corporation, serving as evidence of indebtedness.

    . . . apparently someone played both ends against the middle (taxes cuts accompanied by increased expenditures).

    As they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the wealth of our nation, the wealthy are as much, if not more, accountable for public debts as is the middle class. We’ve already lined their pockets with gold by allowing them to loophole themselves around the law (as in classifying employees as independent contractors, for example), and via ridiculous tax cuts for their ilk. Now, we want them to be able to ass rape middle class government employees by TAKING AWAY THEIR RIGHTS. Anyone middle class person supporting this shit will get what they richly deserve: A smaller cut of our commonwealth and truncated rights. Too bad their stupidity will also drag down the vast majority of Americans.

  9. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Thanks, rip.

  10. NoKidding says:

    OK, I’ll take the obvious troll bait.

    1) How can you compare salaries across states like that? Is Wisconson 21st in cost of living? The correct comparison is to median local wage for a comparable private sector job. Would you benchmark your pay vs a stock analyst in Kentucky?

    2) Look at the footnote on the salary calculation. I’ve got police in my family. Base in Boston was about 75k, but the _average_ after details and overtime was over 100k. Choosing the pay-divided-by-hours-times-average-hours method is the ideal way to hide total costs. Conversely, the ideal way to hide unit labor costs is to state unadjusted yearly salary – thats how I expect you would present the earnings of teachers who work 180 days a year.

    3) Salary is not the real issue. The real issue is benefits, especially defined benefit retirement plans. Calculate me this: how much per year would you have needed to invest in the real stock market (e.g. S&P500 from 1981 to 2011) to set up a perpetual annuity at 84% of final pay plus cost of living adjustments? If added to base pay, what is the actual salary for these jobs?

    I don’t care what these people make, in fact I wish we all made more. Keep it real.

  11. Lukey says:

    No one is getting filthy rich working for government, that is a for sure. But the question here I think is, are they earning a fair wage for what they do? To determine that, I don’t think it makes sense to compare them to like positions in other states. It seems many states are in the same boat with respect to the compensation afforded these workers. I think it would be more relevant to compare them to the median income in each state. My guess is they come in, on average, above that level. Then the next problem (that this post doesn’t address) is the “legacy” costs of these government workers’ ability to retire at a relatively young age and collect pensions and medical benefits for several decades, on average. As was the case with the auto workers, when you compare what the current workers make to their foreign counterparts, as a percent of the cost of making a car, they compare pretty well. But when you add in the legacy costs (that the foreign car makers don’t have) then the total LABOR cost of building an American brand car becomes much less competitive. I think the same holds true for these government jobs.

    As for the motive behind curtailing the collective bargaining rights of government workers, I think make sense from a “why fight this battle now if, as soon as the public moves on to the next shiny object, these cushy compensation levels will be won right back” perspective. Public employees don’t negotiate with their employers (read taxpayers) and the politicians have every incentive to spend taxpayer money to secure the votes of public employees. As an alternative to eliminating collective bargaining, I’d settle for having their contract provisions run through the referendum process. Lets see how the taxpayers feel about the pay and perks being handed out by the politicians. My guess is, precious little would get through.

  12. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    wsm3 Says:

    Why would you think that the solidly middle class benefits EARNED by union members are out of line? Shouldn’t all private sector workers enjoy equivalent benefits? Why do you want less for the middle class and more for the corporatists? Why do you aspire to lowered lifestyles for what I can only assume is your own demographic, as opposed to aspiring to all people sharing our common wealth? Do you think the US is a poor country? That we can’t afford to provide our working class with a good income and a secure retirement? If the wealthy were becoming destitute, I could understand, but they’re getting wealthier while the likes of you is being told to go suck eggs.

  13. larsonian says:

    One thing that isn’t mentioned in the data above is that the unions have agreed to Walker’s financial requests (increasing their pension and health care contributions to the level he specified). The only point they are not willing to concede is their rights to collectively bargain. Walker is not interested in making any compromise, however. Walker held a fireside chat last night where he spelled out his plan to start sending out 1,500 layoff notices to state workers next week unless his bill was passed exactly as written by Friday.

    Budget bill or no, Unions (except for the suspiciously exempt Police and firefighter unions) were a big backer of Walker’s democratic candidate. The bill is designed to make it illegal for dues to be collected directly from state paychecks and there must be a vote held each year by members on whether the union has a right to continue for the next year. If a union has no ability to bargain (other than wages, which conveniently are also capped in this bill) there will be substantially less contributions available come election time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as it is now legal for corporations to spend freely on candidates, this is not the time to hamstring the only voice that many working class Americans get in supporting potential candidates outside of their vote.

    Another interesting item in the 144 page budget repair is the fact that the State will have the right to sell off power plants at their sole discretion without soliciting bids. As the Koch brothers have several industries in the state, have been one of Walker’s biggest campaign contributors and their “Americans For Prosperity” political interest group is now spending big money on TV and radio ads, one has to wonder if there is any link here.

  14. mark says:


    You need to get your facts straight. To wit:

    I keep hearing the sensible people on CNN and MSNBC talking about a $3 billion budget shortfall that Gov. Walker needs to close with his budget “repair bill”. But that’s not even true. That’s a projection for the next two year budget period which starts this summer. It’s actually a significant difference. Because what they’re fighting about now is how to fix a dramatically smaller shortfall for the period up until the next budget period. Relatively short span of time. But a big difference since that $3 billion number has nothing to do what’s being voted on now.


    Plus the unions have agreed to all demands. Removing their bargaining rights is union-busting pure and simple. Those proposing it should be willing to say so instead of claiming it’s about money.

  15. RugbyD says:

    The financial requests seem pretty paltry compared to what private sector workers get. If I was Walker I would gladly give on the CBA rights and ask for bigger financial concessions. Public employee benefit packages are a financial albatross all over the country.

    My guess as to why he’s demanding the restriction of the CBA rights is so that the financial changes have a lower possibility of being reversed in the future.

  16. joe in flyover says:

    Median fireman wage of 66k in Washington! Zowie. And that’s just the MEDIAN wage. Factor in the bennies and the pension and that’s one helluva gig.

  17. larsonian says:

    @larsonian correction: “big backer of Walker’s democratic candidate.” should read “big backer of Walker’s democratic opponent (Tom Barrett).”

  18. profoundlogic says:

    Teachers are being scapegoated as the cause of a budget shortfall, while we hand out $14 billion in tax breaks to Government Motors. This farce is absolutely political. Walker should be impeached or investigated for corruption.

    Welcome to the Banana Republic!

  19. BennyProfane says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw

    “Do you think the US is a poor country? That we can’t afford to provide our working class with a good income and a secure retirement?”

