Sacramento, CA — Upon realizing that his $220,000 plus compensation package falls shy of enlisting him in the ranks of the famed “1%-ers,” a Sacramento government director is disappointed that he did not meet the elite $350,000 threshold for his demographic.
“I never really looked into it,” said 42-year-old James Dugan gazing at his paycheck. “But the other day I wanted to see if I was one of those special, you know, people. Sadly, I’m not. But hope springs eternal as my Mother used to say.”
The return to high inequality, or what Princeton Professor Paul Krugman and journalist Timothy Noah have referred as the “Great Divergence,” began in the 1970s. Until 2011, the Great Divergence had not been a major political issue in America, though stagnation of middle class income was. CBO reported that for the 1979-2007 period, after-tax income of households in the top 1 percent of earners grew by 275%, compared to 65% for the next 19 percent, just under 40% for the next 60 percent, 18% for the bottom fifth of households. This income inequality drove what is famously known as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which sought to raise awareness on this issue via tents and their iPhones.
Given that the benefits packages of government officials exceeds $50,000, which does not include their base salaries and other incentives, that means state workers benefits are as much as $20,000 more than an average Nevada County citizen’s per capita wages. The entire salary packages of some government workers is almost 7 times greater than the average Nevada County worker. And his “Cadillac” health plan covers his family of 5 with no deductibles, and no co-pays.
“I’m working full-time and on the weekends rebuilding alternators. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d have no heath care,” said hardware store employee Rick Guzman of Grass Valley. “I have just enough for food and rent, which I’m grateful for because of my second job. But it seems to me these government salaries are out of whack, you know? I mean, why are we paying the computer people so much if they didn’t even know how to block child porn at the County Government Offices?”
Not everyone is concerned about the wage disparity. In fact, some were downright unapologetic.
“Look, it’s the market,” said area SEIU union representative Chuck McFarland who receives government grants and contracts. “They have to pay those competitive salaries to get the right talent. Do you want a government that works, or not? They’re smarter and more talented than someone working at a hardware store.”
It is unclear what market pressures there are for the Sheriff or Health, Human and Social Services, but given this false and suddenly capitalist “marketplace” reasoning, given that the SEIU seems to only bring up this competitive argument when they face cuts.
As for James Dugan, he is not optimistic, but remains somewhat defiant.
“Before Trump was President, I was hoping to make it into the 1%er club. I’m ‘this close’,” said Mr. Dugan hold holding up his right index finger and thumb together. “But I don’t see that happening now. I’m worth it, you know? I work just as hard as anyone else. Government is good work, if you can get it. If you can’t, well, you know.”