Morning Links

Monday, November 15th, 2010
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55 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Cornellian | 

    In defense of PoliFact, the article does say that it’s a legitimate number to raise, just that it requires more explanation than Rand Paul provided.

    It is also not a valid comparison to compare employees of the federal government to employees generally. The nature of the work performed is completely different. The private sector doesn’t have military, police or courts (to raise three examples), and the federal government doesn’t have people flipping burgers at McDonalds. One can certainly compare the pay of particular positions in the federal government to the pay of comparable positions in the private sector, but it’s pointless to compare federal government employees to the workforce in general because they’re not comparable in terms of the type of work being performed.

  2. #2 |  Joe | 

    Jimmy Wales is staring at me!

  3. #3 |  Joe | 

    Thanks for the Mecca photos. Reminds me of Richard Burton’s (the adventurer-spy not the actor) trip to Mecca in the 1850s.

  4. #4 |  JS | 

    Joe “Jimmy Wales is staring at me!”

    hahaha…he likes you!

  5. #5 |  boomshanka | 

    PolitiFact thinks it’s dishonest to include benefits when comparing compensation for federal workers to the private sector.

    I think you’re misreading the PolitiFact post.

  6. #6 |  Juice | 

    Cornellian | November 15th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    In defense of PoliFact, the article does say that it’s a legitimate number to raise, just that it requires more explanation than Rand Paul provided.

    Even though what Paul said is true, the meter at the top of the article registers “FALSE”.

  7. #7 |  André | 

    Re: Wikipedia
    I had an awesome screenshot of the article on “Attention Deficit Disorder” where it said “This article is in need of attention. Please help us out by…”.

  8. #8 |  K9kevlar | 

    NASA Nazis? One small step for man – one giant leap for the Forth Reich.

  9. #9 |  World’s Strangest | Photographs and Audio Recordings from Mecca in 1885 | 

    [...] via The Agitator | Photo: Empty Quarter [...]

  10. #10 |  Marty | 

    #4- what a fascinating guy- thanks for posting this!

  11. #11 |  Marty | 

    re the 7 yo- this is exactly how I feel in my house! I had to put it on my fb page…

  12. #12 |  Chuchundra | 

    What Paul said is, at best, deliberately misleading.

    It’s commonly understood that when you talk about what a person “makes”, you’re talking about their salary. Nobody includes the value of their benefit package when they talk about how much they make. Most people don’t even know what the number is. Someone might say, “I make $X and I have good/bad/ok/whatever benefits”.

  13. #13 |  Marty | 

    chuchundra- my friends who own small businesses (fabricating shop and cabinet shop) almost ALWAYS mention the total compensation of benefits and salaries when talking about compensation. They taught me to be aware of the bigger picture.

    I think Rand Paul nailed it. I bet my friends do, too.

  14. #14 |  Mike T | 

    The private sector doesn’t have military, police or courts (to raise three examples), and the federal government doesn’t have people flipping burgers at McDonalds.

    That’s true, but not relevant since a significant amount of federal employees do the same work for the feds that they’d do for corporations. For example, engineers, doctors, lawyers, technicians, etc. J Christian Adams, the DoJ attorney who just left over the Black Panther scandal, noted that the average DoJ lawyer he knew made at least $150k/year plus benefits, which is well over the private sector average for attorneys.

    The ones who are highly overpaid are primarily in the federal civilian workforce. God knows the uniformed personnel aren’t overpaid for what is expected of them, compared to the civilian workforce.

    The salaries, though, are not even that big of a deal for tax payers. It’s really about the pensions because the pensions stay for life and are a large percentage of the salary from when the worker was hypothetically doing something for the tax payer.

    I think a key reform package would be to strip civilian employees of their pensions unless they are in a field that has no private sector analog that is feasible past the retirement age. That would mainly cover federal law enforcement since, by law, they cannot continue working as an agent past the age of 57 and cannot even remain employed at their agency period without moving up into management (and having hundreds of do-nothing managers is probably even worse for the public than just letting them retire).