    I do. It’s pretty much plain as day. Maybe I’m a little biased because I grew up in New Jersey, but, we have a problem, and that can cannot be kicked no mo’. wsm3 is correct, the retirement benefits are the problem, not wages, although I can point you towards the examples of many many suburban NYC policeman making more than six figures for essentially writing tickets (which seems to be the way the town raises revenue for said six figure salaries). The county of Nassau out on the Island just got taken over due to it’s profligacy, including the fact that one third (one third!) of the county’s employees make over six figures. Is Gertrude down at city hall worth that much? I don’t think so. But, I digress. Many, many, many of those employees retire to Florida on the taxpayer’s dime for upwards to forty years with a very hefty retirement package only a CEO in the private world would be impressed by. Some start their golden years with a pension very close to final year’s gross, and with COLA adjustments for life (or, not even COLA – just written in stone annual raises, regardless of inflation). and, the real killer to local budgets, fully paid for health care, and maybe the souse is included in the latter. You tell me who gets a deal like that in the private world today.

    We can’t afford it. We don’t have the money. Sorry, I know you liked your fourth grade teacher, and maybe your cousin is a cop, but, game over. Blood from a stone and all that.

  20. jdjed says:

    Petey Wheatstraw Said:

    “Why would you think that the solidly middle class benefits EARNED by union members are out of line? Shouldn’t all private sector workers enjoy equivalent benefits?”

    The point is that union benefits are way out of line compared to the private sector and harder to tow given the current unemployment rate. As wsm3 stated, “it is not the wages and salaries of these unionized leaches that are out of line; it is their egregious benefits”. Go to Mish’s blog – he has a plethora of facts on this topic.

  21. curbyourrisk says:

    If the Governors had been reading anything written by MISH, Karl Denninger or Reggie Middleton over the last 5 years, this WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A SURPRISE. IN FACT MAYBE SOME OF THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

    That said, here is a list of public salaries in the state of New York…….Read this… For those of you in not libving in NEW YORK, go ahead and bash away, the people of NY deserve it!!!


    Check out some of those teacher salries. My son’s 1st grade teacher makes $90,000+. 1st grade!!!!!!!!! Please….something is wrong with that. Perks, benefits and pension on top of that.

  22. wiscoDude says:

    @sarge @BennyProfane et al, if you’re going to claim some facts about Wisconsin pensions, you could at least do a little bit of investigation on the subject instead of spewing the party line.

    Are pensions extremely underfunded in some OTHER states. YES. Totally.

    However, Wisconsin is no Pennsylvania and no Illinois and certainly no where near as bad off as Pittsburgh. The WI pension is mostly a defined contribution plan and one of the most well funded plans in the nation.

    So stop taking about problems in other states and using that as justification for actions being taken in WI. That is _very_ weak sauce on your part. Here’s a picture if words don’t work:

    Do we have a budget problem? Yes. We’ve been underfunding government operations for the last 20 years, including the time when Tommy Thompson was in office. We need to take some actions, but as other posters and many journalists have pointed out, this is about breaking the union, not getting our fiscal house in order. It is political in its entirety. And this is why some of us are protesting.

    There are other reasons to. Including this sweet part of the bill which allows for no-bid sales of public assets:

    ” 16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

    Read more about that here: (and elsewhere if you’d like to google)

    I’m a software entrepreneur in Wisconsin and although I’m not a fan of public unions, I’m disgusted by the actions of our newly elected governor.

  23. Greg0658 says:

    gotta say here what I said at HuffPo – you’ve all heard the “Penny pie circle story” – heres the rest of the story:
    this post hits a nerve with me .. for years we were offered a better pay package if we took it in benefits – some of the old timers would yell out “put it on the check” … hind site IS 20/20 – the benefits rug has been yanked for me too – maybe this should be a lesson of a different flow – new government employee kids “PUT IT ON THE CHECK” .. BUT ya better think twice about investing it in bananaAmerica

    further – ya know what Wall Street did with that money to make so called ROI (return on investments) built factories overseas – with oUR OWN MONEY

    PPCS is here:

  24. freejack says:

    It’d be nice to see those annual salary figures normalized for the cost of living for those States listed.


    BR: Invictus wrote this, but feel free to try to do the math

  25. curbyourrisk says:

    Just in my school district alone — 523 people made over $75,000 in 2010…

    Yeah…I feel sorry for these people……….

  26. joby says:


    Take a look at this graph:


    You’re correct…WE (the bottom 80%) don’t have the money, THEY (the top 20%) do. Primarily the top 1% of the country; perhaps it’s time to return to the tax policy of that noted socialist President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

  27. Greg0658 says:

    larson “there will be substantially less contributions available come election time” .. thats another sore point – Unions fund both sides of the war (like lots of wars for bA) .. we all must buy products SO both sides of campaigns get funded by oUR OWN MONEY

  28. NoKidding says:

    Petey Wheatstraw,

    Are government workers entitled to a different class of benefits than private sector workers? Teacher, accountant, retail clerk, hedge fund manager, garbage collector, senator … all should get the same? From whom?

    From whom is the critical question. The system you are standing behind extracts the cost from those who do not participate in the benefit. If you would argue that the offsetting benefits are public safety and education, I’d suggest the public has more right to set its price (and accept commensurate level of service) than the unions have to demand payment.

    Don’t drag corporatism into it either. Separate issue. We probably agree they should be in jail with the congressmen they bought. However, not many of those rich guys make use of the public school system.

  29. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    BennyProfane and jdjed:

    We didn’t have this problem until corporate interests over individual interests was sold to the middle class. This country used to work, and if you care to do a little research into the how and why of it, you might be surprised at what you find (short version: tax rates on the wealthy paid for middle class expansion. Nobody died, and no one took their wealth elsewhere).

    The feckless middle class — believing themselves self-made — swallowed (hook, line, and sinker) the absurd assertion by the right that if we let the wealthy hoard money, we’d all be made richer.

    If we are not a rich country, why d we have obscenely wealthy citizens (in fact, if you really want to get to the skinny of it, how can ANYONE be wealthy in the US in light of our level of public debt)?

    Middle class wages and benefits should be brought in line with public union workers, not the other way around.

  30. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    BTW: let this continue, and you’ll end up consigning your children to peonage.

  31. gordo365 says:

    I agree it feels political. At federal level – one year – we cut $1T+ in hot checks to save wall street firms. 2 years later we are cutting free lunches for poor kids because “we are broke”.

    I think it is more than coincidence that the people who all along have wanted to cut free food for poor kids — have recently returned to majority.

    Never miss the opportunity to push your agenda during a “crisis”!

