But in Michigan, there is no group of protesters rallying around another growing gap in income. Michigan’s government employees have seen a 23 percent increase in pay while the state’s private sector has dropped since 1979, the first year that the new CBO report tracked income in its national analysis (see chart below).
If the gap in pay is what draws the ire of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, they could set their sights on the salary tracks of Michigan’s public and private workers over the last three decades.
The gap between public and private sector was minimal in 1979. Public-sector employees earned $51,078 while private sector employees earned $50,654 in 1979. (All figures are adjusted for inflation.) In 2010, public-sector employees averaged $62,808 a year, a 23 percent increase. Meanwhile, private-sector employees saw their average income drop to $40,455, a 20 percent decrease. Salaries came from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The adjustment for inflation came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Bemoaning the gaps between rich and poor has been a political parlor game for generations,” wrote James Hohman, assistant director or fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in an email. “But Michigan’s more recent story has been one where the private sector — rich and poor alike — have taken major hits while the government class has been protected.”