  15. #15 |  Mike T | 

    Another thing which I don’t think was mentioned is that it’s not uncommon for people to draw 2-3 pensions. Military and civilian, plus a state one or Social Security. Once you earn one pension, the states and fed should not give you the next one.

  16. #16 |  SJE | 

    Followup on the arrest of Prince George’s County executive. 3 cops were arrested this morning when they arrived at their police station. The charges include corruption, tampering with evidence, etc. A good start. The bad news is that this is in connection with property development. So the FBI is interested if a police department is involved with corrupt property development, but not if you beat students, shoot people, shoot their dogs etc.

  17. #17 |  SJE | 

    re: salaries and benefits. It’s only misleading if conversations do not include benefits, which are very substantial in government and union jobs.

  18. #18 |  Cyto | 

    #11 | Chuchundra | Sitting about 14 feet away from our hiring director, I can assure you that the phrase “total compensation” is an integral part of every job offering. In fact, I just heard him say those exact words while I was typing this reply. Benefits are a major area of competition for talent – and one of the main differentiators for Government and Union jobs.

    The “most people mean salary” critique is completely invalid. Comparing salary alone in a situation where benefits are hugely different is not informative. Would you compare your salary with the CEO of a fortune 500 company, neglecting his benefits package (stock options, equity, bonuses)? No, you wouldn’t.

    They do have a valid critique in the mix of jobs included in the two average numbers. But their answer to this critique is not an honest retort, since it looks at salary exclusive of benefits (and still finds large discrepancies). Include numbers for benefits and the gulf moves well north of 50% (but still south of the 100% claim).

    Since he states that he is using averages for all workers, and gives the correct figures for the most relevant number (total compensation), you cannot call it a lie. The PolitiFact critique is much less honest. At best you can say that there is room for refinement by comparing relevant work pools and total compensation.

  19. #19 |  SJE | 

    “The private sector doesn’t have military, police or courts (to raise three examples), and the federal government doesn’t have people flipping burgers at McDonalds.”

    Wrong 1: there are all sorts of burger flipping jobs on the federal payroll. Who do you think works in Fed cafeterias? What about all the cooks in the military? I heard an interview with a person whose only job on the aircraft carrier was to stock vending machines.

    Wrong 2: the private sector does have elements of military, police and courts, and would have more if not crowded out by the government. The large mining and oil companies have their own security forces that are superior to the military of many nations. Many large companies have people involved in security, in identifying and tracking fraud, computer crimes, etc. If you have a grievance, or are in trouble, there is usually a “procedure” for investigating, punishing, or resolving the issue. In many cases these are differences of degree, rather than kind.

  20. #20 |  SJE | 

    Or, to put it another way: how can you say that the private sector has no military when, for the past few decades, governments have been hiring elite security forces from the PRIVATE sector. These include UK outfits that were hired to stage coups.

  21. #21 |  omar | 

    3 cops were arrested this morning when they arrived at their police station.

    Why did the feds wait until the perps went to work to arrest them? Shouldn’t the perps wake up at 4am to the sounds of their front doors busting down? I thought that’s how you handled things like this.

  22. #22 |  André | 

    Re: the 7-year-old
    Also, bonus male points for anybody who thought “that looks kind of like a nipple.”

  23. #23 |  djm | 

    The Politifact rating “False” is unduly harsh. Their ratings “barely true,” or “half true” seem to be more appropriate. When that narrow measure of total average pay and benefits are compared, Paul is correct.

    I’ll admit that the statistic gets thrown around misleadingly, but here are the points to raise:

    -Public sector pay is rising while private sector pay is falling
    -Public sector pay is, by politifact’s own measure, about 12% higher for the same jobs
    -Public sector benefits and pensions are better, even for the same jobs

  24. #24 |  BillC | 

    I agree with Politifact. The purpose of language is to communicate. When you talk about what a person “makes” the average person thinks you are talking about salary. If you want to talk about the cost of the worker then you should use those words.

    The whole “Hey, it’s technically correct so it’s ok to be intentionally misleading” philosophy helps nobody. I think we’d all be better off if people like Paul told the truth. People should question why the amount of the benefits in addition to salary is so high rather resent the government workers for taking home such a large salary.

