Bob Main, speaking about the formation of the county’s advisory committees, has oft stated that he doesn’t want people with an “agenda”. Those of us in the gallery, of course, know that Main and the nods of agreement from Cam Parry and Fred Messerle are really commissioner speak for “we don’t want people with agendas that don’t match our own”. Naturally, the advisory committees are heavily populated by people with obvious yet undeclared agendas and in the case of the structure committee, at least four members are all active in the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

One of these members, Al Pettit’s illogical conclusions have been featured on this site in the past. For example, Pettit believes that if only Oregon was in the top ten of business friendly states unemployment rates and poverty rates and teen pregnancy rates, etc… would all drop and overall prosperity would automatically improve. A quick overview of the top ten ten business friendly states, however, indicate that key economic indicators show these states, Texas being ranked the friendliest to business, have worse conditions than Oregon ranked only thirty third. Pettit’s logical disconnects wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that he is on the chamber’s legislative action team lobbying our local representatives to enact pro-business legislation that unfortunately impacts everyone.

Pettit is also on the structure advisory committee having been appointed by the self proclaimed ‘no agenda’ commissioners and he penned a very revealing letter to the editor published in the Register Guard. Not only does he make several factual errors but he characterizes public sector employees as “living comfortably off the backs of others” and implies they are soft and lazy and should “do what we do in the tough private sector”.

As he has before, Pettit jumps to amazing and wild conclusions based on a very weak analysis of data.

Private sector income has plummeted while public sector incomes actually have risen. Less than 20 percent of workers in the private sector have pension plans, but nearly 80 percent of government workers do.

A study published by the Center for State & Local Government Excellence points out public employees are better educated and have more experience and therefore “the fact that public sector workers receive greater aver­age compensation than private sector workers should be no more surprising than the fact that those with more skills and education earn more.” Nevertheless, despite higher education levels and experience, public and private income disparity in Oregon is not that great.

In Oregon, earnings for public-sector workers averaged $43,100 in 2008. While this figure is about $3,200 higher than the average wage for private-sector workers, it is significantly influenced by the high average wage ($62,700) of federal government workers. Oregon’s state and local government workers had average earnings – $41,300 and $40,600, respectively – much closer to the private-sector average of $39,900.

Additionally, other factors account for the disparity or the perception of disparity as few people question the difference between a lawyers wage versus those of a short order cook.

One of the reasons average compensation tends to be higher for government employees is that the occupational mix for government employment is more concentrated in high-wage occupations. In 2008, roughly four in 10 government workers were in a professional or related occupation, compared to about one in 10 private-sector workers.

Pettit wrote the letter in response to criticism of how the Republican controlled legislature in Wisconsin is pummeling worker’s rights. His second claim is that public sector workers are more likely to have a pension plan than the private sector. Blaming private sector reluctance to contribute beyond the average payroll social security contribution to employee pensions on public sector workers is just silly but Pettit adds “Wisconsin, with ballooning debt exceeding $21 billion and approximately $2 billion of unfunded health care and pension expenses” and suggests public employees should get a different job. However, what Pettit doesn’t mention is that these pensions are managed by ‘private sector’ Wall Street firms who haven’t done such a good job while at the same time extracting a 15% fee.

Most of the pension shortfall using the current methodology is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years 2007-2009. If pension funds had earned returns just equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds in the three years since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today. This is by far the major cause of pension funding shortfalls. While there are certainly cases of pensions that had been under-funded even before the market plunge, prior years of under-funding is not the main reason that pensions face difficulties now.

Yep, it was that “tough private sector” that received all those taxpayer funded bailouts who crippled the Wisconsin pension funds, not a bunch of school teachers “living off the backs of others” and driving around in their ritzy minivans and shopping at Walmart.

David Cay Johnston explains the Wisconsin pensions in an interview with Dylan Ratigan.

You know, the pensions they want to go after, they’re not very big in Wisconsin. I just calculated the numbers. The average Wisconsin state employee gets $24,500 a year. That’s not a very big pension.

The state pension plan, 15% of the money going into it each year is being paid out to Wall Street to manage the money. That’s a really huge high percentage to pay out to Wall Street to manage the money

And what I think is going on here is this is the state as we began where public employee unions were first by law allowed, and if this governor can break these unions then you’re going to see this happen all across the country and further drive down wages. And if you can drive down wages in the public sector, it means private employers can drive down wages in the private sector.

Pettit has displayed his anti-government, anti-public worker colors before when he struck out in a comment on this blog at Randy Sanne.

It is unfortunate that people either lacking critical thinking skills or too set upon their own narrow agenda are influencing our legislators. It is really unconscionable that the commissioners would invite people who think all public workers are parasites, “living off the backs of others” to be anywhere near our county employees. Shame on all three of them.