  32. Collective bargaining for public sector employees–to be clear–is not a “right” originating in the Wagner Act providing it for private sector employees. The Wagner Act specifically exempted local, state and federal employees from the operation of its imperatives. The priviledge of collective bargaining was gradually allowed public sector unions by the executives or legislatures of the locales as they saw fit. Kennedy allowed it for federal employeees by executive order. Reagan enforced against the air traffic controllers union a prohibition against striking by firing them all.

    There are very strong philosophical foundations for prohibiting collective bargaining by public sector unions. So far as public employees are engaged in providing for public safety, strikes (always the trump card in collective bargaining negotiations) can be debilitating. But more importantly, when public sector union members are allowed to vote and to organize and lobby the legislature who represents them, the same legislature that also provides for their pay and benefits, at some level of union organization, the leveraged political power becomes so great as to trump all other interests. The state exists for the public sector employees, and not the other way around.

    Contrary to the shrill cries of how anti-democratic is Gov. Walker’s initiative to limit collective bargaining by public sector unions, public sector collective bargaining is in fact riotously anti-democratic itself, a process whereby public sector unions elect representatives with whom they conspire to siphon away the wealth of taxpayers. Collective bargaining imagines two parties with divergent interests at the negotiation table. With public sector unions having the political clout to determine with whom they will bargain, there are no diverging interests. All interests–politicians getting reelected and unions getting political patronage–converge. The only interest not represented at the bargaining table is that of the taxpayer that will foot the bills for the political patronage used to re-elect the politician.

  33. jwagner says:

    The big dustup in Wisconsin is not about the budget. As an earlier comment noted, the unions offered the requested financial concessions but not the right to collectively bargain. Gov. Walker replied with “no compromise”. My take on it is that Walker thinks this is his big chance to vault onto the national political scene with a major win against the unions. After watching him locally for several years, I don’t think he’s got the mental firepower or likeability to succeed but given the republican talent pool of late you never know.

    Wisconsin does not have a budget problem this year, but we do have a serious long term problem to deal with and it’s not going to be easy. Paying our public employess less will only put a small dent in the overall deficits.

    In the end, Walker will succeed because every major media outlet in Wisconsin save for a paper in Madison is hard right. There is no alternative voice and blue collar folks are eating up the “lazy overpaid public servant parasites” meme that talk radio is pushing.
    Jim W.
    In Wisconsin

  34. AlcesAlces says:

    I am from Wisconsin and since my wife is a mathematics professor in the local university, I have a vested interest in this situation.

    First, I would like to point out that the current “crisis” that requires a “Budget Repair Bill” is a manufactured one. This past December the Legislative Fiscal Bureau which advises legislative members on the state’s budget ( http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/index.html) issued a report that the current general fund would have a “gross ending balance of $67.4 million and a net balance (after consideration of the $65.0 million required statutory balance) of $2.4 million. One of the first things that Governor Walker did on assuming office was to call a special session of the legislature during which $117.2 million worth of tax cuts, credits and exclusions were appropriated for three items that could very easily been put off for another time. This resulted in an accounting shortfall that enabled the Governor to invoke standing provisions that allowed him to propose the current contentious Budget Repair Bill.

    It is notable that there is only one provision of the 144 page bill that has anything to due with the current “crisis”! That is the provision that public workers will have to contribute more to their pensions and health care. The rest of the bill is devoted to provisions that will allow the Governor to consolidate his power. The one that you have all heard about is the article that would severely restrict unions. However, one provision would allow the department overseeing Medicare to propose and put in place new regulations on eligibility and benefits without the full legislative oversight currently in place. The office who has jurisdiction over Medicare is headed by a man who is on record as saying “States should just walk away from Medicare”. Another provision would turn a number of high level civil service jobs into political appointments. Yet another, as has been mentioned, is selling off state owned power plants, such as the power plant at our local university to private interests.

    It appears that this whole situation was carefully planned by the Governor. You see, the “crisis” arose because of a “shortfall” in the current budget. The Governor presented his Repair Bill on a Friday and hearings were scheduled to insure passage the following Thursday. He was then going to present his budget for the next two years the following Tuesday (WI does their budgets as two year items). There are now indications that he is planning to cut $ 1 billion in state aid to local school districts and local governments. He says that removal of the unions’ right to bargain is necessary so that school boards and local governments can meet their expenses. To any thinking person, it is obvious that he is not trying to solve problems. He is simply pushing them on to someone else.

    Now, I would like to point out two more things: (1) The unions, including some that weren’t targeted have said that they would accept the pay reductions (and benefits are just pay with another name); and (2) When you take a sizable amount of money out of a local economy as will happen here, all local businesses will be hurt. The economy is the ultimate social network.

  35. Pantmaker says:

    Balance the budgets…don’t spend more than you make…move on.

  36. Greg0658 says:

    BennyP & others – points to the flip side I agree on too – so we negotiate – or go down in flames – which I hate to say would fix the problem
    … why just today folks are discussing how to pre-roll a few oil well blowups – just how does that go again – long Oil & short oil fields in ? or maybe just short main street America

    I feel sorry for __ – please someone get him a patronage job – cause talking on the embedded SuperMart or QuikyMart is gonna be a toughy … heres another one I heard my POTUS repeat yesterday – “But it’s small business like yours that help drive Americas economic growth and create two of every three new jobs. You’re the anchors of our Main Streets.” .. YA EXCEPT 90% FAIL .. but try anyway because it trickles down

    I could RAIL right now but why bother

  37. AlcesAlces says:

    A note of explanation. Governor Walker’s planned schedule for the adoption of his Budget Repair Bill and the presentation of his budget for the next two years was interrupted by the Democrats leaving the state. He has yet to present his budget.

  38. jritzema says:

    I think the problem has specifically been referenced as a problem with benefits, specifically health insurance and pension. If memory serves right now the pension is 100% employer funded. Your data excludes benefits. From the BLS website:

    Do the OES wage estimates include benefits?
    No. OES wage estimates represent wages and salaries only, and do not include nonproduction bonuses or employer costs of nonwage benefits, such as health insurance or employer contributions to retirement plans. Information on cost of benefits, benefit incidence, and detailed plan provisions is available from the National Compensation Survey program.

  39. MondoGrapes says:

    I will be the first to say that we need some pension reforms for some of the public employees out there. As it stands now, someone could join the NYPD at the age of 20 and retire at 45 collecting a ridiculously high percentage of a ridiculously over-time padded salary and collect that pension for what could potentially be twice the amount of time that they worked the job. Some adjustments need to be made.

    But they should come only AFTER the creeps on Wall Street and the Banking Cartel have all of their ill-gotten gains clawed back. And from what I understand, the public employees in Wisconsin have agreed to some changes. The neo-con right wingers are using this as an excuse to eradicate the unions. That is inexcusable.

