If you've been following the auto industry's crisis, then you've probably read or heard a lot about overpaid American autoworkers--in particular, the fact that the average hourly employee of the Big Three makes $70 per hour.

That's an awful lot of money. Seventy dollars an hour in wages works out to almost $150,000 a year in gross income, if you assume a forty-hour work week. Is it any wonder the Big Three are in trouble? And with auto workers making so much, why should taxpayers--many of whom make far less--finance a plan to bail them out?

Well, here's one reason: The figure is wildly misleading.

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--Jonathan Cohn