Government employee unions are using a flawed study of federal pay to lobby for an end to President Obama’s freeze on cost-of-living salary increases. Obama’s decision will be significant: salaries and benefits for civilian workers totaled an alarming $271 billion last year.

Heritage’s Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, two of the nation’s leading experts on federal pay, will address the controversy in a Google+ Hangout today at noon ET. Leave a question below in the comments, then watch the video chat right here on The Foundry.

Richwine and Biggs wrote about the debate in the Washington Post, explaining why “the government’s methodology for comparing pay is too flawed to offer real guidance.” The government’s report, written by career bureaucrats who benefit from generous benefits, claimed federal workers were underpaid by an average of 35 percent compared to their private-sector counterparts.

The figure is inaccurate and incomplete, primarily because the government’s report didn’t account for benefits like paid leave, health coverage and pensions.

Richwine and Biggs also note that it’s wildly inconsistent with other studies:

All five outside studies reviewed this year by the Government Accountability Office found that federal pay is equal to or higher than those of comparable private-sector workers. This is consistent with three decades of academic research. According to our analysis of Census Bureau data last year, the typical private-sector worker who shifts to a federal job receives a salary increase, while federal workers who leave for the private sector tend to get a salary cut.

Richwine is a senior policy analyst at Heritage and Biggs is a resident scholar at AEI. Leave a question below in the comments.