    And do not forget that one of the reasons a lot of these pension funds are in trouble is because of the crappy mortgage backed securities that were fraudulently and knowingly foisted on them by Goldman, Chase, et al.

    And a little perspective folks: All these pensions woes, all the unemployment benefits, food stamps, and whatever is left of our tattered social safety net in this country combined are dwarfed by the all of the corporate welfare, bailouts, handouts and the military budget. Even Ron Paul himself has said that we can not seriously talk about cutting all of this stuff and not discuss the military budget and the associated corporate welfare if we are serious about reigning in the deficit.

    People like the Koch brothers have somehow made middle class and blue collar people the villains here and that is simply not the case.

  40. Julia Chestnut says:

    @wsm3, these used to be the same benefits that the private sector had. It was the standard. Instead of being so incredibly pissed off that the unionized workers fought (and gave up pay) to keep it, why not ask why it was that all other private sector workers no longer have it? If we’re all going to be kept equal, why must the nail that sticks up be hammered down? That’s the commie way, right? Why don’t we all ask ourselves where OUR pensions are. . .

    If you investigate that, you will find that they were terminated — or “privatized” as 401(k)s — to provide excess profits to the management/capital. We’re all unskilled labor in the service market now, and it is much easier to replace us than it is to replace skilled labor. The unions were broken by a conscious policy of offshoring those industries where they were strong – no jobs, no union workers.

    People died violently to purchase the right to collectively bargain – for the 8 hour work day, for sick leave, for minimum wage and to end child labor. I think that the threat posed by union busting has receded in memory far enough that people do not remotely understand what is at stake.

  41. mbelardes says:

    Not sure you can really look at means and medians to identify the problem here.

    That’s a bit like looking at average pay in the finance sector and concluding that bankers must not really make that much.

    Los Angeles County actually disclosed all of their positions and salaries a while back with the names redacted. It was amazing. Positions doing almost nothing and getting paid six-figures plus.

    What are the highest paid people in Wisconsin making and what exactly do they do? You can’t lump administrators making big dollars with teachers aides making nothing to get a median and mean and call that a fair analysis which addresses the problems.

    I think the problem governments are having is the unions refuse to have any sort of discussion at all on this. And since they own both sides of the negotiating table, they don’t have to work anything out.

  42. BennyProfane says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw

    “short version: tax rates on the wealthy paid for middle class expansion.”

    You know, I’m a pretty liberal guy, but, I don’t come to investing and money talk sites to listen to college freshman socialist arguments like yours. Do you really really think that’s what funded the second half of the 20th century in America, our most prosperous? That’s what built our schools and highway system and put us on the moon and eradicated diseases? Jezuz, then why isn’t the Soviet Union the owner of us all?

    Listen, I’m voting with my feet, just as millions have and will in the future. Raise my taxes to pay for this b******t, and off to Florida or some low cost western state in retirement, and you can kiss my tax dollars on a well cultivated retirement fund, goodbye. There’s a reason upstate NY is an economic wasteland, and, it ain’t going to get any better with your solution.

    BTW, I hate the rich as much as you, but, you’re barking up the wrong tree. It won’t work.

  43. maddog2020 says:

    “curbyourrisk Says:
    February 23rd, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Just in my school district alone — 523 people made over $75,000 in 2010…

    Yeah…I feel sorry for these people……….”

    Having not provided the median wage/benefit package for comparably educated/experienced individuals in your school district, or the size of your district, this information isn’t helpful to the rest of us in the discussion here.

  44. wsm3 says:

    @Julia –

    I don’t know whether you meant to or not, but you answered your own question in your circular post.

    When we (the private sector) “ask ourselves where our pensions are”, the answer is that market forces always prevail. In this case the benefits could not be paid for, so the only rational (non union-infected) resolution is to revert to a system that is sustainable – namely to bring benefits in line with what they actually cost.

    I disagree that ‘we’re all unskilled labor’. A functioning marketplace will bestow benefits on you commensurate with the supply and demand of the skills you possess.

    You also put words in my mouth that “if we’re all going to be kept equal…”. I am not advocating equality in outcomes. Quite the opposite, I would advocate equality in opportunity, which inherently (and rightfully) leads to INequality in outcomes. This is what a healthy marketplace produces.

  45. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    mbelardes Says:

    What are the highest paid people in Wisconsin making and what exactly do they do? You can’t lump administrators making big dollars with teachers aides making nothing to get a median and mean and call that a fair analysis which addresses the problems.

    You can also fire individuals without taking away the rights of others.

  46. wiscoDude says:

    I agree completely with this statement by @mbelardes

    “What are the highest paid people in Wisconsin making and what exactly do they do? You can’t lump administrators making big dollars with teachers aides making nothing to get a median and mean and call that a fair analysis which addresses the problems.

    I think the problem governments are having is the unions refuse to have any sort of discussion at all on this. And since they own both sides of the negotiating table, they don’t have to work anything out.”

  47. apataki says:

    As others have mentioned: the issue is the pensions. No, they are nothing like “what the private sector used to get”. In California, the average cop or fireman, retiring today, at age 50 is routinely getting 100K plus per ytear pension with inflation protection and survivor benefits. This is equivalent to purchasing an inflation protected annuity which would cost me about 3 Million dollars. Of course I could never save that much money in an IRA because of contribution limits. Limits not faced by public pensioners who typically do not contribute a DIME to their pensions. The “employee portion” of their pension contributions is routinely picked up by their city or county employer.

    The other public sector employees in the state have to wait until the grand old age of 55 to retire. Usually at 60% of their last years salary; no the 90% the police and fire get.

    I do not begrudge public employees a livable pension. But, what is going on now, at least in my state, is obscene.

  48. Raleighwood says:

    When the (obscene) Wall Street bonuses were called into question they were defended by the requirement to fulfill “contractual obligations”. Don’t these union folks have the same legal protection of their contracts as well?

    Or maybe contracts with the little people are as expendable as the little people themselves.

  49. derekce says:

    I’m waiting for the concerned politicians to take their own medicine and take steep pay cuts along with ending their generous perks, health and retirement benefits. Now that would save the taxpayer some money. Also, how are pay cuts good for the economy. For the people who complain about their state workers pay, why don’t you apply and get a job there if you’re so envious.

  50. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    The real problem is an out of control Republican governor filling state political positions with his cronies.


  51. curbyourrisk says:

    @ Maddog -

    Average wage in my town is just over $51,000 per family. There. Now go ahead and tell me teachers are wort all that…and then benefits, and pension.

    Go ahead and blow smoke up my ass…….

