Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Third Consequence of Smaller Government

The consequence of the beat up on government that began with Reagan, continued with Clinton ("the era of big government is over") and was taken to new heights under George Bush has had one central consequence: the outsourcing and privatizing of essential aspects of our civil society.

We all are aware of the outsourcing of our military. This article in Vanity Fair, which I wrote about last month, outlined how Indiana and Texas were privatizing the running our of roads, and now the New York Times Magazine cover story today, Can You Count on Voting Machines, states:
"In essence, elections now face a similiar outsourcing issue to that seen in the Iraq War, where the government has ceded so many core military responsibilities to firms like Halliburton and Blackwater that Washington can no longer fire the contractor."
Chantal, a friend since I was 9, picked me up at the airport yesterday. Despite a long delayed trip and the concomitant flare up of my illness, I could not stop smiling. As we waited for my luggage, I handed her the New York Times folded open to Embracing His Moment, Obama Preaches Hope in New Hampshire. She humored me, but after reading it still seemed defeated. I asked her why. She shrugged her shoulders and said she didn't believe her vote counted, was counted.

We were in Florida. And in 2004 she didn’t get a receipt for her vote, had no proof and waited 4 hours in line to vote.

I blame Bill Clinton's legacy - "big" was a euphemism for bad. He bought into and extended the Republican's government bashing and reduction. As a result, private companies now conduct our wars, maintain our roads, run our elections. So what? Private is more efficient - isn't it? Capitalism ensures the best succeeds.

Well so far as I can discern, private instead of public means -
  • higher costs to taxpayers (no bid contracts, higher maintenance costs, impaired - if any - oversight by the Government Accounting Office),
  • less quality (rape, killings, machines and printers that don't work)
  • less accountability(trade secrets, Prince can't testify before Congress because he's not accountable to them, but to his stockholders)
  • fewer options
  • and low morale (voters in FL, soldiers making so much less than Blackwater employees).
We need a rhetorical genius to recast the paradigm. Go Obama.

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