Government Spending

When Being Absolutely Correct Just Isn't Enough: Rand Paul & Federal Workers Edition

|

Here's Sen.-Elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on the November 7, 2010 edition of This Week:

"The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year," Paul said. "The average private employee makes $60,000 a year."

And here's PolitiFact, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning media watchdog site published by the St. Petersburg Times wishing that statement away:

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a federal statistics-gathering agency, federal worker compensation in 2009 averaged $123,049, which was double the private-sector average of $61,051. That's a gap of almost $62,000—and is pretty close to what Paul said on This Week.

However, that figure includes both salary and benefits. This is a legitimate number to raise, but using it requires more explanation than Paul gave it. Since most people usually think about how much they, their spouses and their colleagues get paid in salary alone—not salary plus benefits—we think most people hearing this statement would assume that Paul means that the average federal employee gets paid a salary of $120,000. That's simply not true….

But let's return to Paul's assertion. Paul said that the "average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year." Most people hearing that would assume he was talking about salary alone, but  he was talking about total compensation, including benefits such as retirement pay and paid holidays. Although studies show federal employees typically earn more than their private-sector counterparts, the difference is nowhere near as much as the doubling Paul says. So we rate his statement False.

Whole thing here.

PolitiFact's reasoning here is baffling, to say the least. Currently, federal workers pay 1/14th of their pension contributions. And if President Obama asks them to contribute 50 percent to their retirement, as his debt commission's early recommendations suggest, just watch them howl about a pay cut. 

As somebody who works for a nonprofit that does not contribute anything to my retirement account, I may be particularly sensitive about the issue, but I know for damn sure that if I'm pulling a salary of, say, $60,000 a year and my employer kicks in $15,000 or $10,000 or even $5,000 toward my retirement, I'm damn well gonna feel like I'm making well north of $60,000.

The same goes for medical benefits that require a zero or near-zero contribution from me. Indeed, every employer, HR person, and jerk in a bar will tell you that total compensation (salary, benefits, and other perks) is what matters. Far better to take take a job at $60,000 that comes with $10,000 in retirement contributions and free medical care than one that pays $65,000 with no benefits, right?

Beyond that, PolitiFact rates its subjects on what it calls the "Truth-O-Meter" and prides itself on being nuanced. At the very least, Paul is technically correct, especially in a world where medical benefit plans are due to be assessed taxes based on their perceived similarity to Cadillacs. To call Paul's statement flatly False bespeaks wilful bias, not nuance. They could have at the very least rated the statement partly or mostly true. Especially since it's, well, completely accurate.

In fact, would all readers who don't consider employer contributions to retirement accounts as part of their annual "makings" please contact me off-list? I humbly request that you sign over said non-compensation to me and my kids.

Hat tip: Mollie Hemingway's Twitter feed.

NEXT: Debt Becomes Us

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Indeed, every employer, HR person, and jerk in a bar will tell you that total compensation (salary, benefits, and other perks) is what matters. Far better to take take a job at $60,000 that comes with $10,000 in retirement contributions and free medical care than one that pays $65,000 with no benefits, right?

    Well, to certain extent. But when people ask you “how much money do you make?” do you tell them your salary, or do you factor in all the benefits and perks that you might get?

    Most of us talk in terms of the cash in the paycheck, and not benefits like pensions that we won’t be able to use until years later.

    1. Well, your salary is what you actually get to spend on what you please; the rest is pre-determined.

    2. Since the gap in benefits here is so huge, talking about anything other than total compensation would actually be deceptive.

      If people are too fucking stupid to understand the concept of total compensation, fuck those losers.

      Since politifact has an online contact form, I send them the type of message you guys would probably expect me to send.

      1. Seconded. Total comp is the only relevant number. Any claim to the contrary is fundamentally dishonest.

        Particularly so in this case when we are talking about 40-50k in benefits. This isn’t like talking about the $10 differences in the co-pay on the health plans of two employers.

        If you still plan to torture logic and claim that base salary is the only relevant number, think of it this way – would you rather have a job making $35k with a benefits package worth $60k that includes full health insurance, retirement in your 40’s, etc., or would you rather have a job making $40k with a $4k benefit plan that pays for part of your health insurance?

        If you answered the second you are pretty bad at math. And the scenario I painted is much less egregious than real life. The real example matching the data given would have the second job listing at $31k, with $4k of benefits.

      2. Since politifact has an online contact form, I send them the type of message you guys would probably expect me to send.

        As did I. Un-fucking-believable. They set themselves up as the objective arbiters of truth, and then publish some bullshit like that. Note that their sole reasoning for calling it “false” is because “we think most people hearing this statement would assume that Paul means that the average federal employee gets paid a salary of $120,000.”

        So because of what they “THINK” most people would “ASSUME”, Paul’s statement is false. Not “mostly true;” not “half true”; but simply false.

        I am dissapointed in them, but I suppose I should not be surprised.

        1. PoliFact has the exact same relationship to truth as siblings driving Mom & Dad nuts playing “I’m not touching you!” in the back seat during a family vacation.

      3. Maybe the specific researcher that declared Rand’s statement as false doesn’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. That explanation is a bit technical and wonkish but it’s the only one I could come up with in defense of Politifact.

      4. Politifact has informed me that they don’t appreciate epithets.

        Just so you guys know.

        1. did you tell them you dont fucking care?