  25. #25 |  BillC | 

    Also, Nick Gillespie is the Keith Olbermann of Reason Magazine: even when you agree with what he is saying he still seems like a huge asshole.

  26. #26 |  Bernard | 

    The Politifact thing is crazy.

    Acknowledging that what someone says is true but labelling it ‘false’ because you don’t like the way they’ve phrased it either means that you’re outright stupid or that you’re dishonestly attempting to obfuscate the issue while giving yourself wiggle room if anyone actually reads the article and calls you up on it.

    Given the average modern attention span I’d guess that the only people who’d read past the ‘false’ are the ones who know that it’s true and so do a double-take to check why they’re claiming otherwise. That means that if Politifact has any influence whatever then that influence is being misused here.

  27. #27 |  SJE | 

    BillC: when you have that discussion, there is an assumption that benefits are similar. When benefits are GREATLY different, you would probably want to know that.

  28. #28 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    So the FBI is interested if a police department is involved with corrupt property development, but not if you beat students, shoot people, shoot their dogs etc.

    Correct. $$ is one thing they will go after hard (jealousy maybe?). But, those other things you list are the armed state agents to acting like thugs and killing people. That’s what they want to protect for themselves and they dismiss all of it as the “peasants acting uppity.”

  29. #29 |  Joe | 

    Remember National Opt Out Day is November 24. If my TSA groper looked like this*, I would have less of a problem with it. Safety first!

    Then again, my wife would definitely have a problem with it.

    * DEFINITELY not safe for work or wife.

  30. #30 |  Elroy | 

    Without the the technology from Germany there would have been no NASA. John Demjanuk was some poor Ukrainian farm boy who was drafted into the army for the soviets and captured by the Germans. He was given the choice of starve to death or be a prison guard. If he was a “Nazi” he was hardly part of the leadership. He was aquitted in Isreal and now Germany is trying to appear tough on Nazis by prosecuting a Ukrainian.

  31. #31 |  djm | 

    One more thing:

    Given that politifact explicitly equates what one “makes” with salary, consider the following hypothetical statement:

    “The CEO of SomeBankThing only makes $120,000 a year.”

    When its 120k in salary, 10m in deferred stock, 7m in deferred options, free house, free car, free food, free entertainment, and their own personal ballwasher.

    How do they rate that first statement? “True”?

  32. #32 |  chuchundra | 

    Total compensation is certainly an important concept, but when you talk about that number you express it as total compensation or worker cost or other descriptive term. What someone “makes” is their salary. To use the term “makes” to refer to total compensation number is misleading and wrong.

    Some other things. We’re talking about the Federal civilian workforce. This excludes the military. It also excludes contractors. Most, if not all, food service workers are employed by the contractors who manage and run cafeterias and the like.

    My feeling is that lower level Federal workers, clerks and the like, make more than they would in the private sector. Probably a lot more, once you factor in the value of their benefit packages.

    As you move up the food chain, the disparity gets smaller until it flips around and they’re taking less compensation for the privilege of working for the Feds.

    That’s the way it as at my laboratory. It’s a great place to work if you’re a custodian. Less great if you’re a top level IT guy.

  33. #33 |  BillC | 

    SJE: “When benefits are GREATLY different, you would probably want to know that.”

    I agree. So why is Paul disguising those benefits as take home salary? (That question is rhetorical. I think we all know why he is doing it. He is doing it because it makes people mad that a government worker makes so much more than them.)

    But perhaps if he phrased his point honestly, without obfuscation, the cost and disparity of the benefits would become the focus of the anger. Wouldn’t that be more productive or at least more honest?

  34. #34 |  BamBam | 

    Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) near Long Island, NY was founded by Eric Traub, the Nazi germ warfare laboratory leader. The US snatched him up after WW2 before anyone else could. There are a lot of questions about what really goes on at PIADC.

  35. #35 |  SJE | 

    BillC: is it obfuscation or over-simplification?

  36. #36 |  K9kevlar | 

    Elroy – You make it seem like no NASA would be a bad thing. No government monopoly on space travel to retard man’s progress is in someway undesireable? Say it aint so Elroy.

