June 27, 2011

The Value of a Dream Job

Justin Katz

An agreement appears to be near completion that would prevent the layoffs of 75 Providence police officers, but Friday's human interest story in the Providence Journal — highlighting young officers' sense of their "dream jobs" — touches on broader considerations pertaining to public-sector workers:

By March, [Sean Lafferty and Matthew McGloin] were named Officers of the Month for their numerous arrests, which contributed to a 50-percent drop in drug-related calls in the West End.

"We love coming to work. We know in our hearts that what we're doing is good. We're proud to be here," Lafferty said. "We don't want to leave."

Added McGloin: "This is our dream."

How bizarre is a system that places such men in the first wave of layoffs? And how much more productive would the police force be if they set a bar with which other officers felt at least some tangible incentive to compete? As with much else in the public sector, the rules appear designed to force the administrators and the public to make the worst decisions if ever they seek to rein in expenses.

Another point worth salvaging from the article is that jobs can have value beyond their pay:

[Donald] Castigliego had given up a well-paying job in the mortgage industry for this, spending months in the academy at minimum wage before hitting the streets as a rookie officer. "Other than my son, it's probably the proudest thing in my life," he said.

The layoffs have left him heartbroken, Castigliego says.

"I think people should realize — and I speak for my class — there's 25 guys who didn't take that job for a paycheck. They all gave up a lot to take this job," Castigliego said. "And every single one of those guys loves this job, and is here for the right reasons. We're not just a number."

Just because a job is fulfilling doesn't mean it shouldn't pay well, but the fact that people want a job is clearly an aspect of compensation. What's happened over the past half-century is that public-sector unions have taken advantage of the fact that they can appeal to voters, not to mention apply political weight to elect friendly bosses, so as to skew all such calculations. A fulfilling job that pays very well, with great benefits and uncommon job security, is not just a dream, it's a fantasy.

As reluctant as we may justifiably be to push back the expectations of motivated and well-meaning young men and women, there is no alternative, because the perpetuation of such a system cannot but come at the expense of others' dreams.

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Oh please, don't make me laugh telling me how much you "gave up" to become a police officer. These people are self-delusional. Like any of us really believe they turned down their dream job oiling up super models for 200k a year to "do the right thing" by becoming a cop, writing revenue-generating 36mph traffic tickets and arresting crackheads. Most likely, that other career never really existed at all or there is something seriously wrong with it that isn't being mentioned that got them thinking about other career paths - like having no job stability or having to work 80 hours a week with no overtime. Even if these factors were absent, foregone opportunities are simply a part of life and we don't deserve a medal for the career choices we make, regardless of financial compensation. The "mortgage industry"? What does that even mean for somebody on the high school/college degree level? Being a police officer isn't some low-paying, undesirable job in Providence either. The end-game is $110k+ with incredible benefits and likely retirement between 50-60 on bogus disability. Besides all the undeserved hero-worship, the perks of the job are incredible - no more speeding tickets for the rest of your life, for one thing.

Posted by: Dan at June 27, 2011 8:13 AM

Public Worker Supremacism is definitely the official religion of the progressive movement.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at June 27, 2011 8:37 AM

Nice company you're keeping Justin.

Posted by: michael at June 27, 2011 9:02 AM

michael, is that true that PFD has higher staffing levels than PPD? How many PFD members are on duty at a time compared to their PPD counterparts?

Maybe being a police officer was this guy's dream. That's great. I just went to my kid's kindergarten graduation and about half the boys said they wanted to be police officers when they grew up. Maybe this guy was one of them. Good for him. As for the "mortgage industry" job, yeah, I know people in the mortgage industry and they'd take a police officer's salary right now in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Patrick at June 27, 2011 9:37 AM

The PFD has 92 firefighters per shift. That will go down to 90 next week. That includes Rescues, Lieutenants, Captains and two Battalion chiefs. More times than not all six rescues are on calls, and half the fire apparatus as well. It's a busy department. I have no idea how many police are on shift, there are a lot of different units, the gang task force, detectives, patrolmen, undercover, traffic, mounted patrol etc. It's a mystery.

I don't understand the comparison between mortgage industry pay and police pay. A few years ago mortgage people were making a killing, police and fire people didn't complain, or compare salaries. A few years from now mortgage people will be making a killing, and police and fire will be making what they always do, right around where people of similar training and risk do.

Everybody (almost) wants to be a cop or firefighter when they are kids. Good for them. Pay and benefits are the furthest thing from a kids mind. The job itself is honorable, and kids who are not jaded yet strive for that. Adults who are not jaded do so as well.

Posted by: michael at June 27, 2011 10:42 AM

Simply more proof of the absence of ANY intellectual argument for public-employee unions.
Any arguments FOR them are factually incorrect and/or emotional diatribes void of any logic.
The faster we get rid of them the better off we'll be.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at June 27, 2011 10:42 AM

If the above comment is an argument FOR intellectual arguments then I am firmly AGAINST them.

Posted by: michael at June 27, 2011 10:58 AM

Like I said, void of logic. You're always there to prove my point.

There are reasons union membership is down dramatically in the private sector. Overpaying people will never be an economically viable strategy. While the unions bemoan the lack of good jobs, they only need look at themselves for cooking their goose. Mounting a tire on a car was never worth $80 an hour. They forced companies to look oversees to perform the required functions in an economically viable manner. I know you think that was the first option for all these companies, but they much rather would have those functions performed here.
Government is slow to catch on to this, but you can bet your life they will. Don't tell me you can't see the trend right here in your little world in Providence. Between the massive layoffs or concessions the gig is up.
Do you not see this michael? Not just here in Providence, or RI, but all around the country. Providence today is General Motors 10 years ago. One unrelenting fact is that people do not want to overpay for shoddy work. Government is always slow to catch on, but eventually even they are left with no choice. Public-sector unions will also now decline for the same reasons as the private unions did.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at June 27, 2011 12:11 PM


These guys are something, don't you think? Like you said, nice company!!