    3. My answer has always been “$x + benefits”.

  2. “Far better to take take a job at $60,000 that comes with $10,000 in retirement contributions and free medical care than one that pays $65,000 with no benefits, right?”

    Right! So that means that federal empolyees are a lot smarter than private-sector empoyees, right? Fuckin’ A. Stick that up your fat right-wing ass along with the copy of Atlas Shrugged, Gillespie.

    1. That would make Bernie Madoff smartest of all. Right, cunt?

    2. No, that would mean that federal management is a lot stupider than private sector management or they don’t give a crap about taxpayer dollars.

      Or both.

      Apologies to the board for ignoring the Do Not Feed sign.

      1. That’s where the real insult (and injury) comes in. While they are giving away generous benefits to their employees, they confiscate the money from everyone else to pay for it. So they get to make more, retire sooner and work less than you, and you have to pay for it. Nice.

      2. That’s where the real insult (and injury) comes in. While they are giving away generous benefits to their employees, they confiscate the money from everyone else to pay for it. So they get to make more, retire sooner and work less than you, and you have to pay for it. Nice.

    3. Re: Max,

      So that means that federal empolyees are a lot smarter than private-sector empoyees, right?

      They’re formidable thieves. No doubt.

    4. “federal empolyees are a lot smarter than private-sector empoyees

      *snicker*

    5. I wouldn’t say “smarter”. I would say there are more sociopaths in government “service” than in the privately employed population.

    6. Right! So that means that federal empolyees are a lot smarter than private-sector empoyees, right?

      Max is obviously not a federal employee. Or maybe he is, which would explain a great deal about the state of the civil service.

  3. I know I am going to get beat up over this but one big problem with these comparisons is that it is unfair to compare the federal workforce as a block to the private sector as a block. The federal workforce is largely professional and college educated, the private sector as a whole has a lot more intro level service jobs that drive down the benefit level.

    In addition you need to control for geography. Many federal jobs are located in the DC area, which is expensive, while the private sector is more spread out to areas where money goes farther. I can tell you that many government employees in the DC area are not able to live high on the hog, even with their higher-than-national-average salaries.

    A more fair comparison would be to control for occupation and location, then see how public and private compare.

    1. Why would you get beat up over this intelligent insight? Oh…

      1. Because he’s writing it on a libertarian website where we think most of those largely professional college educated fed employees are unnecessary. As Matt Welch said on a recent Stossel, “100,000 people work for the Dept of Agriculture. What do they do?”

        They’re unnecessary, and they’re being paid for with taxes taken out of the paychecks of the “intro level service jobs.”

    2. They’re done that comparison as well. Reason posted a few months ago linking to a Cato study with a good amount of detail, comparing by area:

      https://reason.com/blog/2010/01…..vate-secto

      There’s another story somewhere that had a chart comparing the same jobs in private vs public, about thirty different jobs, and I believe public outpaced private in all but a few of them.

      1. That study appears to only look at state and local governments, not federal, am I misreading it?

    3. USA Today did exactly this and found that in cases where similar-class jobs existed in the private and public sectors, federal workers averaged more than $7,000 in straight salary than their counterparts. http://www.usatoday.com/news/n……htm#chart

      1. Hey, the link doesn’t work. I know what you’re talking about, but I want the link for future reference.

      2. Damn it Nick! But I still win because my hotlink actually works.

      3. Yeah, I can’t get the link to work either, but even if true $7k in premium is not the doubling Rand is talking about (does the study address benefits?) and could make sense depending on particulars. I would like to get the link to read it.

      4. Check my link below.

    4. The DC area is more expensive precisely because federal salaries are bloated and recession-proof.

      So we can discount that objection of yours immediately.

      And many federal positions use degrees as an attempt to make sure they maintain a “professional” workforce, because they have no other possible feedback mechanism to know if they’re getting “quality” people. There’s absolutely no need for social workers to have college degrees, based on the actual work undertaken. They’re required to have degrees because if they weren’t, we’d have no way to know if we had semi-competent people or ex-crack whores in those positions, since the employer doesn’t have to give a shit about performance.

      1. They’re required to have degrees because if they weren’t, we’d have no way to know if we had semi-competent people or ex-crack whores in those positions, since the employer doesn’t have to give a shit about performance.

        Let me be clear.

        Everyone in this country should be given, uh, the opportunity, uh, to be awarded a college degree.

        1. Sir, with all due respect, how much do *you* make?

      2. “federal salaries are… recession-proof”

        Max will use that as evidence that ALL jobs should be government jobs.

      3. That is a good point about the degrees. But that is a societal problem not just a governmental problem. The private sector does the same thing demanding degrees for jobs that clearly shouldn’t require them. It goes back to the disparate impact test of the CRA. The CRA effectively bans IQ test or objective competency tests. So, since employers can’t test for competency they rely on credentials.

        1. The private sector does the same thing demanding degrees for jobs that clearly shouldn’t require them.

          Or maybe the private sector is responding to government created distortions in the labor force.

          As an employer, I am more likely to hire a college grad to man a cash register in my store than a non grad. The real question is why a college graduate would want to take the job.

        2. Do you mean ADA? What’s the CRA got to do with it? And yes, ADA is bad law.

      4. I disagree with your assertion on the DC market. I was a federal employee in DC and I lived in an apartment with two roommates, not bad but not high on the hog. The people with nice homes and nice cars were the private sector folks whose work dealt with the government. Lawyers, lobbyists, consultants. Those were the folks with the recession proof/bloated salaries. The only government employees I knew who owned a house and lived under an hour away were old timers who bought before the DC area exploded.

