(Editor's note: This article contains a correction to the version originally published. The decline in private-sector employees' compensation is now correctly stated as 5.1 percent.)

Spokespersons for Michigan government employee unions contend that they have given up hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and benefit concessions over the past few years. The claims are in dispute, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis offers some support for those challenging them. It shows that since 2000, government-employee compensation in Michigan has increased 11.4 percent, while private-sector employees are getting 5.1 percent less.

Government and Private Sector Compensation in Michigan, 2000-2009

The trend continued in 2009. Average compensation per employee — which includes the value of benefits — was down 2.0 percent for private sector employees but increased 3.6 percent for Michigan's state and local government employees.

Overall, the total amount spent statewide on private-sector compensation, as opposed to the average compensation per worker, was 10.2 percent lower in 2009, while total state and local government compensation increased 2.6 percent. This reflects the contraction of the Michigan private sector workforce last year, as well as the lower level of compensation per worker.

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Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows the police to seize and sell a citizen's private property, even if no crime has been charged against the owner of that property. Several states have recently reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws, and Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, has called for improving federal laws pertaining to this practice.

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