I’m sure this genre has been around as long as some public employees have made large salaries, but I’ve noticed a couple of recent such articles which I’d like to discuss. One is a Politico article about Capitol Police officers who make up to $175,000, with forty-four of them earning more than the average House chief of staff. Another is an article from Thursday’s Newsday (“Big Paydays at MTA”; no link) which focuses on five Long Island Rail Road employees (not managers) who made between $195,000 and $233,000 in 2009.
Newsday publishes in a sidebar the names and pay breakdowns of those five employees. I think that the focus is misplaced. Implicit in the publishing of names is the assigning of blame. But it is certainly not the duty of the train conductors to keep their salaries as low as possible; it is the duty of the railroad’s contract negotiators and of its managers who make hiring decisions and assign work. It would be more productive to publish the names of the negotiators who agreed to a contract with such large possible salaries than the names of the workers who draw them.
The Politico article takes a step in the right direction by discussing the question of whether or not the Capitol police should hire more officers in order to reduce overtime, but it still fails to question the contracts which allow such large salaries.
I’m always glad to see investigative journalism, but I’d like it to reach for the higher fruit, for it to look at those with power over the systems themselves rather than those who benefit from the poor designs of others.
Photo Credit: Flickr (wallyg)