12/30/2006

State Hiring

When I first read that our Attorney General, Mike McGrath, had hired Governor Schweitzer's sister-in-law, I did not think of nepotism or political favors. To me, these issues often tarnish the lofty ideals that both sides claim yet neither seem willing to implement consistently.

No, my disdain was on a more basic level. Why does this job exist at all? If we have a job that can be turned over from one fellow with "25 years experience in criminal investigation" to a lady "many years of teaching experience, but no experience in criminal investigations," how its functions possibly fall under the mandate of good government?

McGrath tells us that it is a "customer-relations job," and that she won't even be doing the exact job of her predecessor, due to a "re-shuffling of the Consumer Protection Office."

So, where is it mandated that McGrath pay someone with our money to do this? Not in the Constitution, that's for sure. Not in his basic job description. I'm not sure why our tax dollars are used to hire a teacher with good people skills in the Department charged as our chief law enforcement agency.

Well, let's see, then. She's going to be in the Consumer Protection Office, charged with enforcing the Consumer Protection Act. It seems to me that the Act is much more concerned with enforcing the law and rooting out evildoers than it is keeping customers happy. It seems to me that we would much rather have an investigator than a people person. Yet, for this position, McGrath sought her out.

And she is going to continue working on Lemon Law enforcement, but she'll be doing other things too. That teaching certificate will come in handy, I guess.

So you see, it doesn't bother me that the Governor's sister-in-law got this job, it bothers me that this job exists. Why do you and I and the waitress down the street making $16,000.00 a year need to pay someone thirty five grand to answer the phone and point people in the direction of state agencies?

As an aside, why does the reporter not press the question? I would like to know what, specifically, she is going to be doing for $3,000.00 a month. Wouldn't you?

"Oh, uh, it's a re-shuffling..yeah, um, she'll be interacting with consumers. Yeah, that's the ticket. Interacting with consumers, and, uh, we're going to branch out into general consumer issues."

Oh. Ok.

Do you ever wonder how many waitresses making $16,000.00 a year we have to tax in order to support just one unnecessary bureaucrat at $35,000.00 a year?

4 comments:

WolfPack said...

I took a different route. After I read the Trib's article this morning, I looked up and asked my wife (who is also a teacher) if she felt qualified to head up the states consumer protection efforts because of her teaching experience. She just laughed and said “no!” Hiring the Gov’s sister-in-law bother’s me less than political jobs being handed out to sitting legislators. There is no way you can convince me that a legislator isn’t influenceable when he knows that the long term continuance of his job is connected to the way he votes. In fact, I don’t think state employees of any stripe should be legislators.

david said...

Yep...wonder how many of those jobs could be eliminated - immediately - with absolutely no impact felt by 99% of Montanans. Probably more than a few...

Paul Stephens said...

I used to enjoy reading Cindy Palmer's ag column in the Trib. I had no idea she was married to Brian Schweitzer's brother, and this may have been an issue when he ran against Burns. I've met Walter once, and most people I know who know him have a good opinion of him. However, after the Missoula Independent story "The Walter Ego" and reports from many environmental activists (and others) how he has created his own "shadow government," the story about Cindy going to work in the Attorney General's office set off all sorts of red flags.
Here's my extended meditation on women teachers, women lawyers, and the decline of civilization. From the Jan 8 issue of the Montana Green Bulletin. To subscribe, contact me at greateco@3rivers.net

You can probably read them (and back issues) at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GLMG_discussion/


