Someone much wiser than me once described the Palestinians as a people “who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” I’ve stolen the line many a time, but never once claimed it as my own.
Likewise, the Boston Globe can be described as “never missing an opportunity to miss the point.” Even when they are praising a good idea, they have to go out of the way to demonstrate that it’s merely by happenstance, and they are still, at their core, utterly and staunchly and militantly wrong.
For example, there’s a cost-cutting measure being tried in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts. Snow removal is a big expense for New England communities, and in nearly every one of them the municipality simply lacks the resources to manage snowfall. So they contract with private plow owners to step in, paying them for their services as they clear the streets of the oh-so-photogenic but dangerous Irrefutable Evidence Of Global Warmening.
But those plowers don’t cheerfully volunteer their services for the common good. No, they’re good old capitalists, and want to be paid for their labor and expenses. They’re still cheaper than having the community buy its own plows and trucks and hire drivers, but it’s still a hefty hunk of change — and it’s hard to know just how much they’ll cost when annual budgets are set. Long-term weather prediction is still more art than science.
Well, someone in Quincy got one of those “let’s change the fundamental assumptions” ideas when it came to snow removal. Traditionally, the plowers are paid by the hour — the city tells ’em when to report for duty, then tells them when they can knock off. If the storm is delayed or shorter than expected, they get their money anyway for showing up and standing ready.
In Quincy, though, they’re trying something new. They’re paying the plow operators per inch of snowfall. If it’s a dusting, they get minimal. If it’s a colossal dump of white stuff, they make out like bandits. In brief, they don’t get paid for their time, but for their efforts.
Is it a good idea? I dunno. My gut says no. The city has relatively little bargaining leverage with the plow operators. They’re not bound to the city; they can readily say no and go shop their services to a neighboring community. And should enough of them say no, the city’s well and truly screwed next storm. And as “it took five days to get my street plowed!” is something that voters tend to remember come election day, it’s an area where elected officials are rather vulnerable.
But I say go for it. It’s an experiment that could save the city a lot of money. And if it doesn’t work out, then they can undo it with little long-term harm. It’s innovative thinking, and that sort of thing in the field of spending less public money should be encouraged.
But back to the Globe. They, too, support the measure. But this is the Globe — there has to be a chewy candy treat of sheer wrong-headedness at the core. There has to be something so mind-bogglingly wrong that is beyond the abilities of a moron, but could only be conceived of someone of exceptional intelligence and education. Where is it?
Ah, here it is.
On the surface, the system makes a lot of sense: pay contractors for
performance, not the time spent idling in their trucks in anticipation
of a storm’s start time. Beneath the surface, it makes a lot of sense,
too. People are fed up with the escalating costs of municipal
government, driven by the high costs of pensions and health care for
Because people are fed up with city employees and their incredibly generous pensions and health care (and salaries) paid for out of the people’s pockets, we’re going to give less money to non-employees who don’t get pensions, benefits, or even salaries.
It’s like a bad 50’s sitcom. The husband is upset at the wife spending too much money on shoes, so she economizes by canceling his country club membership. It just doesn’t work that way.
So hats off to the government of Quincy. Succeed or fail, you’re trying. You’re taking a chance. And that’s worth encouraging.
And to the Boston Globe… why the hell can’t you ever seem to get it? Is there some kind of pill you take that makes you impervious to common sense and reality?
And can I get some? I promise, I’ll only take it moderately, on weekends. I could use a break from reality every now and then. I swear I won’t be like you and make it a permanent vacation.