April 28, 2011

Bringing the Cost-Saving Power of Competition to the Salary Bracket of the Senate Majority Leader's Special Assistant: "Qualified Young Republicans Will Work for Half-Salary"

Monique Chartier

As you know, it has come to light that the salary of the Special Assistant to Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, Stephen Iannazzi, is $88,000+ a year (presumably not including health care, pension, vacation time, sick days, personal days, May Day, etc). This is a respectable level of remuneration for a position which apparently does not have a job description and does not require a college degree of the occupant.

The public-spirited proposal below, dispatched late this afternoon by Y.R. Chairman Travis Rowley, is self-explanatory and well worth exploring, especially in light of the state's budget difficulties. Travis has assured us that, if hired, none of the applicants will "leave the building" and walk back in again so as to double their salary, as young Mr. Iannazzi did.

After hearing the news that Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio's new 25 year-old staffer, Stephen Iannazzi, who hasn't earned a college degree, is being paid $88,112 annually for a cushy State House job, dozens of Young Republicans want to apply for the post themselves, expressing that they are willing to work for half of Iannazzi's salary.

"I could really use the job right now," said one applicant. "Even at age 27, my college loans from four years at Duke are still pretty hefty." Another applicant said, "It seems like a good job. You know, one of those errand-boy jobs. I have a degree in political science, so I'm sure I can handle all the stress. Plus, I'll be saving the taxpayers some money." Another promising member of the Young Republicans said, "I feel like I have a decent shot at getting the job. I'm a hard worker, and I graduated with a 3.7 GPA from URI. I can make a pretty good cup of coffee, too."

Chairman of the RI Young Republicans Travis Rowley elaborated on the situation, "When word got out about Iannazzi's outrageous salary, I began receiving dozens of resumes from the Young Republican membership, asking me to forward them to Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed on their behalf."

Young Republican board member Patrick Sweeney spoke practically about the situation: "It seems that there are dozens of Young Republicans who are unemployed, well qualified, and more affordable to the taxpayers." Sweeney gathered information from www.salary.com regarding comparative salaries in Providence. He discovered that an Office Services Assistant on average makes $37,559, and an Executive Assistant makes on average $52,998. "If you average those two salaries together, that's $45,287. And that's basically what our members are willing to work for," Sweeney stated.

"Government jobs should always go to the lowest bidder among qualified applicants," Rowley explained. "So this is a no-brainer. Sen. Ruggerio and Sen. Paiva-Weed will have to reconsider Iannazzi's hiring."

When asked about the fact that Stephen Iannazzi is the son of Donald Iannazzi, the business manager for Local 1033 (an affiliate of the Laborers International Union), Rowley expressed only slight concern. "We realize that Senator Ruggerio's 30-year-old son, Charles, works as a lawyer for a union that sustains the Democrats' political power in Rhode Island. But all of our applicants have college degrees, and are willing to work for much less money." Rowley added, "There are also a lot of Young Republicans with law degrees, who will be applying for Charles Ruggerio's job as well. This is a good week for us."

Regarding political influence, Sweeney said, "It's true, very few of our members have fathers who are politically connected labor leaders. But if you look at some of their resumes, it's clear that plenty of our applicants have some pretty solid credentials in that respect as well."

Sifting through stacks of resumes it's evident that Sweeney is correct. Not only do all of the applicants have college degrees from various schools, but many of the resumes make assertions such as "My dad knows your dad" and "My dad voted for your brother's wife." Others boast of job qualifications such as "My dad hired your son, so you should hire me." And perhaps the most convincing qualification found among stacks of resumes was "My grand-pappy was a member of Local 1033."

"Our membership isn't naive," Rowley explained. "Most of them have lived in Rhode Island their entire lives. So they know what type of qualifications State House employers look for. The 'Family and Labor Connections' portion of their resumes may have been beefed up a bit before they were submitted."

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INRI is inscripted at the top of a universally recognized symbol. That image flashes through my mind every time I hear of this insider racketeering that's prevalent in our own state government. And I only attend church for weddings and funerals.

In this RI, if you don't/can't "schmooze" your gonna lose.

