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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6

This week, readers sent us comments about our latest article on the compensation of federal workers and their private-sector counterparts.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


Public and Private Worker Pay

In your article [“CBO Offers Its Two Cents on Federal Pay,” Feb. 3], there is one math error that you did not catch in Rep. Dennis Ross’ statement that “hardworking taxpayers” in the private sector “take home 72 percent less in benefits than their government counterparts.” In addition to cherry-picking the 72 percent figure from the high school diploma or less column, by turning “72 percent higher” benefits into “72 percent less in benefits,” Ross made a math error. If federal workers get 72 percent more benefits than private-sector workers, private-sector workers receive 42 percent less benefits (1-1/1.72).

I think it would be worth updating your paragraph to reflect that error.

Marcus Sarofim
Washington, D.C.

FactCheck.org responds: Our reader is correct in noting that Rep. Ross made a common math error — one that we missed — when he misquoted the CBO report on federal benefits. We have rewritten that paragraph to correct the record.


FactCheck.org wrote: “But it’s even less true that federal employees are vastly underpaid, as public-employee unions would have you believe.”

These sorts of phrasings are popping up more and more on FactCheck.org. Your job, as I had originally felt you believed, was not to argue for, or judge degrees of wrongness, as your statement above frames it. Even if you feel that is not a subtly biased framing of the facts, you allow the room for people to read it that way. Just say: “That’s the conclusion of a new Congressional Budget Office report that dispels misinformation spread by both sides in a long-running debate over federal pay.” Get on with the fact-checking. Otherwise, thanks for doing what you do.

Mark Martelli
Reading, Pa.