A China Shop in Need of a Bull
Katherine Gregg’s piece in the Providence Journal about state contract employees has a bit too much of the editorial page aroma.
Her opening line, a construct intended to tell the reader how to feel about the information being conveyed, is in keeping with the execution of her “gotchas.” The employee list appears “in the blink of an eye,” in contrast to Governor Carcieri’s previous statement that (in Gregg’s paraphrase) the contractors’ “numbers” would be “almost impossible to determine,” yet Gregg goes on to admit that they “do not include dozens more.” Apparently, the list wasn’t as easily produced as she implies. Subsequent highlights of the administration’s lack of information serve as further evidence that the compilation is partial. Similarly, astute readers are left wondering what State Budget Officer Rosemary Booth Gallogly meant when she called the list “a snapshot” — or even whether that’s the word she used — and why Gregg put one contractor’s name in quotation marks.
Gregg also doesn’t provide readers the aid of any comparisons. She doesn’t juxtapose contract workers’ cost with public union workers’ cost. She doesn’t cite any industry averages from the private sector. As if the typical Rhode Islander will have some basis to know whether contract rates in the mid-to-high $100,000s are reasonable for IT personnel of some unspecified description.
All of the above notwithstanding, it must be said that Governor Carcieri really ought to be out in front with these numbers — waving them around and explaining which are reasonable and which are not. Rhode Islanders know that corruption predates and supersedes Carcieri’s current position, but he isn’t quick enough with the facts or, perhaps more important, with the public service messages that put those facts in economic and political context.
Rhode Island is a China shop in screaming need of a bull. When it gets a genial, bespectacled gent instead, the picadors sit a bit more lightly in their saddles, but jab just as hard.