        As for the college degrees, there is some truth to this and as John says this is a broader problem, but since the people undertook the expense to get the degree it makes sense they would want a premium.

        1. A federal dollar is a federal dollar.

          Let’s say your statement is true. [But if you lived with roommates, I would say that this is more a function of your age and your entry-level job when you lived there; if you were married to another federal worker, and had been getting salary steps for 20 years, etc., your household picture would have been much different.] That would just mean that the discrepancy is even worse than what Paul is saying, because people whose employment is nominally private but who are looting the treasury for their “private” salaries make even more than the federal government’s direct hires.

          1. I fail to see how cutting federal salaries would do anything about the number of lobbyists and regulatory lawyers.

            As for the roommates I was young, but part of the reason I left the govt and DC, besides the fact that DC sucks, is that I got married and realized I could never buy a house that would allow me less than 3 hours commuting time, time I wanted for the wife and (one day) kids.

            1. Three hours? Holy crap, where were you planning to live? Richmond?

              1. Warrenton to DC = 1.5 hours each way. My folks did it for years and it had a real negative impact on their lives.

            2. The only you neuter the lobbyists & lawyers is to neuter the power of congress. The lobbyists & lawyers are just ticks compared to the bloated pustule that congress has become.

            3. Cut 3 or 4 cabinet departments and you will see that number of lobbyist boogeymen drop substantially.

              1. Starting with the fucking Department of Homeland Security.

                Not only are those lobbies raking it in by the dump truck load, but can you imagine how much we’d save by getting rid of all of those fucking retarded TSA molesters screeners?

        2. Disagree — I was a fed and jumped to the law firm/lobbying world. My medium sized firm laid off about 60 people — and not just admin types. associates and lobbyists. Some of them were let go b/c it was a convenient time to drop some dead weight. Most got caught in the downturn because our clients no longer had the money to pay us.

      1. I did not see where this study took geography into account, did I miss it?

        I can only speak for my experience on this but when I was a lawyer for the government I had responsibilities well above my private sector analog and was paid about half what a person with my experience at a big or medium sized firm would make. This is by no means controlling but I can say that the woman from the treasury union is right in my case (of course, lawyer is one of the occupations where the private sector pays more.)

        1. when I was a lawyer for the government I had responsibilities well above my private sector analog

          No you didn’t.

          Say you did a bad job. Who would lose? You?

          “Responsibility” implies the possibility of negative consequences for either you or your employer or your client should you fail to perform.

          And in the private sector new associates work 80 hour weeks. How many hours a week did you work in your federal job?

          1. I was known to put in 85. And a big reason associates at law firms work 80 hours it to bill clients at a lawyer rate for tasks that a paralegal or admin could do to goose profits, one reason the big firms are loosing so many people.

            As for responsibility, despite what you may think I could get fired, and I could get held back and denied promotion, and I could get shitty assignments.

            1. I was known to put in 85.

              That’s an odd construction. Not, “I worked 85 hours a week”, or “I put in 85”, but “I was known to put in 85″.

              ‘Known to’?

              It almost sounds like the sentence was constructed in such a way that you’re not actually saying that you worked 85 hours a week. You’re suggesting that others thought that might be the case.

              And you’re a lawyer. Surprise, surprise.

              1. Wow, that is a lot of paranoia. I will strip the confusing prose…on multiple occasions I worked 85 hours a week.

                There, did I put your fears to rest about my evil lawyer doublespeak?

          2. And I should mention that if I failed, or if the rulings went against us, which sometimes happened, there were real consequences for my client and arguably the US, I don’t know if you ever worked for the federal government but it is not quite as full of clock watchers who don’t give a shit as you think, at least not where I worked.

            1. That’s all well and good Guest, but for every one of you, there is a clock watcher (probably more than one). At a another job in a past life, I worked alongside government employees who hired private contractors to do the real work. One such unfortuante individual had the privilage of working 100 hour a week on a regular basis while 4-8 (depended on the week) of his government co-workers took 2 hour lunches and played poker for 4 fucking hours. What’s worse, no one got fired because the people who do the firing WERE PLAYING CARDS. The people who could fire them were based 100-1000 miles away and had to announce their visits months in advance due to various security regulations. I knew this happened because the poor contractor bastard was a roommate of mine and I actually witnessed this shit on several occasions. I think it’s great that you worked hard and had the fear of reprsial in your heart, but that doesn’t mean resources weren’t wasted 10 fold somewhere else. Moreover, as a lawyer for the government, you might have had to prosecute bullshit laws that shouldn’t be on the books in the first place (just guessing, not hating). Regardless, good on you for at least trying to do a good job, something I can say since I am a complete and utter failure.

              1. Well, whether it should be easier to fire people in the federal govt is a separate question.

                1. No, I don’t think it is a separate question. What we have here is an entity that is so massive and unwieldy that one of its tentacles can be infused with competant hardworking people while others are infested with lazy degenerates, scoring off the labors of others. Without some sort of nation(world?)-wide reckoning of anything remotely involved with the Federal Government, we won’t know what tentacle is competant/useful and what isn’t.

