Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 15, 2008
POLITICS: De-Privatization

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."

The 63-page document, which exempts the military in time of war or mobilization, urges federal agencies to outsource jobs that are not "inherently governmental" and lays down guidelines for doing so. In the past, this practice has created significant savings - there is no reason, for example, to pay lawn crews and janitorial staffs government-union salaries and pensions, when a private company could do the work for less.

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.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Perhaps you don't hear enough about privatization from the GOP because they are unable to make a case in a succint manner. It should not be a wonky kind of concept, but the proponents are generally wonky (I think of Steve Forbes even though I am not certain that he is an on-record proponent).

To me it's a matter of private industry being more easily able to adjust (yes, fire, layoff etc.) their workforce in response to incompetence or changing business conditions. As the debate over the baggage checkers in airports showed, public unions will not let anyone get fired for incompetence.

I don't expect any help from the left, but I'd like to see Republicans make more of an effort to connect with voters. For goodness sakes, who hasn't changed cell phone carriers, internet providers, insurance underwriters, mechanics, grocery stores ad infnitum for price and service concerns. This good sense exercised by our citizens should not be prohibited in the case of functions paid for by our taxes.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at April 15, 2008 12:32 PM
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