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TeachersWhen politicians talk about “running government like a business,” for many of us (even skeptics) it conjures up vague images  of hard-nosed accountants demanding results and issuing edicts to do away with no bid contracts and wasteful outlays for  travel and fancy meals. A new report from the top-flight journalists at Pro Publica, however, paints a much clearer portrait of what the future actually holds in the regard: temp workers — lots and lots of temp workers.

This is from the report, “A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame‘”:

“Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike.

But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. Temporary workers make a daily migration on buses to this area, just as farmworkers did for every harvest in the 1960s. Temp workers today face many similar conditions in how they get hired, how they live and what they can afford to eat. Adjusted for inflation, many of today’s temp workers earn roughly the same amount as those farmworkers did 50 years ago.

Across the country, farms full of migrant workers have been replaced with warehouses full of temp workers, as American consumers depend more on foreign products, online shopping and just-in-time delivery. It is a story that begins at the ports of Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., follows the railroads to Chicago and ends at your neighborhood box store, or your doorstep.

The temp industry now employs 2.8 million workers – the highest number and highest proportion of the American workforce in history. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, temp work has grown nine times faster than private-sector employment as a whole. Overall, nearly one-sixth of the total job growth since the recession ended has been in the temp sector.”

And, of course, if  a phenomenon like this is good enough for the “free market,” it’s gotta’ be a “must” for the brave new world of conservative-run government like the one North Carolinians are currently enduring. Any more questions about why state leaders are so anxious to, effectively, turn thousands upon thousands of public school teachers into temps?  That’s right: they want to “run government like a business.”

As you have probably read in many news outlets at this point, Gov McCrory has taken the somewhat surprising step of bestowing significant pay raises on his cabinet secretaries – as large as $13,200.  While some are complaining about the fiscal impact of the decision in such tough economic times, it seems that the more apt criticism involves the message it sends to the large mass of North Carolina workers (both public and private) who, if they’ve even been able to keep a job at all, have been eking by on flat salaries for years that average far, far less than what the cabinet secretaries make.

Moreover, McCrory’s statement in defense of his action — “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments,” simply doesn’t wash. Any North Carolinian who can’t “live” in Raleigh on $121,807 per year — the salaries of the outgoing secretaries in the Perdue administration — has some serious issues that bespeak a significant  disconnect from the lives lived by their fellow citizens. This seems especially true for the people in question — all of whom appear to come from comfortable upper middle class and upper class existences already.

The bottom line: This is another surprisingly tin-eared step for a new Guv who has spent so much time talking about the tough economic times that grip our state.