I also think that for many, a college degree is simply evidence of a lengthened period of adolescence and a stunted maturity. That's not to say all graduates merely attended a college, but near as I can tell, the signifigance of a college degree is way overstated.

Posted by: swamper at April 29, 2011 7:41 AM

Good point, especially since so many college degrees have become as devalued as Zimbabwe dollars by the Left's Marxist takeover of academia.

Why would anyone in business hire somebody with a degree in grievance-mongering (easily identified by the word "studies" in the title)?

If all universities were privately funded, receiving zero taxpayer dollars, they would be forced to give students and their parents actual value for their money. The present system allows them to get away with nearly anything, with zero accountability.

Posted by: BobN at April 29, 2011 8:38 AM

The college funding system is the next housing bubble readying to pop. Stop me when this sounds familiar.

An academically high achieving low income student can't afford college. Congress and many others feel this isn't fair. Congress comes up with new ways for this student to afford college by giving/loaning him the money. Thus more of this type of student is applying to college, sometimes more than they can accept. So looking at supply and demand, the college raises its rates. Students can't afford it again, Congress gives them more money. College raises it's rates as there's more money available. Student can't afford it again. Congress gives them more money...

and so on. Until the cost of college is artificially inflated to unsustainable levels. $55,000 a year for top notch colleges, $28,000 a year for URI for an out of state student, nearly $12,000 a year for URI for an in-state student?

Eventually it's going to pop and Congress is going to demand answers! Who created this bubble? Who's fault is it? Of course, it's the university presidents for raising their rates!!

Posted by: Patrick at April 29, 2011 8:46 AM

There were liberal students in my programs who stated how thankful they were that Congress had provided them with federal grants and loans because they "wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise."

I wonder why they think the tuition of the program has tripled in the past two decades. It couldn't possibly be because of... the availability of an extra $100,000 per student in federal grants and loans, could it? Colleges aren't stupid - of course they've taken advantage of that extra consumer surplus at the expense of both students and taxpayers. And now we all graduate with $100,000-$200,000 in debt. Thanks for meddling, Congress.

Most college degrees (with the exceptions of good economics, writing, and science/engineering programs) hold little value in terms of the "hard" benefits they convey to recipients. However, there is good reason why degrees are still tied to qualifications. It's the same reason why employers are rightfully reluctant to hire those with neck tattoos and nose piercings or criminal backgrounds, even though none of the above are technically job-related. The fact of the matter is that society expects you to go to college now. By not going to college, you are indicating that you are statistically far more likely to be some brand of slacker, imbecile, or rebel. Furthermore, one of the most frequent problems employers face is employee absenteeism. Guess which demographics have the most trouble getting to work on time - the same demographics that don't go to college because they lack money, family support, etc. Fair? No. But it is logical.

Graduate programs are, however, often very useful and rigorous in terms of the skills and knowledge they convey. I recommend to young people today that they go to college with a longer term plan of setting themselves up for an advanced degree.

Posted by: Dan at April 29, 2011 9:43 AM

"Thanks for meddling, Congress."

Exactly. And who will they point the finger at? Those greedy, corrupt Wall Stree...I mean, college presidents.

I help my employer interview for positions and quite often, the listing requires a college degree. Every time, I question it. Should a degree really be a "requirement" of the position or is a demonstration of enough related work experience good enough? Quite often, all the requirement says is that they have a bachelor's degree. No mention of what the major had to be. So in there, that's silly. Even worse, who ever calls a college registrar to confirm the degree? Otherwise, simply take one class at a college and then on your resume simply list the college as your Education and don't mention anything about degree or graduation status. Let the person doing the hiring simply assume you graduated. Lots of people do that one.

"I recommend to young people today that they go to college with a longer term plan of setting themselves up for an advanced degree."

If they must go to college ok. But I wouldn't necessarily advise that in general. For one, the degree may be useless, and second, they're incurring even more debt. Plus, what 18 year old knows what they want to be doing for the next 40 years? Why go get a couple degrees in history if it turns out that you want to open a chain of Dairy Queen restaurants?