                  In the end, on a logical level, most of it should be done away with. To explain, what kind of system rewards hard work and punishes incompetance on one hand but simultaneously ignores/rewards incompetance while outsourcing for hard work? Multiply this duality 10,000 fold and weight on the side of incompetance/graft and you might something that comes to close to the reality of most government related institutions (this includes the military). Ignoring the waste, corruption, and blatant moocherism how is this system preferable, even with it’s occasional success, to another that rewards diligence and punishes competance on a more consistent basis (i.e. one where someone would have sacked the afforementioned card players for being lazy fucks since His own money was wasted on their asses and not the collective pennies of millions of hapless victims)?

                  1. What I am saying is that how much you pay an employee is a different question from whether it should be easy to fire them or whether you should even have that position in the first place. I agree that there are too many federal employees because the federal government is too big. It is probably too hard to fire them (but remember, civil service protection was instituted to prevent the fed. govt from being a source of massive patronage, an evil unto itself).

                    However, if we assume that there should be a federal employee doing job X, and we are comfortable with how easy it would be to remove this person, then we still need to decide how much to pay them to get and retain a high quality employee. Jumping to the third question as a proxy for the first two does not solve the problem, it will just drive away the competent because they could find better work elsewhere, leaving those who have no choice but to work at the job they cannot be fired from.

                    1. You’re right, it is a different question since it is composed of different words in a different sequence. The most important question here, as you’ve accidentally stated, is whether the position should exist in the first place. Once that question is answered, then you can quibble over payment. Of course, most people just assume everything that is done by the government should be done by the government. In fact most of these people want it to do more despite the clear evidence of diminishing returns (Debt, Blowback, Airport Fondling, Diet Nazis, Clear Correlations between rising costs of anything that’s coupled with government fuckupitude). The reckoning I talked about involved enough people questioning “Should this shit exist at all?” rather than “Let’s just reform an inherently corrupt system.”

                      Oh well, the fuckers won long ago since it’s easier to sell stolen goods than it is to sell the idea that you don’t deserve shit that is not yours. Where the hell is my gun? I think I need to start my one-time lead “diet”. Sigh.

                    2. Drax, I think we are largely on the same page. I just feel that lumping all govt employees into a monolithic block of thieves is both inaccurate and counterproductive. Are there too many civil service employees? Yes. Is it there fault? No. People go where the work is. Don’t blame a GS’er for getting a job, blame the congressman for voting for the agency that does the hiring. And you are right, ultimately blame the voter who is ok with it and does not punish the congressman.

    5. That is a horrifying thought, as I have never actually encountered a government worker that seemed to perform a duty that required a college education.

      If scanning my ID and putting my address into a computer is a “largely professional and college educated” duty then I suppose you’re right.

      I think this can be addressed, however. I don’t know if it was here, but I saw a study a little while back that the amount of people leaving government positions compared to those leaving public positions was minuscule. You are correct that applying values to these sort of things is difficult, therefore why not just look at how each group behaves towards their jobs.

      If someone can find that information, I think it is quite plain that government workers are far, far less likely to leave their position.

  4. I know I definitely count my employer’s 401k match as part of my total compensation, and comparing the relative match of another employer would be an important concern for considering the value of another job.

  5. God forbid anyone–politician or pundit–should define his terms before commenting on policy issues. “Nuanced” is just nice way of saying “liar.”

  6. The federal workforce is largely professional and college educated…

    In addition you need to control for geography.

    Damn skippy!

    1. We agree there are more BA/JD/MA holders doing work in DC than TSA employees in Idaho, right?

      1. All the geography stuff proves is that the fed needs to move more jobs to Mississippi and Arkansas and etc (I would say W Virginia too but they have enough already) in order to pay less.

        We have the fucking internet, they dont need to be in DC.

        1. I keep waiting for the legislators in FL to figure this out. It will be a holocaust in Tallahassee when they figure out they can send state jobs to Miami, Tampa and Orland in large numbers. The real estate market will collapse and vast swaths of the city will be uninhabited, but the price of progress is high.

        2. I totally agree with that.

        3. They have. It’s called Huntsville Alabama.

  7. Someday you will get that the “fact checking” groups are actually liberal plants. They pretend to be non-partisan so people will look past the obvious “it’s false because Rand Paul said it”.

    1. Exactly. Who in there right mind would expect a major newspaper like the St. Petersburg Times to all of the sudden start telling the truth about politics?

  8. The only place in America where federal workers are not grossly over paid is Washington DC (NY and San Fran to, but there are not very many feds in either place). And the only reason they are not over paid there is because the federal contractors and lobbyists make so much money that they have driven the cost of living to unimaginable levels. A good fed job in a city not named New York Washington or San Francisco is a ticket to grossly over paid prosperity. Anyone who says otherwise is either stupid, lying or both.

    1. I can only imagine how rich my Veterans Administration working brother-in-law is living in Jackson MS for the past twenty years.

      1. My goal in life is to get a 13 or 14 in some nice provincial city. My wife would never have to work again and we could pretty much name the house we wanted to buy. It is gross but true.

        1. They both retire next month. Sis with a state of MS pension. Hard core liberals, they are planning to move to Asheville.

          1. California wasn’t enough of a liberal paradise to be considered an option?

  9. Politifact is a regular read for me, but I do find that, as a rule, “Barely True” for a Dem = “False” for a Republican, and “False” for a Democrat = “Pants on Fire” for a Republican.

    1. Just more evidence that St. Petersburg is full of idiots. I mean, seriously, the Rays? Who thought that would be a good location for a sports team???

