Everybody Freeze: Total American wages dropped 3.2 percent in 2009

Pre-Governor Schwarzenegger prophetically takes us through the words of the day.

Just something to think about for those expressing dissatisfaction over the pay freeze; according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (Shout out!), American wages actually dropped 3.2% in 2009. That would be the same 2009 in which we got a 3.9% COLA. This is just another reminder for me that we are pretty lucky, particularly given the current economic situation.

I think this is also illustrative of something we often forget; while the systems are different, public and private systems can nevertheless produce the same sorts of outcomes. In this case public sector compensation policy is set by Congress; the pay freeze private sector Americans experienced was set by the market. While you may not agree with our freeze, at least we know where it came from. There was broad debate about the measure, and opponents were able to voice their best arguments against the policy. The private sector wage shrinkage occurred more organically as collective belt tightening across millions of businesses, and I’m guessing most folks were happy just to keep their jobs. This phenomenon occurred silently, and I bet most employees were not in a position to really advocate against it.

It’s a good reminder to me that while we got froze, our friends outside of government just got snowed.

Dave Uejio is the Vice President of Young Government Leaders. Follow him on Twitter at @BureaucratJedi

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