Editorial: Nice work if you can get it

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 08:35 PM

It’s hard to know which to be more envious of, being 24 years old and making enough money to support two average North Carolina families, or being 24 and receiving a pay raise of $23,000 after only about three months on the job.

Fortunately, we can be envious of both at the same time — and we can do it twice.

News came Thursday that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services gave raises of $22,500 and $23,000 in April to a couple of — to borrow a phrase from an earlier generation — punk kids barely old enough to wipe their own noses.

Matthew McKillip, just promoted to a position titled “chief policy adviser,” now makes $87,500 a year. Ricky Diaz, the department’s communications director, now makes $85,000.

The typical North Carolina household — a description that includes some homes with two working parents — gets by on $44,000 a year, but most get by with less.

But maybe these kids really have earned their money. Let’s examine the record.

McKillip is now chief policy adviser. In the two years since graduating from Georgetown with an English degree, this is what McKillip has done to warrant being named the tippy top adviser on policies involving health and human services: For 11 months he was a “research assistant” (that likely means clerk, reporter and go-fer) at a conservative think tank in Washington, and then he spent even less time than that working for then-candidate Pat McCrory’s run for governor and for McCrory’s transition team.

As for Diaz, he graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in economics. With that, he went on to … work for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and then for McCrory’s campaign for governor. Diaz’s title, “communications director,” often goes to someone with a background in public relations, journalism or, preferably, both because it usually involves issuing press releases and handling media inquiries, among other things, and handling media inquiries ideally means you have been around long enough to know not only what question you are being asked but what the reporter really is looking for — and what horrible fallout will result from a rash or ill-considered response. Avoiding rash or ill-considered remarks is not a common trait among 24-year-olds. But maybe Diaz is a savant, with an innate feel for the nuance of language and human interaction.

Right.

This is what it takes, apparently: As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know. And who these guys know, which got them raises of 35 percent in a matter of months, is the governor.

Let this be a lesson to this state’s teachers: If you want a pay raise, don’t go back to school to get a master’s degree, just sign on to the governor’s re-election campaign.