Be seated and put down your hot coffee before reading any further. The Globe has discovered that in Massachusetts (!) cronyism is sometimes a factor in competition for public sector jobs.
Horrors. As a faithful Globe reader, I was certain that our nation’s problems with cronyism started and ended with George W Bush.
Last Saturday the Globe ran a story about this Boston firefighter who used an act of the legislature to obtain the top position on the hiring list, despite his poor performance on the civil service exam. Nugget:
A Globe review found that 40 of the 218 state laws passed in 2007 provide benefits to specific individuals by name. Thirty allowed employees of certain state agencies to donate sick days to particular colleagues, and three granted retirement benefits to certain public employees. Six exempted particular police and firefighter applicants from maximum age requirements, allowing them to take civil service tests and apply for municipal jobs at an older age. The Hayhurst law was the only one granting head-of-the-line status on a civil service hiring list.
This type of law is an established Beacon Hill practice. Here is another fine example of such a law, proposed in 2006 to create pension rights for one individual who just happened to be a (former) member of the legislature. The firefighter story led to some startling words in a Globe editorial yesterday entitled Cronyism to the rescue (emphasis mine):
Discretion is running wild on Beacon Hill…Politicians are making case-by-case decisions about disability benefits that belong in the hands of doctors. Lawmakers would serve the public better by crafting legislation that standardizes hiring and benefits practices than by entertaining special constituent requests. Murray, Feeney, and other overly receptive politicians need to remember that their mistakes will often outlast their time in office. "Government workers are like headless nails," goes the public-sector saying. "You can get them in, but you can't get them out."
These sound like the words of Ronald Reagan or even…Mitt Romney! I might add that “When you only have one party, everything looks like a (headless) nail”.
Thus the Boston Globe has now taken a bold editorial stand against legislation passed for the benefit of particular individuals.
It’s a start, at least.
But can the Globe actually hold such a stand and be logically consistent? Where will such radical thoughts end? Might the Globe now have to ask how many individuals it takes to make a “group” and what gives any group legitimacy or claim to legislation? If the Globe keeps up this line of thought could Globe Op Ed writers eventually re-think their own dogmatism regarding issues like affirmative action? They might eventually get carried away to this extent:
No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
They've made a start, but I’m not holding my breath.