Political Head-Spin…

The state capitol of Madison, Wisconsin

I am not going to turn this into some grand post advocating for Democrats or Republicans because, let’s be honest, both sides are exactly the same. They bicker until after elections, all the while, accomplishing nothing. Then (after they are either going home anyway, or are safe) they try to push things through right before the end of the term. The only other thing they seem to love doing is hiding stuff in bills that “must” pass, so we don’t notice or at least can’t tell them not to do it.

So… No, I don’t really like any of them.

Today I am going to focus on an article that was brought to my attention yesterday. It’s an old article, but the headline is rather shocking.

“The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions.”

In the article, you will find that semantics are what we are actually discussing. The headline is a sensational one, which is very misleading. Let me break this down so that we can all grasp it a little easier (that’s not meant as an insult to anyone, but I am assuming that most people who will see this are not financial planning experts.)

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

Unions don’t bargain for wages, they bargain for “Packages.” This includes: Wages, Health Care Insurance, Vacation/Holiday pay, Retirement/Pension plans, etc… The sum of all those costs are wrapped up in a “Compensation Package” that the employee receives. Some of this will show on a paycheck, some will not. Wages are simply the money someone receives on their paychecks; hourly or salary pay. All of that money comes from the taxpayers, regardless of how you want to define or categorize it, and WE DO pay ALL of it. What Walker’s plan is doing is this: Recover some of the fringe costs by deducting that from the salary portion of a teacher’s pay, then return the saved money to the general fund. It is a pay cut, spun to sound nicer.

I will use a fictional, but realistic example to demonstrate how Walker’s plan works.This is NOT an argument for or against the plan, just a realistic breakdown involving truth, and no spin or rhetoric. If you want to skip it, just skip the blue section.

First, let me explain my compiling and give my source: Wisconsin DPIOn that site you will find an excel spreadsheet giving key financials for every school district in the state of Wisconsin: 2011 Average Salary Report for Teachers. That is a direct link to the excel file, so if you cannot open .xls files, you may encounter problems. I do believe OpenOffice can open these files with little problem.

In that document you will discover that there are 424 school districts in the state, and the following sort-able metrics: Low Salary (actual), High Salary (actual), Average Salary (total of all salaries divided by number of salaries), and Average Fringe (no data provided for actual fringes.) There are many other ways to sort the data, but these are the ones that matter for what I am doing here.

I averaged each category, and here is what I came up with:

  • Low Salary: $32,721.25
  • High Salary: $64,274.30
  • Average Salary: $50,627.00
  • Average Fringe: $27,052.76

So, now I can make a fictional school district with those metrics. I took the three salary numbers and averaged them, which gives me $49207.52 per year. I will make the district employ 73 teachers, all making that rate. They all will receive $27,052 in fringe.

 

Before new “contribution”

After new “contribution”

Base Salary

$49,207.52

$49,207.52

Total Contribution

$2,952.45

$5,412.83

Salary – Contribution

$46,255.07

$43,794.69

Fringe

$27,052.00

$27,052.00

Package cost                   (Base + Fringe)

$73,307.07

$70,846.69

District Total Pay      (Package * 73)

$5,351,416.11

$5,171,808.37

State Total Pay**              (Package * 59,552)

$4,363,383,420.54

$4,219,062,082.88

The difference is $179,607.74 just in my fictional district where everyone receives the same amount of compensation. If we expand that to the entire state, the savings are $144,321,337.66… Yes, almost one hundred fifty million, which works out to about $25 for every man, woman, and child in the state***. The savings are a little different when you use the real numbers, but this was an exercise that everyone should have been able to follow.

Tax

The bottom line is: no matter how you want to word it, taxpayers DO pay for public employee “fringe” packages. We pay for every cent the government pays out, no matter how or where it goes. While the CONTENTS of the article, and the one it got it’s information from, are technically true… The headline is  a ridiculous sensationalistic attempt to sway people to one particular side of the argument. The writer of that article knows full well that most people will only see the headline, and then spread it around without ever reading the contents therein.

Using a headline like that is not reporting, it’s misleading.

**According to Teacher Portal there are 59,552 teachers in Wisconsin. ***According to the US Census Bureau.

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6 thoughts on “Political Head-Spin…

  1. First-time visitor via Randel. Love the first paragraph! Spinning for deception is the way they play.

    Being independent with a bend to fiscally conservative and socially liberal, each party wants my vote for their mandate – but not for my policies.

    • It’s pretty much the same for me, I have had politicians from both sides ask for my vote because they assume that I am with them based on just one or two statements. They never stop to see the whole picture, which is something most of their supporters are also guilty of unfortunately.

      Thanks for visiting.

  2. It looks like you missed a little research on this one. If you look in a thesaurus, you’ll find that one of the antonyms of ‘reporting’ is ‘misleading’. Also, an antonym of ‘politician’ is ‘honest’, but you probably already knew that one. 😉

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