My recommendation is that for most HS grads to take at least a year off. Figure out the real world. Figure out what things cost and how to pay for them and how to make ends meet. Figure out what you really want to do, figure out what you enjoy. And then go get better at it at college. Preferably at a college that lets you study what you want. Make the college work for you, don't work for them.

Posted by: Patrick at April 29, 2011 10:40 AM

That was my first piece of advice, Patrick.

My *second* piece of advice is to figure out a way to get a useful advanced degree while paying as little as possible for it.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to get into a decent Econ PhD program with stipend. Medical school remains a good option, provided that you are going to specialize. Law school is the suckers' route at the moment because the legal market has been rendered a scorched, desolate wasteland by the recession, although application rates are rightfully falling so perhaps it won't be as supersaturated in the future.

All of this is assuming that you want to be a "player," of course. If you're more interested in a simple, solid profession and the stablity it affords you, which most people are and there's nothing wrong with that, I'm a huge fan of vocational high school programs with or without a technical school degree.

I admittedly don't have much hiring experience, but I understand that it's mostly an odds game. Anyone can put up a good front in an interview, so you have to go by mostly hard factors like previous job experience and education. As I mentioned earlier, "a college degree" might not be particularly helpful in itself, but it at a minimum indicates that the person is (or at least was upon enrollment) financially solvent, understands what is expected of them, can meet minimum requirements like attendance, and can follow through on a long term project or goal. It's an imperfect and indirect metric, but it's definitely not trivial. The enlightened employer would probably do what you do and evaluate each position separately for whether it is necessary or not.

Returning to the topic at hand, $88,000 for a "special assistant" position at the state house should absolutely require a college degree at a minimum with 5-10 years of relevant experience. A 25-year-old high-school-grad should NOT, under any circumstances, be earning that much money from government.

Posted by: Dan at April 29, 2011 11:19 AM

I was raised with a few core values that just don't hold any water today:

"After high school, you'll go to college" - Not for $100k+ I won't. Sorry, I'd rather invest my early twenties into my career and get a leg-up, then find ways to make an employer pay for classes later. I dropped out as soon as my parents asked me to 'find' $15k for a payment. My friends (all around 30 years old) who went to school are just getting their feet wet in careers while I have over a decade of solid work experience. They all have tens of thousands in college debt they need to work-off while I have a 401k and apartments to rent out.

"You'll get married and have kids" - That sounds nice, but it's looking more and more like having kids and THEN getting married is the way to go. If I'm married, we'll have to shell-out for day care, health care, and work three or four jobs between the two of us. It seems smarter for me to work, for the girlfriend to rent an apartment from me, and for her to collect as many freebies as possible and stay at home for a few years, then rejoin the workforce later (she can probably get a degree from an online university during downtime, too!). This likely won't happen, since we both have too much pride to take a dip in the safety net swimming pool.

"A penny saved is a penny earned" - True when I was growing up, interest rates were high. Now, I'm finding that it makes sense to keep a tight operating budget and invest savings into extremely aggressive stocks. I'd rather ride the tiger and gain on the long run than collect two cents a month in 'interest'.

So if you have kids... I'd highly suggest getting them interested in something that will make them money ASAP, and let them focus on that. If they like crafts get them tools and encourage them to build stuff. If they like computers get them a few old computers and some network equipment so they can learn different systems. If they like mowing lawns, show them how to run a business and do accounting with it. There's time for college classes your whole life, there's no need to 'waste' your most aggressive career years going $BIG into debt. Get them learned-up in a traditional school, then cut them over to a vocational school once they start losing interest (late high school?). Let their future employer pay for college.

Posted by: mangeek at April 29, 2011 12:17 PM

+1 to mangeek

Posted by: Patrick at April 29, 2011 2:02 PM

$88,000 for a 25 y.o. college dropout, 7 year sophomore, or whatever he calls himself, is exactly what it appears to be - a payback/payoff to a union hack with our tax dollars. The earlier story tells it all - these are families who live off the taxpayers. They are generational leeches. No different than those generational welfare families. I wonder how much Iannazzi paid in tuition, or maybe he got a scholarship.