  10. Our medical is not really free. We pay 1/4 while the gov’t pays 3/4 of our insurance.

    Retirement? We have 3 things taken out… TSP, which I pay more of than the gov’t. It’s like our 401(k). I pay Social Security (I’m under FERS, not CSRS), and then there’s the pension (FERS). And yes, I pay a miniscule amount (~6%) compared to what my employer pays.

    1. FERS used to be a lot more generous. It terms of government pay, the feds are in the middle. They are paid better than some states. But they are not paid as well as state employees in places like California or New York. They thankfully do not quite reach the insanity of those states.

      1. Yeah, FERS is no longer a pension you could use to retire on without the TSP or other savings. The CSRS was pretty generous, but it was done away with. The old timers who were grandfathered in have a pretty sweet deal.

        1. If you are in the reserves and double dip with military retirement, which a lot of employees do, and you are up the scale (GS 12 or better) you can retire with much TSP. But otherwise no.

          1. well, not just reservists. Many people retired from Active Duty will go into Civil Service and start at GS-11 or up and get that retirement on top of their military retirement.

            And don’t get me started on the disability scams.

            1. The double dipping pisses me off. I don’t begrudge military retirements. It is a tough life in the military and it basically screws your spouse’s career. But the bullshit of taking a military retirement and then coming to work the next day doing the same job in civilian clothes double dipping as a GS employee has got to stop.

              1. Well, I can’t entirely fault that. I mean, if they leave, they leave with tons of experience, which is needed, especially in my realm of logistics.

                Besides, military retirement is not much, And these people retire fairly young (20 years in, so they are late 40s to early 50s for most).

                I work for the Army, so many of the people I work with are retired military or military spouses. But I hear about all the scams that go with disability. Even when I was in BOLC, I remember instructors telling these new LTs to document every little stubbed toe because they can bank on disability. Many of those on disability are not in any way disabled. It’s just extra $$.

  11. Translation…most people are fiscally illiterate, so we’re going to pander to the masses instead of making them feel as stupid as they are.

  12. It seems to me like this is mostly just a proxy for the number of federal employees. It is quite likely that the feds hire too many people because the govt does too much, but would people still object if the feds only hired people for core govt functions but paid them well enough to attract high quality candidates?

    1. To some extent, the problem is the lack of accountability perceived in many government jobs (particularly the unionized ones). In my indirect personal experience, the government’s problem in most cases isn’t the absence of good people, but the inability to get rid of bad people. Of course, once the number of bad people reaches a critical mass, they tend to start driving good people out of the field both passively and actively (e.g. corrupt police depts).

      But at any rate, without some way to measure quality and remove people who don’t possess it, it’s hard to justify compensation even to the people who are well-qualified.

      1. (e.g. corrupt police depts)

        I wasn’t aware there are any other kind.

    2. They might still object, but my sense is that it would be much less…

  13. Retired military here. You can be goddam certain I figured medical and retirement benefits part of my compensation. Without them I’d have done one term, probably lackadaisically.

    1. Without the 20 year and out with 50%, no one would do more then one or two tours at most. But the military is a lot harder than your typical government job, especially today when most people are two earning families. The spouse of a military member’s career is pretty much fucked.

  14. It is funny that this just came up here – they were on NPR about a week ago talking about their non-partisan ratings. They proceeded to give examples of analysis that proved conclusively to anyone who cared to listen that they are a left-wing partisan front. I cannot recall the exact examples, but the gist was that they listed an example of a prominent Democrat saying something that was factually not true (which they stipulated), but they listed it as “Barely True” because of some rationalization that tortured logic. Then they gave an example of a Republican presidential hopeful that they said was factually true, but misrepresented the bigger picture, so they rated him “Pants on Fire”. Neither the guests nor the NPR host noticed the irony of a “non-partisan” fact check organization that holds itself out as the arbiter of partisan-free truth acting in a predictably partisan way. In fact, the NPR host (not commentary BTW) prodded further than the PolitiFact folks were willing to go, opining that the Republicans just tell outrageous lies.

    So I guess this is a pattern with these guys.

    1. I hopped over to NPR to refresh my memory. I didn’t find the interview I was referring to, but I did find the story they were talking about. The Dem I was thinking of was Barbara Boxer. She claimed her opponent would slash Social Security and Medicare. Their analysis was that even though Fiorina herself had announced no plans, other republicans had, and even though none of them would slash current recipients benefits as Boxer claimed, they rated it “Barely True” because some republicans support changes to Social Security and Medicare. Wow, that was tortured.

      The republican in question was Pat Toomey who claimed Sestak wanted to bring back the “death tax” (estate tax). While factually true (Sestak did support bringing back the estate tax), they ruled Toomey “Pants on Fire” because the estate tax doesn’t apply to most people. Really. He’s a “liar, liar, pants on fire” because what he said is 100% factually true and relevant to the current election, but only a small percentage of people would directly be affected. The mind boggles people…

      Judging by the NPR website, NPR has made these clowns their official “fact checker”. Nice. They truly employ “up is down”, “four legs good, two legs better” type logic, but you guys go on believing that you are the middle-of-the-road, non-partisan source for news.

  15. Rand Paul brought this up to demoagogue the stupid fucking tea partiers who “want their country back.” He’s an asshole, but at least he’s not a racist like his old man. Rand would have voted for the civil rights act.