  37. #37 |  tim | 

    Since people don’t seem to be getting it – what one makes is the salary and bonus that is on my offer letter. It doesn’t include the cost of those benefits such as PTO, health insurance, shiny new laptop, etc. The federal figures that stuff in. The private figures don’t figure that in. So Paul is comparing two completely different things.

    I get better pay and benefits in the private sector than our local state employees in the exact same role.

    I always looked to government jobs to pay less but generally you get better benefits (PTO, retirement, etc). I’ve seen that slowly change over the years. You see people with 2000 hours of vacation time retiring and new employees don’t get the same benefit of infinite PTO rollover.

  38. #38 |  BillC | 

    SJE: It is obfuscation because it is intentional and there is a long tradition of it from conservatives on this issue. If you tell the whole truth, the reaction could be “Wait, why do I have such crappy benefits?” rather than the intended, “government workers make far too much! cut their salaries! cut government spending!” On this issue, I believe the truth lies somewhere between.

    I have learned to just ignore any statistic about how much union workers make, be they teachers or auto workers, because every single time I’ve looked into it those statistics are lies that use the actual cost of the workers in an attempt to demonize. If there’s waste out there, and I’m sure there is, we gain nothing by helping to cover it up.

    If one of the major reasons for these high worker costs is the exorbitant cost of health care then what do gain as a society by covering that up and placing the blame on workers who “make” too much? Paul’s statements are BS sloganeering.

  39. #39 |  Kerade | 

    #36 | K9kevlar

    +100 for the proper use of the word “retard”.

  40. #40 |  Jesse | 

    RE: Politifact

    The truth is somewhere in the middle. That is the point when the Reason article discussed “Nuance”. That comment was NOT a lie, nor the complete truth as it needed context. Therefore it should have rated a “Half True”.

    Here is Politifact’s definition:

    HALF TRUE – The statement is accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

    To call it not true is a distortion of their own rules/definitions.

  41. #41 |  Elroy | 

    #36 – You’ve got a point. No NASA would probably be a good thing. Especially that white elephant flying deathtrap that they send up a few times a year at a few billion each shot. I just meant that without the US grabbing its share of the Nazi rocket scientists after WWII we would not have had the technology to go to the moon or fight the cold war the way we did. You are right though, I don’t think that NASA as it exists now would be missed much.

  42. #42 |  K9kevlar | 

    Nazi principals as well as actual Nazis are the reason NASA gave us the white elephant deathtrap that can not even make the final flight.

  43. #43 |  K9kevlar | 

    How many were dissuaded and chose NOT to tinker with rockets? How many were out and out prohibited? 60 plus years after the Nazis were imported into the American rocket industry why hasn’t there been one paying passenger on Branson’s Virgin Galatic?

  44. #44 |  albatross | 

    There’s also regional/cost of living variation to deal with if you’re comparing federal and private sector employees. If you want to employ anyone in the DC area, for example, you’re going to have to pay them quite a bit more than they’d be making working in, say, St Louis.

  45. #45 |  Elroy | 

    K9kevlar “Nazi principals as well as actual Nazis are the reason NASA gave us the white elephant deathtrap that can not even make the final flight.”

    I have to disagree, Werner Von Braun gave us the Saturn V. Nixon and Congress gave us the space shuttle.

  46. #46 |  luvzbob | 

    The idea that government employees are paid significantly more than private sector employees a fox news/right wing myth that idealogues not interested in the facts repeat ad naseum.

    Its pretty thoroughly debunked, with actual data, here: http://epi.3cdn.net/8808ae41b085032c0b_8um6bh5ty.pdf

    On average there is a pretty steep compensation penalty for working for the federal government, but hey, why tell the truth when repeating the myths bolsters your “ideology”.

  47. #47 |  K9kevlar | 

    Elroy are you saying Nixon and Congress were not Nazis?

  48. #48 |  JOR | 

    “God knows the uniformed personnel aren’t overpaid for what is expected of them, compared to the civilian workforce.”

    Just because someone is paid very little, doesn’t mean they aren’t overpaid.