Awarding federal and state tax-dollars and tax-dollar-backed grants and loans to students who can't read or do the basic math that used to be required for college has been a huge waste of taxpayer money. Many of these freshmen who need remedial reading and math are getting grants and/or borrowing upwards of $20,000 and dropping out or failing their first year. They don't belong in college. The didn't deserve a highschool diploma. Why do colleges offer remedial reading and math? Because the money is there for the taking.

I agree with Patrick - stop the kneejerk reaction that college is a must. Go to Work. Get experience Working. Take classes while you work if you think it helps you figure out what you want to do. Weigh the cost of that degree against the return you can expect on it.

Posted by: riborn at April 29, 2011 3:36 PM

88k taxpayer funded/year for a personal assistant to the Senate Majority Leader, who by the way only works part time, is unacceptable and deplorable no matter what the qualifications of the job recipient. This is our money paying for this insider hack.

I'm no genius, but something is not quite adding up. If Kateherine Gregg's piece posted on January 18,2011 in the online ProJo is correct, the Senate Majority Leader makes 13,962 bucks a year for his part time gig as Senate Majority Leader. How the hell is 88K/year justified for his assistant/errand boy?

Posted by: swamper at April 29, 2011 7:57 PM

I'd also like to add that by going to college, you are indicating that you are statistically far more likely to be some brand of elitist, less likely to be capable of independent problem solving, and most likely prone to accept, with a hearty appetite for more, the agenda de jour that is spoon fed by those that dole out the grades.

Posted by: swamper at April 29, 2011 8:19 PM

None of what you posted about college grads is really true, but tell you what, swamper. You hire a bunch of "non-conformists" who think college is for suckers, buck all of society's expectations, question their managers on everything, and solve problems independently of the way your company wants them solved and see how that works out for you. Check out the employment questionaires used by highly successful companies sometime - virtually all the questions are designed to weed out people who think they know better than their managers and can't or won't follow instructions.

Posted by: Dan at April 29, 2011 8:52 PM

Thanks for straightening me out, Dan. I'll now forever view those without the sheepskin as slackers, imbeciles, and rebels. If what you advocate for is lock step conformity, then I'd suggest you've strayed away from what this great nation was founded on. What you imply is that it's all about being good "yes men”. That those with the most brown on their nose are rewarded with advancement through the ranks. Isn't that the original gist of what started this conversation?

I never even came close to implying that college is for suckers. It's not. I'm all for college and the hard benefits it can provide. It's the “player” aspect of it that you yourself mentioned that leaves that bad taste in my mouth. I'm all about merit based promotions and hiring. But to preclude many from entering into or advancing to a higher level in their respective field simply for lack of a formal higher education without so much as look at the big picture is what bothers me most. The degree should count for something. But it should not be the number 1 priority unless it relates specifically to the field that fits the job description. There's no substitute for experience. That should count for more than it's current value.

Posted by: swamper at April 30, 2011 9:05 AM

"I'll now forever view those without the sheepskin as slackers, imbeciles, and rebels."

What we've got here is a failure to communicate. Not going to college doesn't make an individual any of those things. Evidence of completion of an accredited degree simply makes it more likely that an individual will be a good employee, all other factors being equal. College degrees are not "everything," nor are they "useless." Employers deal in probabilities. Why is this such a difficult concept to accept?

"What you imply is that it's all about being good "yes men”. That those with the most brown on their nose are rewarded with advancement through the ranks."

I implied no such thing anywhere within my post. You truly believe that following your supervisor's instructions makes you a "yes man" or a "brown-noser"? I'm wondering how you lasted in a job for any period of time with such a poisonous mentality. This blue collar fantasy that bureaucratic businesses need "Cool Hand Luke" employees to come in and turn their worlds upside down from the bottom up is utter nonsense. Any business that aims to hire such people will be bankrupt within a few years due to absenteeism, insubordination, waste, theft, and gross incompetence.

Posted by: Dan at April 30, 2011 9:38 AM


Corporate management that believes that solving problems according to a certain process is more important that actually solving buisness problems is why American competitiveness is slowing down relative to the rest of the world. Of course, why a government lawyer feels qualified to lecture all comers on the best way to run a private business is a bit of a mystery, unless of course he believes his credentials confer to him some superior status over people in other areas of life -- because it's sure obvious that the lectures are not based on any knowledge, formal or empirical, of how businesses actually function.