    1. Better to be a racist than an elitist like President Obama. At least you know where a racist stands.

    2. Re: Max,

      Max, H&R’s pet yorkie.

      Here, boy! Here Max! Go fetch! That’s a good boy!! Yeah!

      1. Max!!! Stop peeing on the furniture! Bad dog!

      2. Max once again uses *his* definition of racist, which is simply “when I fucking SAY it is racist”. Fucker doesn’t own a dictionary, let alone know how to use one.

        1. isn’t that how most of the left operates?

    3. ARFARFARFARFARFARFARF!!!

  16. 17% of Kentuckians are living below the poverty level of $22,050 – wages. Randy doesn’t care about Kentucky. He thinks he is an “at-large” Senator.

    Ask the average Bubba what he makes and s/he will quote you an hourly rate.

    1. Re: RandLandBlog,

      17% of Kentuckians are living below the poverty level of $22,050 – wages.

      Single, or married? Do you take into account welfare income, food stamps and credits, or do you conveniently ignore it?

      1. You can’t talk about additional benefits. That makesd you a liar. Didn’t we already cover this?

    2. HOURLY WAGES?!?!?!?!?!

      THE HORROR!

      1. I know. Only attorneys, engineers and other professionals should bill the same rate for every hour they work.

    3. As a KYian, that seems to be more an issue of the state legislature. If they would be more business friendly, that might go away.

  17. Nice opening salvo, Rand, but we really need to start talking about why certain agencies even exist on the federal level, i.e The Dept. of Education (avg. salary $103,000), which seems to exist for no reason other than to burden state and local school systems with regulations. Can we name anything that the Dept. of Education has ever done that is worthwhile?

    1. Agree. I don’t think there is a problem with paying a fed well to do a good job on a core govt function. It really is an issue on whether the feds should have certain employees at all.

  18. Paul said that the “average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year.” Most people hearing that would assume he was talking about salary alone, but he was talking about total compensation, including benefits such as retirement pay and paid holidays. Although studies show federal employees typically earn more than their private-sector counterparts, the difference is nowhere near as much as the doubling Paul says. So we rate his statement False.

    Even though you showed in a previous paragraph that he was technically correct. Also, the author [PolitiFact] presumes to *know* what “most” people assumes – that’s quite an achievement, akin to reading minds.

    1. I would not cede the term “technically correct”. He was factually, spiritually, emotionally, and any other way you’d like to characterize it correct.

      And if you want to play the “what most people assume” game, then if I told you that federal workers make a salary of $71k on average compared to a salary of $50k on average for private sector workers, “most people” would assume that their benefits packages were comparable and the 20k difference in salary accurately describes the difference in their compensation.

      Most people would be very wrong in this case. And this would be the relevant “most people” assumption to take into account in this discussion. In other words, Paul was right, and Politifact are political hacks.

      1. Re: Cyto,

        I would not cede the term “technically correct”.

        No argument here, I pointed out the contradiction in PolitiFact conclusions.

        And if you want to play the “what most people assume” game, then if I told you that federal workers make a salary of $71k on average compared to a salary of $50k on average for private sector workers, “most people” would assume that their benefits packages were comparable and the 20k difference in salary accurately describes the difference in their compensation.

        Most people would be very wrong in this case.

        I do not presume to know what most people would assume; again, I am simply pointing out the contradiction in PolitiFact conclusions – THEY presume to know what “most” people assume in order to reach their conclusion that Paul “lied.”

        1. Yeah, the “you” I was referring to was the Generic You – in this case PolitiFact and its supporters. Their assumptions are twisted in exactly the opposite direction dictated by the relevant facts – as I mentioned earlier, something that is not at all out of character for them.

  19. Rand Paul is a politician, so we know he tells lies and half-truths. He hasn’t researched federal salaries: he’s been told something by someone who wants to use statistics to convey an impression. Similar to Hannity saying that the number of fed workers making over $150,000 has exploded in the last few years. Sounds outrageous but one needs to get behind the numbers: If there were 10 making $155,000 and 100 making $148,000 and
    1,000,000 making under $100,000 and the
    govt. gave a cumulative 4% raise over two years, the number “making more than
    $150,000” will have “exploded” by a factor of ten. Sounds horrible, but the real issue is “Why is the government giving out 4% raises during a deep recession?”
    Democrats lie like rugs, too: continuing tax cuts are a “cost” to the Treasury. Yeah, if the Godfather doesn’t take 100% of your receipts in his protection racket, then it is “costing” him big time.

    As libertarians, we need to make our points – and I think we can – without distorting statistics. Because if we do, when the distortion is unmasked, we lose credibility.

    1. There’s nothing “half-true” about quoting total compensation. Would you quote Fortune 500 CEO compensation based on their base salary? Or would you include bonuses and stock options?

      If you claim you would quote their comp based on a base salary I at least admire your attempt at maintaining consistency. But really, nobody would argue that. And even though the absolute dollars are not in the same ballpark, in terms of relative amounts the example is instructive. The benefits for these workers are a major percentage of their total compensation package and cannot be discounted when comparing their pay with private sector workers. Doing so would be the same as comparing my salary with Warren Buffet’s base salary. (were you to do so, you’d think that we are in the same income bracket. I can assure you, we are not.)