  52. VennData says:

    It’s comical how these GOP leaders who devised TARP…


    …then denounced it…


    … NOW demand “shared sacrifice, “From everybody,” in their centrally-coordinated rhetoric…


    …while the WSJ bankers and their fat cut friends refused to countenance anything of the sort while under TARP…


    …But the GOP genuflecters can’t make their connection. So they will continue to cheer the GOP media machine.

  53. apataki says:


    It is really not a case of envy. The issue is fairness. Is it fair for put all the risk on the general public if public pensions become underfunded due to unrealistic return assumptions? Calpers projected that the DOW would hit 25,000 by 2010 back in 1999. These insane projections then allowed politicians to give away the store to the public unions and proclaim it would not cost taxpayers a dime. When the DOW 25,000 did not materialize the taxpayer got stuck with the bill. Tails they win, heads the taxpayer loses.

  54. Irwin Fletcher says:

    I hear and understand all the arguments for the need for unions and what all the unions have brought to the working american over the years. So even if we agree they have served a useful purpose, wasn’t this in the private sector where companies took advantage of employees?

    However, even FDR was opposed to having unions for public servants, aka government employees.
    This is the issue. Why are unions even necessary for government workers? They don’t work for “corporatists”.
    They work for the taxpayers.

    Why do state government employees enjoy medical and pension plans that the private sector can only dream about? Answer: there is nothing to keep them in check. In the private sector the companies have to answer to the shareholders.

    Regarding Collective bargaining: Who negotiates for the taxpayers? No one. The public employee unions contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to politicians who in turn give them what they want. This is the vicious cycle that has been going on for decades and this is why the pensions and benefits are so far out of line.

  55. curbyourrisk says:

    @ derekce:

    Do you know how hard it tis to get a STATE job in or a County job on Long Island? Some one has to die and have it willed to you. I spent my post highschool years going to coeelge and getting a degree thinking that was the way to go. Meanwhile, all my friends have 2 new cars in their drive way, a nice new house, public jobs with a great health benefits, a nice big fat pensions itting for them when they decide THEY have had enough working and scrape by. Who ever would have thought 20 years ago that the public sector would grow to the bloated level it is at now, with bloated salaries and out sized pensions to boot.

    Has anyone actually gone to that web site and LOOKED at the salaries?????? No more comments directed at me until you actually go look!!!!!!

  56. MondoGrapes says:


    That is an excellent point. The president makes about $400,000 per year these days and I read the other day that once he is out of office he is entitled to a near $200,000 per year pension. Don’t know if that number includes health benefits.

    Not sure what congressmen and senators get as their retirement packages, but they make $174,000 per year for what is essentially a part-time job and I’m sure their pensions are lucrative. All for people who are already wealthy.

    What say you Senators, Congressmen, and Mr. President? How about leading by example and cutting out some of that tax-payer funded largesse?

  57. wsm3 says:

    @ Irwin Fletcher –


  58. Petey Wheatstraw says:


    Your reply to Julia completely ignores the cost/benefit to society of “free market forces” dumping the vast majority of the wealth of out nation into so few hands. This is wealth redistribution to the upper class, pure and simple.

    “A functioning marketplace will bestow benefits on you commensurate with the supply and demand of the skills you possess . . ”

    Does this acid test not apply to the Robber Barons? Aren’t we living the results of their “benefits” not being commensurate with their obvious lack of skills? Do they bring some other unique and ethereal value to society that “free market forces” should bestow such riches upon them?

    “ . . . namely to bring benefits in line with what they actually cost.”

    Might be restated:

    Why are the costs of reasonable benefits so far out of the reach of so many gainfully employed, productive citizens while corporatists accumulate unheard of wealth?

    Why do the elite benefit beyond any value they bring to society?

  59. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    I still keep asking all these people who say that various other people are being overpaid, “Why didn’t you apply for one of these jobs if the pay and/or benefits are so high?” I agree that CEO is difficult to get, but until this round of layoffs teaching jobs were widely available in most places.

    I can never get the complainers to respond, but I suspect the answer is that they wouldn’t be a teacher because the job is so miserable. It seems to be part of the tendency in this country to denigrate the front line people who actually deliver services to the public.

  60. Kort says:

    1) discussing salaries without fully loaded cost (benefits) is useless.
    2) discussing firefighters and police (who are EXEMPT from the proposed change) is useless as nothing will change with these EXEMPT unions.
    3) Wisconsin is merely trying to get to a spot (vis a vis Collective Bargaining issue) where 24 other states already are. WI is not trying to be the 1st, or the Only, state.
    4) The Collective Bargaining “issue” will NOT affect salariess so, again, discussing Salaries-only is useless.

    Many of these collective bargaining rights are used in some parts of the state (at a local or county level) to enforce a certain way of doing things that are (1) inefficient and (2) costly. The local trade off is: please Mr Union Official, accept this change so we can save some $, or we will need to lay off X people. Mr Union Official says ‘nope, sorry…I would if I could, but the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow it.’ So, X state employees get cut. Without the collective bargaining agreement governing all of these things, it would be easier to work out changes to the system.

  61. ashpelham2 says:

    I really wish middle class America could see what is happening, besides repeating what their Republican representatives have told them. I come from a home that had a Union man, private company, that provided our food and shelter. Now, my late father wasn’t a Union hack: he agreed that there was less of a need to Unionize in a profitable company that already did a lot promote the prosperity of it’s employees. The Union folks often worked well with management of this company, until it went away: Champion International Paper became International Paper. I’m wearing the man’s gold watch on my left wrist today, as a reminder of the efforts of that company and its employees.

    But public employees unionization just seems out of place. After all, their employer is the PUBLIC, their salaries paid by the taxes of it’s citizens. These taxes are mandatory, and as such, COULD be wasted on political pet projects, but they are trying to get an irrational amount for the future.

    I’m with the poster who said “put it on the paycheck”. We shouldn’t be subsidizing those early retirees for 30-40 years of their remaining life, but encouraging the values of working and saving.

    Of course, SAVING is only beneficial to my current industry, the retirement business. Every other industry suffers if everyone saves. Talk about irony…..

  62. curbyourrisk says:


    “I can never get the complainers to respond, but I suspect the answer is that they wouldn’t be a teacher because the job is so miserable. It seems to be part of the tendency in this country to denigrate the front line people who actually deliver services to the public.”

    Yeah…I would HATE to have 180 days off a year. Sign me up……. I could make the transfer with what I know without getting a teaching degree and still do a better job than half the idiots teaching in NY,.

  63. boogabooga1114 says:

    The talk of pension costs has been going on for a few years now in California. The practical reason you might be hearing about it from governor’s now is it takes a few years for pension funds to digest losses and adjust the costs they bill to state and local governments. Right now those bills are jumping even as the economy is eating revenues.