  49. #49 |  Mr L | 

    BillC “So why is Paul disguising those benefits as take home salary? (That question is rhetorical. I think we all know why he is doing it. He is doing it because it makes people mad that a government worker makes so much more than them.)”

    Maybe because it’s easier and fairer to make a straight comparison between compensation packages when everything’s converted into dollar amounts? Maybe it’s because a large part of the compensation debate revolves around the actual costs of these benefits to our public systems? Maybe because it’s disingenuous to omit one of the most recognized and cited perks of a government job? Maybe because he (correctly) suspected that the reflexive defenders of spendy government will do just that?

    I’m being rhetorical, of course. You’re right – the real reason he’s doing this is because He Is A Bad Person.

    “But perhaps if he phrased his point honestly, without obfuscation, the cost and disparity of the benefits would become the focus of the anger. Wouldn’t that be more productive or at least more honest?”

    No, because then he’d be forced to split his argument when total compensation is the actual issue; it’s not a bad thing per se for civil service to have good benefits. Not to mention the better benefits for government workers are *already* obfuscation – it’s a way to improve pay while shifting costs to other line items or into future budgets.

  50. #50 |  boomshanka | 

    #40 Jesse

    I agree with you, but for Radley to say that “PolitiFact thinks it’s dishonest to include benefits when comparing compensation for federal workers to the private sector” intentionally distorts the PolitiFact article as well.

  51. #51 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Chuchundra,

    What someone “makes” is their salary. To use the term “makes” to refer to total compensation number is misleading and wrong.

    I simpy don’t see how you can make this statement. This is what the term “makes” means to you. That doesn’t mean the statement is misleading and wrong. Recalling Humpty Dumpty’s famous quote on the meaning of words, it is important to note words that are vague. “Makes” is certainly one of them.

    I believe the statement made by Rand Paul is true especially when it comes from a Senatorial candidate running on a platform of reducing government spending. THAT context would mean the only number to discuss is the fully loaded cost of a government employee to tax payers. Comparing that fully loaded cost to a private sector employee makes a tremendous amount of sense and would be the only number that would be imporant–especially because the sweet bennies are of particular annoyance…and liability to taxpayers.

    While most people may not know the actual $$ value of their bennies, the person paying the bills, a Senator with this as a platform, and citizens concerned with the cost of government are correct in making this number an issue.

  52. #52 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    luvzbob,
    Nice job of debunking foxnews/right wing myths with leftwing myths. Keep walking that dogma, baby.

  53. #53 |  SJE | 

    @#43 “How many were dissuaded and chose NOT to tinker with rockets? How many were out and out prohibited? 60 plus years after the Nazis were imported into the American rocket industry why hasn’t there been one paying passenger on Branson’s Virgin Galatic?”

    Because Virgin Galactic is still developing their aircraft. They won the X prize in a prototype. They are now developing the commercial versions and did a test flight a few months ago (passed with flying colors). Besides, in the current economy, they are not in any rush to get something out. Compared to Boeing, Airbus, or the military, Virgin is going VERY fast.

  54. #54 |  SJE | 

    Back to salary: I think that its good to have the discussion INCLUDE benefits, which are frequently used as a way to hide the true costs of government programs. My favorite are pensions, which have no present cost, but huge costs later.

  55. #55 |  Laughingdog | 

    “Wrong 1: there are all sorts of burger flipping jobs on the federal payroll. Who do you think works in Fed cafeterias? What about all the cooks in the military? I heard an interview with a person whose only job on the aircraft carrier was to stock vending machines.”

    Our “Fed cafeterias” are run by contractors, just like the janitorial staff. As for the cooks in the military, that’s not at all the same as working the fry machine at McDonalds, especially since the cooks and vending machine guys on a carrier are in the same war zones as the rest, and are expected to be able to do damage control with the rest of the ship if something goes wrong. No one expects the employees at McDonalds to also work as fire fighters.

    As for salaries, I’m sure there are a lot of Federal jobs in D.C. that are outrageously overpaid. That seems to be the nature of that entire city, both private sector and public. But if the engineers in the Dept. of Defense are as overpaid as everyone claims, I’d like an explanation for why we hemorrhage employees to the private sector as fast as we do.

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