      1. Larry Ellison only makes $1* per year!!! Thats an outrage, that is less than minimum wage!!!!

        *dont know if its still the case, think it was just a few years in the early 2000s

        1. Exactly my point. My boss (the CEO) used to complain that he was only making 120k (salary). After about the 20th reference to that I called him out – would you care to swap total comp packages? Needless to say, he held on to the 50 million bucks in stock options and 100 million in preferred equity stock, and I kept my humble salary.

          1. I know, I was just agreeing with special emphasis on an obviously crazy situation.

            Whenever you hear the CEO stories, they always say “CEO compensation”, becuase that is the proper way to do it and salary wouldnt measure up.

        2. Steve Jobs hasn’t made more than $1 in base salary in many years. But his other compensation, based solely on the performance of Apple, is substantially higher (up to and including private jets and shit).

  20. After reading the entire PolitiFact critique, the only valid nit they found to pick was that comparing “all Federal workers” with all “private sector workers” might not be a valid comparison. They have a point – if the private workforce has a greater percentage of inherently low-pay jobs, that can skew the result.

    They proceed to look at this, but the study they site ignores benefits and only examines salary. And it finds that Fed workers make quite a bit more in salary for comparable jobs. Knowing that average benefits are 30-50k more for Federal jobs than private jobs we can come to a comparison that shows that “double” for comparable jobs might be an exaggeration. But 70% more just doesn’t have that nice round-number ring to it. And it is still picking nits to call that difference an outright “lie”

  21. Politifact just said, yesterday’s Austin American Statesmen, that Rick “THE HAIR” Perry calling socoal security a ponzi scheme was nor true. I lost a lot of respect for them after that.

    1. Well it isnt a ponzi scheme. Its an unrelated tax and welfare program. There is no connection between money coming in and money going out.

      But, ummm…I doubt that was Politifacts point.

  22. I work for a medical software company that does not pay any bonus at any point during the year. This sucks.

    What they DO pay is an 11.5% of salary profit sharing retirement program. This isn’t bad.

    If I were to try to get a job elsewhere, would I add this amount to my salary, heck yes. It is a very important part of the value that my wage displays as a measurement of. I would LOVE to have benefits that doubled my ‘wage’.

  23. Here’s another angle on the salary differential. We’ve been talking about averages here, but another useful statistic is *median* salary.

    I don’t know how many Americans make more than a million dollars, but it’s a lot. Just add up every NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA player, and it’s close to 1% of the total population. And that’s just one industry. Yes, I know not all of them are US citizens, but I think the point still holds…

    Of all the folks making over $1M, I’d be willing to bet that the private sector accounts for well north of 90% of them. Probably over 95%. Which tells us that the $60K average is definitely skewed. I don’t know what the median private sector “salary” is, but it has to be less than $60K.

    On the other hand, while there are low-wage government workers, the top end isn’t all that high, as compared to the private sector. Which means that the median is probably a lot closer to the mean than for the private sector.

    1. Ummm….there are no where near 3 million NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA players and not all of them make $1M anyway.

      One percent of the population is about 3 million. Even assuming that all top-tier pro sports athletes make $1M, that is only about:

      NFL ~1600
      MLB ~750
      NBA ~400
      NHL ~750

      About 3500 top league pro athletes. So maybe .001% of the population.

    2. According to wikipedia, there are about 2.8 million millionaires in the US. That is people with over $1M in net assets. The number making over $1M in compensation is much smaller. That is less than 1% of the population that are millionaires, much less making $1M per year.

      1. Note: the # of millionaires in the US is controversial, estimates range from 2M to 16M.

        1. Honestly, net of all assets, I’d assume the figure for millionaires is above 2 million people. Think about all the folks that own houses outright in high-cost areas, those that have substantial retirement assets, etc. in addition to those who just got big paydays. I don’t know how it’s been measured, but in terms of net worth a lot of upper-middle-ish class Boomers need $1 million (with a generous 5% return, taking out $80,000/year will last you 20 years) or so to retire and maintain their lifestyles.

          1. Thomas Stanley in his most recent book, Stop Acting Rich, estimates 3.5% of households are millionaire households.

            Households being a better measure than people. I think that splits the range above, roughly. I figure he is more accurate than any other source.

            1. Ack, major brain fart on my math. Not sure what I was smoking.

              But the “2M to 16M” estimate is where I was going with that.

              And forget about “assets”. The quote (and discussion) is about what you make from your “job”, not how much your house/boat/car/plane are worth, or what’s in your bank account or what you earn in interest, dividends, etc. We’re talking about the quantity that changes hands between your employer and you, in exchange for whatever you call “work”.

              Paul is counting the indirect compensation you get, which you would otherwise pay for out of pocket, such as medical insurance, pension, etc.

              Politifact doesn’t count that stuff is “money”. Or at least they don’t think “most people” do, anyway.

              Last time I checked, the amount I pay in taxes is certainly “money” when it gets confiscated from my paycheck. It damn well better still be “money” when it is used to pay for ridiculous benefits for government employees.

      2. And I can guarantee that every single person at the very top echelons of government is in that group.

  24. Just add up every NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA player, and it’s close to 1% of the total population.

    hahahah, you really typed that? so there are more than 3 million professional athletes or entertainers or whatever pulling down a million a year? the world you live in is crazy.

    1. He is only off by 3 orders of magnitude. About 3k instead of 3M.

    2. Yeah, I must have taken the wrong happy pills that day.

      Other than that, my point holds. See comment on that thread.

