Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 15, 2008
Leaving aside a pun he had probably spent years waiting to use, David Freddoso has an excellent piece on the complete collapse of opposition to a big-ticket new ship for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ocean-floor-mapping project. NOAA, of course, takes up close to 60% of the budget of the Commerce Department, whose budget I looked at in greater detail here. Freddoso's point is that ocean-mapping is a classic example of a function that should be left to the private sector or, at a minimum, contracted out to private companies rather than performed by more-expensive government employees:
At the beginning of the Bush presidency, the administration enthusiastically embraced and fought for competitive sourcing. Bush’s first budget director, Mitch Daniels, issued a revised version of a Reagan-era OMB Circular to that end. "To ensure that the American people receive maximum value for their tax dollars," it reads, "commercial activities should be subject to the forces of competition."
And Freddoso warns that in the next Presidential Administration, we could see major increases in government employment as the Democrats roll back the progress that has been made on behalf of hard-working taxpayers:
Competitive sourcing is rarely discussed anymore, except when congressional Democrats, at the urging of public-sector unions, attempt to erode gains already made. Both of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates want the government to perform more non-governmental tasks. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) told an enthusiastic crowd of unionists in Nevada last February that she would eliminate half a million private contractors. She promised $8 to $10 billion in savings, failing to account for the far-greater offsetting costs that government would incur.
Use of private contractors isn't necessarily the perfect solution, if the government can't get competitive bids, but even so it is cheaper than adding long-term employees to the government's various obligations. The better solution will generally be to get more tasks out of government entirely. But instead of debating between those two alternatives, the Democrats just want to expand the number of workers dependent on salaries and benefits drawn from taxpayer money. And the GOP, sadly, isn't expending much energy to stop them.