Posted by: Andrew at April 30, 2011 9:57 AM

Andrew - Knowledge and reasoning extend beyond direct experience, hence the value of education, self or formal. The argument that subject matter credibility stems from experience would quickly find you, Justin, and all the other bloggers here out of a hobby, which is precisely why I do not subscribe to it. I do, however, have first-hand knowledge of the questionnaires I referenced in my post.

If you are construing my argument as supportive of baseless corporate procedure then you are misconstruing. Read my post again and correct your own misunderstanding. An employee who cannot or will not follow instructions is useless and counterproductive to the organization. I'm shocked that anyone would even try to argue that point.

Posted by: Dan at April 30, 2011 11:34 AM


If you think not going to college equates to not being able to "follow instructions", then that is what you should have written, and skipped the part about "solving problems independently of the way your company wants them solved" being itself a problem. That you cannot see how denigrating "solving problems independently of the way your company wants them solved" connects to being "supportive of baseless corporate procedure" shows that you have very little formal or empirical understanding of how businesses work.

And when you don't understand something, you cannot just say "I'll just make something up" and expect to make a meaningful contribution.

Posted by: Andrew at April 30, 2011 2:02 PM

"If you think not going to college equates to not being able to "follow instructions", then that is what you should have written"

I *don't* think that, Andrew, and I have stated that numerous times. Stop with the mischaracterizations.

"And when you don't understand something, you cannot just say "I'll just make something up" and expect to make a meaningful contribution."

Then why are you comfortable constantly "inferring" things (i.e. making them up) from otherwise simple and unobjectionable statements I have made? If you want to play Sigmund Freud so badly, start with analyzing why you have a hissy fit anytime anyone mentions the value of traditional education and other qualifications. My personal guess is that you have inferiority issues so deep BP would have trouble reaching them. It certainly has no rational basis in anything I've said in this thread.

Posted by: Dan at April 30, 2011 2:40 PM

You started with reasons why employers should favor individuals who go to college, you ended with...

An employee who cannot or will not follow instructions is useless and counterproductive to the organization. I'm shocked that anyone would even try to argue that point.
I'll admit the stuff in between doesn't make a lot of sense, so maybe I am wrong in trying to find any coherence in your comments.

Posted by: Andrew at April 30, 2011 2:51 PM

Right you are again, Warden. We do have a communication failure. I should have said "I'll now forever view those without the sheepskin as “statistically more likely to be some brand of slacker, imbecile, or rebel”." Your words exactly, not mine.

Nice move introducing Cool Hand Luke the criminal into the conversation, especially after accusing me of possessing a poisonous mentality. Throw in some terms like absenteeism, insubordination, waste, theft, and gross incompetence and then tell me how that left hook wasn't intended for my jaw.

What is a shovel used for? Why, of course, it's used for digging a hole. I'm sure you know a shovel is used for digging holes. And a college degree or being experienced in the actual use of one isn’t necessary to know this fact. So, yes we can learn without experience. But what's often overlooked by the inexperienced is that same shovel is used to do the exact opposite of it's obvious use. That would be when the digging stops and the back filling begins using the same implement. And I'll wager you whatever you want that the guy with the experience using the tool will work it much better than the guy who only read the directions.

Posted by: swamper at May 1, 2011 9:30 AM

did any of you more qualified applicants actually apply for a job with the state of RI and get turned down? if so, you have a good basis for a lawsuit. do any of you hold positions with the state at a lower salary? if so, you have a good basis for a lawsuit. did any of you apply for the scholarship that Mr. Ianizzi received, to have it awarded to him instead? again, lawsuit. this gravy train will not end until it is forced to end. force the issue. please.

Posted by: John Q. at May 2, 2011 11:01 AM

Well lets see...I'm a college educated explosives specialist (Bomb Technician) in state law enforcement and I make less than half of what this kid makes as a coffee and sandwich runner. Makes me so proud ......

Posted by: Tom at May 9, 2011 5:01 PM
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