  25. between media matters and this one there needs to be a meta fact checker that fact checks the fact checkers.

    could probably use a hack meter with a falsehood meter.

  26. Here is what I wrote to them. Kept it clean, as Fluffy suggested.

    Here you state:
    But let’s return to Paul’s assertion. Paul said that the “average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year.” Most people hearing that would assume he was talking about salary alone, but he was talking about total compensation, including benefits such as retirement pay and paid holidays.

    Are you suggesting that they are not making $120,000? Because, you know, that would be false. Given the stark difference here between $123,049 and $60,00, a politician who stated the low ball figure in support of the federal worker would be the one being deceptive. Given Paul said ‘making’ and NOT ‘salary’ he is not wrong, not making a false statement, not being disingenuous, not being incorrect. It is exactly the correct phrase to use in this circumstance if one is making an attempt at accuracy and honesty. Shame on you for your slanderous, ill considered purely opinionated (and weakly argued at that) based malarkey. You know you screwed up here, get your facts straight and correct the record. This article was truly one of the weakest assessments I have witnessed. Most people hearing that would assume he was talking about salary alone, what were you possibly thinking? Most people are dumb when it comes to money? A bunch of jive shuffling idiots standing around the coffee pot with their hands in their pockets too afraid to ask questions, and who you can sell the low ball figure with a little pat on their dumb little heads? Well, no they are not, and most people want to know the totality of over compensation in the discussion of this matter when the subject of the overlord elites is breached, not the low ball figure that only addresses half of the per unit problem of federal worker over compensation. We private sector workers and owners pay for the entire benefit plus salary packet out of our wallets, so that total is indeed the number we want to know when we ask how much they are making. If you are going to grade your argument on what most people assume, you better damn well factor in the anger most people are feeling about this subject, after all, you are the ones bringing up the subjective in the plurality of opinion as a valid criteria for the truthfulness of the statement in question.

  27. Far better to take take a job at $60,000 that comes with $10,000 in retirement contributions and free medical care than one that pays $65,000 with no benefits, right?

    Depends on vesting and your utility curves.

  28. Use every public forum you can to show that Politifact has damaged their credibility with this story, which affects their reputation and honesty on every story. Applying pressure should get them to mark this as partially true.

    “.@politifact Fix your false rating on this story. My med and 401k come from salary. Your credibility is at stake here http://t.co/eGJaUpy

  29. Next week on Politifact: bankers do not “make” any money from bonuses.

  30. There’s absolutely no need for social workers to have college degrees, based on the actual work undertaken. They’re required to have degrees because if they weren’t, we’d have no way to know if we had semi-competent people or ex-crack whores in those positions, since the employer doesn’t have to give a shit about performance.

    An ex-crack-whore might make an excellent social worker treating active crack whores, the way recovering alcoholics can be excellent choices to run an AA meeting.

    Real world experience matters.

    1. Bullshit. AN Art-History major with a certificate in Women’s Studies is far more qualified.

  31. PolitiFact is right about what people will assume Rand Paul was saying. There is no way that I consider myself to “make” the sum total of my salary and medical insurance contribution of my employer, etc. That expression refers to direct remuneration. Paul should have said that they make $80,000 plus $40,000 in benefits vs. $55,000 plus $5,000 in benefits (or whatever the real figures are), or even added “when you include benefits” to the end of his statement, and it would have been true (and probably just as effective).

    We don’t give Obama a pass when he makes a literally true but misleadingly presented claim, so we shouldn’t do that for politicians we like either.

    1. I consider my wife’s benefits (medical insurance and a small retirement contribution) the salary, and the meager amount of money she makes as the benefit.

      What’s your fucking point?

      What people like you don’t get is that it has nothing to do with what your paycheck says, but with how much you have left over once all of your financial obligations are taken care of. If you don’t have to pay for medical or retirement (or you pay a ridiculously low rate) because the balance is paid by your employer, you’re goddamn right that is part of your salary.

      Either way, if you want to draw some bullshit linguistic line between “salary” and “employment compensation”, it just shows you’re an asshole as well as intellectually dishonest.

  32. As a federal employee (recent, I worked in the private sector for 24 years), my contribution towards medical insurance is substantially HIGHER than at any private employer than I’ve been at for the last ten years…

  33. Rand Paul’s membership in and support of the AAPS–an alternative medical licensing group that rejects “mainstream medicine” is an interesting test for his other political beliefs. Among their positions:

    – HIV doesn’t cause AIDS
    – Vaccinations are bad
    – Obama uses hypnotism to confuse the masses
    – Nicotine isn’t addictive
    – The Twin Towers only fell because there wasn’t enough asbestos in the construction.

    More details and links here:

    http://www.courier-journal.com…..sual-views

  34. I would like to point out this federal worker pays a lot more for health coverage this his private sector wife. Yes the government still matches my TSP, but until the recent recession my wife’s company matched her 401K up to a higher percentage. I do get a pension, but under FERS it is not that much. Also at this point the most money I could make in a year is 227,300 (this assumes I am in Iraq or Afghanistan and qualify for waivers of pay caps). My wife has made more then that in a year in previous years.

  35. Politifact is a politifraud

  36. Mr. Gillespie,

    You left out one of the most important parts of Politifact’s evaluation of the Paul’s statement.

    When you paint the analysis wrong, of course they sound like they’re full of crap. Stop misleading people and maybe you’ll get more people to vote for who you like.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.