Public Education and the Totalitarian State

The American public schools worked great through the Second World War. They were considered the best in the world (although the German ones, upon which they were modeled, were probably better in terms of training obedient workers, soldiers, scientists, statesmen, and the like). Ours was "education for citizenship in a democracy," and thus was never centralized or harnessed to serve nationalistic goals (at least prior to the 1950's, and the "National Defense Education Act" which was a response to Sputnik and other perceived inadequacies in teaching math and science). Because schools were run almost entirely by local, elected boards, and their financing came directly from local taxpayers who did demand accountablity and controlled the level of funding, their efficiency was very high. Up to 90% of public school budgets went to teacher's salaries. (Now, it's less than half). As for top political "leadership," most of it has always been educated in elite private schools, not those provided by the state or local school boards.
In earlier times, we also had a society which valued education and intelligence, and those who had it were put in charge of the education system. Those who did well in school were the same people who became teachers and principals (there wasn't any vast educational bureaucracy in those days). No one would have thought of hiring people with below-average test scores, who didn't read books or participate in intellectual and cultural life, to be the teachers of their children, but that is exactly what is happening, now. And two-thirds or more of women who went to college, pre-1970 or so, were "education" majors, or got a teaching credential in addition to whatever other field they were studying. Most of the rest were nurses. Few of the vast numbers of secretaries and "book-keepers" (my mother's occupation) went to college, beyond a few months in a so-called "commercial college" which gave no degrees. Most of the basics were well-covered in the business-oriented high school curriculum.
Those who became teachers were the smartest and hardest-working girls, not the prettiest and most popular. Among those college graduates who didn't become teachers (and for many, college was simply access to a higher class of marriage and motherhood), some went on to graduate or professional schools, although medicine, the clergy, and law were nearly closed to women prior to the 1960's, when these barriers began to come down. So the most gifted "career women" often became college professors, scholars, researchers, editors, etc., if not K-12 teachers. Few of them were paid much more (and often less) than women working as secretaries, nurses, waitresses, or other "regular jobs" thought suitable for women. Even medical doctors, in those days, rarely made more than twice the wages of a skilled union worker. And many doctors and lawyers made even less than that, working in the "non-profit sector" which wasn't then lavishly funded by government grants and public-spirited billionaires.
When I went to college, there were only two American billionaires -- Howard Hughes and H.L. Hunt -- both of whose fortunes were derived from oil. The Rockefellers were also billionaires, collectively, or as a family. Andrew Carnegie was the first American billionaire -- worth probably $25 billion in today's money. However, he gave away nearly all of it. (I forgot J. Paul Getty, probably because he lived in England, and then, as now, was known more for his art collection than being a billionaire. Gavin Newsome, the present Mayor of San Francisco, got his start with Getty family patronage, by the way.)
Now, the same proportion of college women (2/3) become "business majors" of various kinds, on the promise or assumption that they will make lots of money. A few do, but the vast majority would probably have been much better-off majoring in some sort of traditional arts, letters, or sciences curriculum with a teaching credential, and thus spending a few years passing on their own gifts and experience to the next generation, not to mention being scientifically and culturally "literate." The whole system of "normal colleges" was founded on that idea, including in Montana, Eastern, Western, and Northern Montana Colleges, and it was certainly a much more efficient and productive use of the taxpayer's money than the large, elite "research universities" which mostly serve corporate needs and interests.
Half or more law students are now women, although they rarely rise to the highest ranks in their profession. This concept of "law" is a perfect example of the "passive-aggressive organization." What motives do these women have in becoming lawyers and judges? Originally, most were probably driven by an impulse towards justice for women, children, and other oppressed or disempowered groups. Now, few such people end up working for government agencies, or in the legal profession at all (in which all lawyers are officially "officers of the court.") Instead, they "go corporate," and attempt to manipulate their way to higher levels of wealth and power within corporate hierarchies, oftentimes switching off with "public service" jobs in a revolving door scenario where their government experience enables them to better loot the public treasury and avoid the costly regulation by the state of their corporate employers later on.
We know that nearly all the lawyers in America are superfluous -- a kind of "make work" scheme for lawyers as a class. These people have to do something, and most of them are employed in the "criminal justice system" which is five times larger, per capita, than other developed nations. (That is to say, we lock up 5-15 times as many people, all with legal representation and oversight, as other democracies). The rest are professionally engaged in lobbying, legislating, regulating, and other aspects of "corporate law." In the 1980's, there was a statistic that we trained 7 times as many lawyers, per capita, as Japan, and only a fifth as many engineers. Lawyers, MBA's, and accountants ("bean counters") run the American economy, while engineers and scientists are in charge in most other parts of the world. That would also be true in comparison with China, India, and most other developed or developing nations.
Most of the engineers and scientists we employ are either immigrants who came here originally to go to school, or were recruited later by American companies, most of whose technical and scientific research and production facilities are now overseas. And so, we have gone full-circle: from a failed public education system to a failed criminal justice system, and a corporate-dominated passive-aggressive bureaucracy which rarely, if ever, gets anything right, and rarely makes any progress in meeting our needs or in solving the vast complex of problems and crises which they, themselves, have created.

GeeGuy said...

Mr. Stephens, while there is much truth in what you say, I think that some of your comments about lawyers are informed more by political bias than reference to fact.