  64. boogabooga1114 says:

    Oh, and Wisconsin’s public employees seem on the whole reasonably paid.

    But as a Californian, can I grouse?

  65. wsm3 says:

    @ Petey –

    Not sure what you are referencing by “Robber Barons”. If you are talking about burglars, homeless, etc… I would say that by and large they do not end up with riches bestowed upon them.

    In answers to your legitimate questions at the end:

    “Why are the costs of reasonable benefits so far out of reach…” The answer to this is because the size of gov’t and entitlement programs (Medicaid, Medicare, et al) have been so devastatingly mismanaged that exorbitant healthcare costs, which otherwise would not be supported by a functioning market, have been paid for (reimbursed) under these programs for so long, allowing costs to balloon over time to levels that we see today. The day of reckoning probably cannot be kicked too much farther down the road.

    “Why do the elite benefit beyond any value they bring to society” The answer to this is to remove the false premise from the question – namely that benefits/compensation in a functioning marketplace are commensurate with “the value they bring to society”. (what does that even mean?)

  66. maddog2020 says:

    “curbyourrisk Says:
    February 23rd, 2011 at 11:36 am
    @ Maddog -

    Average wage in my town is just over $51,000 per family. There. Now go ahead and tell me teachers are wort all that…and then benefits, and pension.

    Go ahead and blow smoke up my ass…….”

    Jeez Curbyourrisk, calm down. Just sayin’ providing the numbers without the relevant background isn’t helpful. Context, dude.

  67. MondoGrapes says:

    “curbyourrisk Says:

    “I can never get the complainers to respond, but I suspect the answer is that they wouldn’t be a teacher because the job is so miserable. It seems to be part of the tendency in this country to denigrate the front line people who actually deliver services to the public.”

    Yeah…I would HATE to have 180 days off a year. Sign me up……. I could make the transfer with what I know without getting a teaching degree and still do a better job than half the idiots teaching in NY,.”

    I’ve always hated this lame hack answer. Agreed that there are teachers who are subpar (I’m dealing with this now as one of my kids is now in school full-time). If you can do better, then do it. Or shut it.

    And teaching is one of those jobs that everyone thinks is sooo damn easy and that anyone could do it. Have you ever tried to simply keep control in a room of 35 kids? I’ve never been a teacher, but I was a camp counselor many years ago and I assure you that the keeping control part of the equation is NOT easy. Now teach those kids on top of that.

    I’m reminded of what every arm chair baseball player would say about junk ballers like Jimmy Key or David Wells: “I could hit that guys stuff no problem. Why are these guys hacking away like that?” Step into the box and see how easy it is my friend.

  68. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Irwin Fletcher:

    I agree that public sector unions are a problem, but we run into issues of free association if we try to ban them. I don’t think that rights should ever be given up, much less to provide a lock-in for corporatist interests. Maybe we should off-shore government positions or privatize government (as if that’s not already happened).

    The solution is to RIF those who are overpaid or underperforming. You have the right to freely associate, but not a right to a job. In the private sector, unions price themselves out of jobs all of the time (well, at least since off-shoring of jobs and industries was allowed).

    You say, “Why do state government employees enjoy medical and pension plans that the private sector can only dream about? Answer: there is nothing to keep them in check. In the private sector the companies have to answer to the shareholders . . .”

    The idea that anyone in the private sector has to answer to shareholders ignores reality (for instance, are you speaking of common or preferred shares? Can holders of 401Ks define their own plans and trade stocks freely in response to corporate actions or policies?). Why do private sector big wigs not have to answer to their shareholders for their fat salaries and golden parachutes, even as their companies fail?

    In the public sector, a vote is a vote, and the CEO/Corporate Officers/Management Team can be replaced by the “shareholders.” Not that they are, but they can.

  69. jack says:

    FDR believed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

    Government workers were making good salaries in 1962 when President Kennedy lifted, by executive order the federal ban on government unions. Civil-service regulations and similar laws had guaranteed good working conditions for generations before that.

    The Koch PAC contributed $43,000 to Walker’s campaign. That was out of more than $11 million that Walker raised, and $37.4 million that was spent, altogether, on the 2010 race for Governor of Wisconsin. Which means that people associated with Koch Industries contributed a whopping one-tenth of one percent of what was spent on last year’s election.

    From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5 percent going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

  70. DeDude says:

    The relevant comparison to teachers is other professionals with a Masters degree. So lets se data for total compensation (salary + bonuses + benefits) for MBA vs. teachers. Then we can start talking about what reasonable compensation levels should be.

    Yes there are some cases of public pension plans that are out of this world, but most of them have been fixed long time ago and I don’t think Wisconsin is a place where they are that great. Regardless of how good they are they were supposed to be funded in a trust fund so the money for those retirements came out of yesteryears budgets not todays.

  71. beaufou says:

    Before going into government employees benefits and rights, Walker could also spend a little time on corporate tax loopholes. In 2009, corporations contributed 5% of overall tax revenue and while it may be seen as a job creation initiative it simply hasn’t been true in the last 10 years, private job creation has been negative despite all the hand outs.
    Eliminate public services and the private sector will surely take care of the economy, yeah right, private employers is just a nice expression for corporations who have taken the cuts and used the money overseas, on dividends and on executive pay while trying to find a way to cut average workers pay.
    Bernanke has distributed 9 trillion dollars since the beginning of the crisis, where the fuck is the money?
    Not in teachers pockets, I guarantee you.
    The banks broke the bank Invictus.

  72. dad29 says:

    For perspective, it will be helpful to compare BLS wage/salary data vis-a-vis average Wisconsin income.

    IIRC, ‘avg WI income’ (all wage/salary earners) is around 85-88% of the national average.

    Ergo, the taxable-base is less able to pay…

  73. WFTA says:

    Link to yesterday’s NPR interview with Professer Richard Hurd (Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University) regarding public and private sector pay and benefits:


    Sorry, I don’t know how to paste it as a link.

    The governor of Wisconson is an asshole and a liar.

    And anyone who compares the wealth, standards of living and budgets of the USA and our industrialized neighbors, and still thinks we cannot afford to do a lot better is f*&^ing idiod.

  74. WFTA says:

    Coinage alert: Idiod-the inadvertent combination of idiod and retard, with apologies to the little Palen.

  75. socaljoe says:

    Isn’t the real problem current funding for future retirement and medical benefits as well as early retirement?… not so much current salaries.

  76. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    wsm3 Says:
    February 23rd, 2011 at 11:54 am
    @ Petey –

    Not sure what you are referencing by “Robber Barons”.

