So you have apples in that pay basket! When I heard that Rand Paul had claimed that average federal employee's compensation (including benefits) was more than $120,000, I thought that can't be true. Then I read Media Matters' lengthy response to the claim:
Fox's "brain room" parrots Rand Paul's false talking points on federal pay
... In fact, the [$120,000 statistic] cited is based on a discredited apples-to-oranges comparison ... From a February 3 Politifact article rebutting the claim that "federal employees are making twice as much as their private counterparts":
[I]t's important to understand that a big reason for the disparity is the different mix of jobs in the federal work force. It has more higher-paying white-collar jobs, experts told us, while there are more lower-paying, blue-collar jobs in the private sector that bring the average down. So it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
In other words, it's true. Paul was right. Federal pay does average more than $120,000 (including about $40,000 in benefits). The debate is simply over whether the private sector pays as much. Media Matters clears it up again! Where would we be without them? ...
P.S.: When people are outraged at the $120,000 figure, I think, they aren't making an implicit apples-to-oranges comparison. They're making an apples-to-themselves comparison. They know what they do and what they're making. They have a pretty good, rough idea of what federal employees do (some are highly skilled doctors, some are equal opportunity compliance facilitators). They know that they themselves have had to take pay freezes and cuts and endure waves of corporate downsizing while the federal government hasn't been through anything like that. In fact, pay for individual federal workers has kept growing each year thanks to both cost-of-living raises and "step" increases. The federal pay escalator kept on running right through the recesssion. Meanwhile, federal workers enjoy job security they can only dream of.
They know, in short, that as a result of this Great Divergence (sorry Tim!) they don't make anything like $120,000, but they pay taxes to support the government workers who do—and they're outraged. Oranges have nothing to do with it. ... 3:11 a.m.
Heather Mac Donald and Matt Yglesias, together again: Conservative Heather Mac Donald argues that, if you take the malnutrition-reducing rationale for food stamps seriously, you should support excluding sugary soft drinks from what the stamps can purchase, as New York's Mayor Bloomberg has proposed. Liberal Matt Yglesias would seem to agree ...
P.S.: Mac Donald says "subsidizing medical treatment for obesity-related disease costs taxpayers in New York State $8 billion a year," adding:
The White House has repeatedly said it wants to bend the cost curve on health care. This is a perfect place to start. All the government millions spent on nutritional advertising has not stopped obesity from rising among the poor, who seem to pay more attention to what the government bankrolls than what it counsels them to eat
So Obama's willing to bend the curve by somehow denying* grandma her hip transplant, but not by making people pay out of their own pockets for Mr. Pibb? ...
P.P.S.: But do we really think restricting what can be bought with food stamps will actually decrease sugar consumption? As Mac Donald notes, prepared foods and cigarettes are already excluded. Don't poor people still buy them? I suppose one reason to run Mayor Bloomberg's two-year "demonstration project" would be to find out the answer ...
P.P.P.S.: I don't have much of a problem with stigmatizing welfare benefits by imposing paternalistic restrictions. And food stamps, available to those who could work but don't, do qualify as"welfare," The rub is that they are also available, on a sliding scale, to low-wage workers—indeed, they are part of the calculation that allows neoliberal types to argue that nobody with a reasonably sized family who works full time falls below the poverty line (if you add the minimum wage to the earned income tax credit to food stamps).
If the idea is to let anyone who works live with their family in full dignity, there's a problem with imposing paternalistic restrictions on them. One answer is to rigorously separate the aid available to those who work—or who've worked enough in the past—from the strings-attached assistance available without such a work requirement. This, of course, is an approach most antipoverty advocates strongly resist ...
* See the comment (below) from Frank Martinez, who argues that in the linked interview Obama doesn't contemplate "denying" hip operations to people near the end of life—and my response. 4:44 p.m.