Posted by: Tom Kenney at June 28, 2011 11:58 AM

Actually, Michael should explain what he meant by his first comment here. The article has no reference to people with whom Justin would be "keeping company", unless Michael means the idealistic young officers who are being screwed by the union's seniority system.

So, Michael, what did you mean by that?

Posted by: BobN at June 28, 2011 1:24 PM

I meant Dan's complete lack of respect for police officers, and Tommy Cranston's continuing belittling of public workers. This blog is better than that, Justin's writing is worth much more than fodder for quasi-intellectuals with a mean streak and time on their hands to belittle the people and institutions that the contributors here write about, at times sarcastically but most times in an attempt to expose corruption and waste in a constructive manner. Unfortunately, a unanimous forum is an easy place for weak people to express their opinions with no regard for civilized discussion. Writing is by no means communicating, it is pontificating, and the Dan's, Tommy Cranston's and Mike Cappelli's, and a few others who have faded away refuse to use this blog in a constructive manner.

I reserve my commentary to matters that directly affect me, and attempt to shed some truth and inside information on what goes on in a union, and what motivates union members hoping to slow down and eventually stop the war between the middle class that is being fueled by misinformation, emotion and rumor, and leave it at that.

This blog was better than what it has become.

Posted by: michael at June 28, 2011 2:25 PM

Michael, what makes you think Justin's purpose in this blog, or in the post that spawned this thread, is to provide a soapbox for people you don't like?

What I took from Justin's post is that the tyranny of the union system has terrible human consequences for both highly motivated, outstanding police officers and the citizens they serve, while protecting underperformers, malingerers, and sometimes even criminals on the force. In its way, the unionized police system is equally dysfunctional as the unionized public education system. And that the union has no qualms about using those junior officers as pawns in their negotiating strategy.

Posted by: BobN at June 28, 2011 4:04 PM

Exactly my point. Providing a soapbox for malcontents was never the intention. Like it or not you become associated with the company you keep.

What you or I got from the post is irrelevant to my comment. Throwing pearls before swine is what came to mind when I read Dan's comment.

Posted by: michael at June 28, 2011 4:23 PM

So are you recommending that Justin ban Dan? Would you ban Tom Kenney in return, for balance?

Posted by: BobN at June 28, 2011 4:35 PM

Actually, if I were Justin I would forget this blog and put my talent to better use. The more effort he expends here, the less chance he has of writing something that will make some money. Trust me, I know, I do the same thing on my blog. But Justin is a far better writer than me, and has unlimited potential if he got away from the deadwood that is "Anchor Sinking."

Posted by: michael at June 28, 2011 4:40 PM

Well, if I could buy the Projo I'd put the entire AR staff at the top of the editorial policy committee, with Andrew in charge of the Smith Hill beat.

I don't know the statistics, but I believe that the readership of AR is much wider than the small band of political junkies who regularly comment in it. Meanwhile, Justin and the team are providing a valuable service as the most important conservative voice without which Rhode Island would be a completely Leftist-dominated political and cultural wasteland.

Posted by: BobN at June 28, 2011 5:17 PM

Agreed, especially about Andrew.

Posted by: michael at June 28, 2011 6:28 PM

Michael's idea of "civilized" behavior is popping into a thread, calling out multiple commenters by name on their "ignorance," and accusing them of being "malcontents" and "quasi-intellectuals with a mean streak."

Michael, if you are such a model contributor to this blog, how come you are always the first to make it personal and start dishing out the insults? Are you so deluded that you think accusing people of ignorance without addressing their arguments is somehow noble or helpful? Look at what you've become in the name of "defending" your union. A spiteful person with an entrenched above-it-all mentality and no intellectual curiosity.

I've explained to you many times why I disagree with the economics of public employee unions. I've even asked for your opinion on right-to-work laws. Your response was that I'm an ignoramus and you're above responding to me. You're kidding yourself if you think you're on some higher level. Your typical evasive one or two-line responses with sophomoric digs embedded in them are the very impediments of which you speak. All of my attempts at real conversation with you have been met with scorn and contempt - never an honest answer to my questions and concerns.

Get off your high horse and be the change you want to see. Until then you're just another holier-than-thou hypocrite and your ankle-biting, substance-less retorts will continue to mar these discussions. If I were half as offended by your posts as you are of mine, the first thing I would ask myself is why they bothered me so deeply. Consider: a tall man isn't offended by someone calling him short.

Posted by: Dan at June 28, 2011 6:59 PM


Why would you want to ban me?? Because I'm one of the few here that are pro-labor and believe in the union system because... 1) It has provided many valuable worker protections and advances...and 2) I don't trust politicians (regarding public sector unions) to keep their word or to not allow "politics" be involved in hiring/firing and promotional decissions.

Also, the PPD are NOT using their junior officers as pawns in their negotiating strategy. The CITY put these officer's jobs at stake and have attempted to use them as pawns to get he FOP to buckle under. If the FOP turns down the offer, those officers will be hired back via attrition. IF they turn down the offer they will be doing so for the good of "ALL" of the officers on the force...at least in the minds of the majority of the officers.

I don't know what's going to happen at the FOP hall but I do know that their members are not guilty ofwhat you accuse them.

Posted by: Tom Kenney at June 30, 2011 4:18 PM

I don't want to ban you, Tom. But since Michael wants to ban a conservative for no good reason, I wanted to point out how ridiculous that was by offering a fair trade.

The union members may not be using the junior officers as pawns, but the union bosses are and you'll not convince me otherwise.

Posted by: BobN at July 1, 2011 10:09 AM
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