    I’m talking about the corporatists that now control our government. The bailed-out and above-the-law bankers. I’m talking about corporations that pay no taxes in the US. I’m talking about people made wealthy off the government tit, who then don’t want to pay taxes on their earnings (Defense and Public Utility Contractors). I’m talking about the lobbyists who write our laws. I’m talking about companies that offshored our jobs and productive capacities. I’m talking Hank Paulson, Mozillo, the Kochs, Blankfien, and a thousand others who have played the American people for suckers.

    THOSE Robber Barons.

    Healthcare costs have gone up because healthcare has been corporatized/industrialized. Why do we pay so much more than anyone else for healthcare yet receive middling, at best, services? Profit margins. Regulatory capture.

    As for your last question, I’m surprised you can’t understand what it means. You tout the “free market forces” as being able to reward the worthy with wealth while punishing the unworthy with poverty (at least that’s what Rand would have you think), but we have a situation where entrenched interests (a.k a: Robber Barons) are enriched by the “free market forces” despite their stunning lack of contribution to anything positive or productive. These clowns bankrupted us with their greed, yet the “free market forces” still reward them.

  77. jack says:

    ‘Have they just not been paying attention? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it smells a bit political.’

    I have dozens of public sector clients that I help navigate the 5 public pensions in Ohio. This is usually not very complicated, but has been so for the last two years because of the known possible changes to the systems. In early 2009 the legislature – then Democratrically controlled – asked the pension systems for proposed changes to the plans to make them solvent actuarially for 30 years (they weren’t at the time). All the plans delivered those proposals by August 2009, and the changes were made public. Many were phased in or grandfathered. The chambers never brought it to a vote. They basically kicked the can down the road until after the 2010 elections so that it would not force Democratic Governor Strickland to have to decide whether to sign it or not , and hence make it campaign fodder last summer.

    The Ohio Democratic party and the unions had every opportunity to draft their own legislation for 4 years. They opted not to.

    On a different topic, when looking at education salaries, please gross up by 15-20%. Most don’t work in the summer.

  78. Unsympathetic says:

    Barry, watch this from Rachel Maddow:


    It’s not about the budget. It’s about rich people not paying taxes so that the middle class can die.

    Also, Barry, you should remember that Paul Ryan, R-WI, finally publically stated that the reason for deficit-cutting has nothing to do with money but rather with morality:


  79. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    The unions have already conceded on the salaries and benefits. The governor won’t back down over collective bargaining. Why are we still talking about the former while ignoring the latter?

  80. mazabel says:

    I am a teaching assistant for basic heat transfer at university of wisconsin milwaukee. I have to say your data is scewed. I make just over $7000 a year, and I have no benefits. I do not make anything remotely close to the data you posted. My assumption is that you took the figures for the maximum amount a TA could make, which would reflect a 66% full time position. Noone, ever gets a 66% full time position, the most I have ever seen is 33%. Furthermore, they dissallow a TA to get another part time job. I cannot even live off of what they pay me, and now you say that we are one of the major sources that are draining the economy? Lastly, TA’s are the ones who do all the work.


    BR: TA is not registered as a full time job

  81. picksjr says:

    There are 5.5mln WI citizens. 1.1mln of them voted for Scott Walker last November. Walker ran on this very issue, the only shock here is that we have a politician that is following through with what he ran on.

    This is democracy, like it or not….and if you don’t like it, and live in WI, you’ll have a chance to vote the politicians out when their terms are up.

    I would also like to ask why and / or when collective bargaining became a “right”. It is not a right, it’s a privilege.

    One more quick point, the comp stats shown in this post are salary only and do not include public employee benefits which are egrigious in WI.

  82. Sarge says:

    “…It’s about rich people not paying taxes so that the middle class can die.”

    I’m sure that the top 25% of tax payers (above AGI $67K ) who pay 86% of all income taxes would agree with you.

  83. BillG says:

    Do these police salaries include overtime though? That’s where the real money is in that type of work. Seriously, the Milwaukee Journal has data on its site about total take home pay for state employees and there’s corrections officers pulling in $150K while only making $26/hr in base pay. The added problem of this is that they’re probably near retirement and are boosting their final year’s earnings in order to boost their pension. And to add insult to injury, these guys are pulling in double or triple their base pay while there’s thousands of unemployed people who would gladly pick up 40 of that guy’s overtime hours and save the state the overtime premium.

    Just looking at the base salaries of these folks isn’t going to tell you much of anything. What’s their total take home pay? At what age can they retire? How is their pension calculated? What did they have to contribute to it over their career? Do they get healthcare for life?

    I’ll agree this isn’t Goldman Sachs we’re talking about. Hardly anybody is getting rich working for the state. If the union allows these people to collect more in total compensation than they’d otherwise receive (it does) the premium for the average guy is probably no more than 10K/yr or so. But my gripe with public employee unions over the years comes from how they “sacrifice” pay for future benefits. Basically what happens there is instead of the state government either paying these people some negotiated higher wage and laying some of them off so they can balance the budget they instead keep the wages at some lower amount, lay nobody off, and commit to pension boost or something that will cost future taxpayers lots of money but cost current taxpayers very little. That needs to stop and if they have to kill collective bargaining to do it then so be it.

  84. Julia Chestnut says:

    wsm3, that wasn’t the market. I think that is absolutely the point. It was a conscious decision by people who manipulated and ran the market. The benefits were not unsustainable: inflation was, especially in certain sectors. But it was the benefits that got the ax.

    Where I work, there is still a “cadillac plan” and the defined benefit plan just closed (there is still a matching flexible benefit plan, but no more defined benefit plan) – last year. Private company. Of course, all of the stock is owned by the employees. . . .

    If it was the market, it must have skipped right over my company. Funny about that.

    A civilized society does not behave this way. Maybe that is against a pure “market” philosophy – I don’t disagree. I just think that a pure market philosophy is a lie and a particularly dangerous one.

  85. Sarge says:

    “mark Says:


    You need to get your facts straight”

    Actually you need to read stuff before calling somebody out. I said about 50 posts ago:

    “Well, who’s breaking the bank? Why does Wisconsin expect a 3.6 billion shortfall next year? I’m sure unfunded pension obligations have nothing to do with it.”


    I said NEXT YEAR as in the 2011-2013 budget. They expect it. This years shortfall is -$128 million.

    What caused it? Nothing in the numbers posted by Invictus addresses his main premise: “What is breaking the bank in Wisconsin?” And nothing much discussed here contributes to an answer either unless you count some commenters fever swamp hallucinations about corporatist takeovers.

    How much does the public union’s unfunded pension obligation contribute to that shortfall? This year and next? What other factors contribute to the shortfalls?

