April 29, 2010; Source: Newark Star Ledger | Sometimes when public officials speak you need a translation to understand what they mean. The new comptroller of New Jersey, appointed by Governor Chris Christie, is upset. The state used $17.7 million in federal stimulus moneys to create summer jobs for youth. So what’s the problem? Apparently the jobs were in government agencies and (horror!) nonprofit organizations. Can you imagine? Job experiences in the nonprofit sector? First the comptroller said that the jobs should have been in the private sector, where they would have contributed to economic progress, rather than simply giving local government some summer help.
Then, on second thought, the comptroller had to admit that the summer youth expenditures were within program guidelines and standards, but he thinks the kids would have gotten a lot more from the private sector: “If those people are working at a public recreation department, as opposed to a nationwide pharmacy chain, you’re going to get a different level of experience. The idea was for the program to be much more than a source of wages for three months,” he said.
Working as recreation counselors, landscapers, and office workers isn’t as good as a job as a clerk at CVS or Walgreens? Come again? Oh, the governor’s personal spokesperson later clarified that the summer program was really political patronage, giving jobs to kids who had connections with the government—probably because the big cities of New Jersey are all governed by Democrats, while Christie is a Republican. The major headline, though, is a Republican governor’s staff calling nonprofit jobs somehow not as productive or educational as working as a clerk or stacker at a pharmacy chain.—Rick Cohen