Recently Politifact Wisconsin rated a comment a union president made about public sector compensation as "false." It disputed AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy's assertion that public sector workers make 8 percent less than their private sector counterparts.
The verdict Politifact reached was a bit of a head-scratcher. In a convoluted explanation of its decision, the site explains that the study Kennedy was relying on was based on national statistics, not Wisconsin-specific ones, and that Kennedy mistakenly attributed the 8 percent difference to pay, when the study actually concluded that there was an 8 percent difference after pay and benefits are considered.
In the end, Politifact rated Kennedy's statement as false, even though the numbers it dug up actually would have strengthened the case he was making in favor of the preservation of benefits for public sector workers.
The "false" rating wouldn't be so irritating if it weren't so easily manipulated for political purposes, as displayed in today's column in the Journal Sentinel by Rep. Robin Vos. The incoming chair of the Joint Finance Committee uses the stat to bolster his argument for establishing right-to-work laws in Wisconsin.
In order to make sure Wisconsin is once again open for business, we need the flexibility to bring wages and benefits in line with the private sector. Public-sector employees will say they make less in exchange for their benefits, but that is an old talking point that no longer holds up.
Twenty percent of federal employees now make more than $100,000 a year. Recently, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's PolitiFact team reported that American Federation of Teachers' President Bryan Kennedy's statement that public-sector workers make 8% less than those in the private sector was "false."
Isn't this ironic? To support his contention that state workers are over-compensated, Vos cites a number that refers specifically to federal employees. And then he cites PolitiFact's "false" rating of Kennedy's statement, which was partially based on Kennedy's use of national stats in place of state ones, to make it appear that no data indicating an 8 percent difference in compensation exists.
I hope Politifact is on this case. It would take them about 30 seconds to write up, and it would send a strong message to politicians who intend to manipulate its findings.