    If Walker gets his way and bargaining rights for pension and health care is off the table then what does that do to the budget?

    I’m interested in the answer to these questions as posed by the title of the post .

  86. nickthap says:

    Do people really think that $50k a year is a lot of money for doing a job you’ve spent ten+ years in?

  87. wsm3 says:

    @ Julia –

    If all of your company’s stock is owned by the employees, then it was the employees who voted to close the DB plan.

    Your first paragraph does not make sense: “The benefits were not unsustainable: inflation was, especially in certain sectors. But it was the benefits that got the ax.” The inflation is not separable from the benefits.

    I realize that a pure market philosophy is not the best option for an advanced society. There are no countries today (or ever, that I am aware of) that operate in a pure market based system. My contention is simply that the unions (especially for public sector employees) are such a toxic distortion to rational long term budgets, which sooner or later must balance expenditures with income.

  88. DeDude says:

    So our current GDP is at an all time high and about to pass $15T, yet we cannot afford to let teachers have decent benefits. Houston, we have a wealth distribution problem.

  89. curbyourrisk says:

    @DeDude….So our current GDP is at an all time high and about to pass $15T, yet we cannot afford to let teachers have decent benefits. Houston, we have a wealth distribution problem.

    Decent benefits…… Those are better beenfits than MOST americans can dream about. Pension….what the hell is a pension??? I don’t have one of those.. I want one, especially one that YOU are responsible for paying for if mine does not work out. Yeah….I want one of those. BECAUSE YOU DESERVE TO MAKE SURE THAT I RETIRE IN STYLE. I get 180 days off a year.. It purely is not enough. I want to have paid sabaticals. I want to retire 1 year early from accrued vacation time, and I WANT ALL OF THIS ON YOUR DIME….. The state constitution gaurnatees this to me…..and you MUST work overtime to pay more taxes so I can retire…. I ahve earned it!!! I WANT….I WANT…..I WANT……..

    yeah, you get the picture, I am sick of hearing the teachers bitch.

  90. mbelardes says:

    @Petey Wheatstraw

    You can’t fire public employees like you can private employees.

    @Those comparing contractual obligations of bankers to those of unions.

    That is the central issue as to why they want to eliminate public employee unions. A banker forms a contract with management without having any influence over his management.

    Public employee unions bankroll politicians and then influence them at the bargaining table, big time. So much so that the argument is there is no bargain at all and that is why the salaries, benefits, and pensions are off the charts ridiculous.

    And I can definitely state that for a well educated young person, I often wonder why I subject myself to the pressure and uncertainty of the private sector because of a belief in a high NPV of future earnings when I could just take the large compensation packages (not to mention student loan forgiveness) of the public sector and never have to be responsible for real results.

    And California thinks we should raise taxes to pay this stuff? Yeah right. Any real legal and financial analysis of what has taken place with public employee pensions tells a major story of greed and corruption that only Wall Street could beat.

  91. newulm55 says:

    Wage Data… but WHERE IS THE BENEFIT Data!!!!

    This is how public unions hide the true cost of bloated pay packages. The wage and benefit need to be count together, when theses number are backed together they show that union benefits are much more expensive then the private sector. The MKE school district is a perfect example $56k average wage, $44K average benefit costs… now how does this stack up against the private sector? I work for a company w/ 20k employees and the benefit are 28% of wages, MKE schools are 78%… its the 40 point difference that is the rip-off.

    We need to have laws that require 100% of wages and benefits paid in the year they are received by employees. No more pushing and hiding cost to future tax payers who don’t have a say or vote in this scam!

  92. DL says:

    I’m not sure what the point of bringing up the issue of police and firefighters might be.

    The governor of Wisconsin has not threatened to reduce their wages or benefits.

  93. beaufou says:

    “I’m not sure what the point of bringing up the issue of police and firefighters might be.

    The governor of Wisconsin has not threatened to reduce their wages or benefits.”

    Well no, they were supporting him prior to the election.
    Teachers should just bite the bullet and ask Walker how much he wants to change his mind.

  94. MeanReverter says:

    Somebody explain why “government union” is not an oxymoron.

  95. DeDude says:


    Actually those are benefits worse than the average benefits before Reagan. Yes they are better than current wage-slave benefits in the private sector, but they are worse than public sector benefits used to be. Sort of strange that with a GDP, that in 1980’ies dollars, is more than twice as big as back then, we cannot afford benefits that are not nearly as good as back then. Makes you kind of think – unless you are to busy screaming “that guy has a cow, I have none, we must kill his cow before I go insane looking at his cow”.

  96. edwards183 says:

    The pensions for WI state employees are not that rich. The formula for non-emergency services is : 1.6 * number of years service * average of high three years salary. The magic number is 88 for when you can retire on full benefit, that is a total of years of service + age. Or 65 years old. So a person looking who started at 25 would have to work 33 years to be able to retire at age 58. Everyone things that this is a give away, but it really is defered wages.

    I work for a fortune 5 company and we get 1.1% per year of service with the ability to retire at 60 with full benefit.

  97. Lukey says:

    I’m not sure it’s fair to suggest these salaries and benefits would have been affordable in the absence of Walker’s tax cuts. That appears to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. The tax cuts need to be evaluated as a separate issue – do they make economic sense? If your state is losing business activity and you decide you need to cut business taxes to make your economy more attractive to employers, why ever would you consider the effect on the affordability of public employee compensation as part of the decision making process? If that makes it more pressing that you get your unsustainable levels of public employee pay and benefits under control, then so be it. For far too long the public employee special interests have insisted that their needs trump all others. The “Great Recession” has stripped these special interests of their ability to commandeer the budgeting process.

  98. jack says:

    ‘Not sure what congressmen and senators get as their retirement packages, but they make $174,000 per year for what is essentially a part-time job and I’m sure their pensions are lucrative. All for people who are already wealthy.’

    unless our congressman (federal level) have been in that position since 1986, they are under the FERS retirement system just like any other federal employee. as such they are fully eligible for Social Security, and a rather modest pension, based on their years of service and average salary. not nearly as much as you think it is.

    if they started pre 1986, they would be under the old CSRS system, which is much more similar to the public pensions that are the matter of dispute in the news today. another way that they are similar to current public employees is that they are usually not eligible for social security, unless they also have concurrent income outside of the government income that would dually qualify them (at least 20 years before it becomes significant).

  99. Arequipa01 says:

    @NoKidding et al.

    “Don’t drag corporatism into it either. Separate issue. We probably agree they should be in jail with the congressmen they bought. However, not many of those rich guys make use of the public school system.”

    Sorry- a custom-made bill of attainder (sop for the Koch Bros is the real pea in this shell game: