By GLENN KOENEN
Want to make $40 an hour talking on the phone for the State of Missouri?
Well, that’s possible…if you work for Maximus, a Virginia-based firm specializing in “Helping government serve the people.”
This pesky pandemic keeps beating the crap out of Missouri. The state – starting with His Accidency and his Bow-Tied henchman – won’t launch a serious attack on COVID 19. Missouri’s “leadership” refuses to mandate masks, enforce social distancing, require isolation or take other statewide steps to contain the virus.
True, a virus knows no mercy. A perfect predator, it exists just to reproduce, not capable of caring who it hurts.
Now, very late in the game, Missouri realizes it needs to do much, much more “contact tracing.” That means having affable folks call infected people and talk with them about where they’ve been and who they’ve recently been around. The data from these calls helps experts localize flare-ups of the virus and concentrate testing towards those known to be at risk.
By the way, this is nothing new. Tracing contacts to isolate sexually transmitted diseases has been around for decades. Asking about COVID is probably easier than asking about, well, let’s call them intimate but casual friends.
WHY NOT HIRE MISSOURIANS?
Back to Maximus…
As their slogan explains, they do all sorts of stuff for governments – local, state and federal. They’ve been active in Missouri for several years, especially sniffing about the Department of Social Services.
They get paid well for their work, with their leader Bruce Caswell collecting $4,975,750 a year (www.salary.com). So, Maximus getting a big emergency contract from Missouri (one of nine) for contact tracing shouldn’t be a surprise.
Nor is it a surprise that Missouri will let people in other states get $40 an hour for a job a lot of our unemployed neighbors would do for $15 or $20 an hour.
LESS PAY NOW
Remember, again this fiscal year, Missouri couldn’t afford to give raises to (our own) state employees.
Thanks to higher deductions for family plan health insurance, some workers take home less now than they did a few years back. The GOP in Jefferson City seems to take a perverse pride in Missouri having the lowest-paid state workers in the nation.
Yet, when faced with a problem, that same majority party thinks nothing of outsourcing work for Missouri to well-paid – and well connected – out-of-state companies.
To cite another example, the Parson regime turned to McKinsey & Company for suggestions on how to control Medicaid costs. The resulting report didn’t excite anyone except the accounting department of McKinsey.
And, of course, it is just a coincidence that Missouri’s Chief Operating Officer, Drew Erdmann, used to work for McKinsey.
That COO job pretty much handles the day-to-day stuff governors used to do in Missouri.
Perhaps we need to outsource Mike Parson too.
(Glenn Koenen is the retired executive director, Circle of Concern; member of the Jobs with Justice Workers Rights Board; member, Empower Missouri Board of Directors and chairs their Hunger Taskforce.)