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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Right Wing mantras Part I: The Private Sector is more Efficient than Government

I have been back from Spain for a week and a half. Because of all of the social progress that I saw there I seem to have a better ear for the political exchanges taking place here in America, both in print and on TV and radio. Certain things from the Right come out as screeches, like a nun running her fingernails on a blackboard. I have talked about this many times before but the Right has a series of mantras that they have all been repeating so often and for so long that to offer an opposing view is looked upon as naïve. One of these mantras is that we must privatize our economy because the private sector is more efficient than the government.

I guess no one has bothered to tell these people about the horrible failures in the private sector over the past few years. Even when a government project fails miserably, at least the spoils are spread over a lot of constituents. In the wake of the Enron, World.com, Tyco, and Adelphi failures only a handful of people made out with the loot. Even in their failure these companies furthered the poor distribution of income in the United States of America.

British Rail was privatized under the Tory government. At the time it was one of the world’s best rail networks. After a decade of private ownership it is now the worst railroad in Europe. Spain’s railroad is nationalized—like most of Europe—and it has gone from being one of the worst systems to one of the better ones on the continent.

John Evans, CEO of the Bellevue-based software firm, Solutions IQ, wants less government involvement in health care. “Less government in the health care system promises efficiency and reduced costs.” HUH? What the hell are you talking about, John? Once again he is just chanting his mantra and not opening his eyes. Have you ever actually looked at a hospital bill from a private U.S. hospital? I wouldn’t advise it unless you are pretty healthy. I can’t imagine any other sector of our economy that is as expensive, inefficient, and bloated as our health care industry.

Spain has national health care written into their constitution and I don’t think you could get them to abandon their system short of an armed invasion. I think we Americans would drop our current system in about two seconds if anyone proposed any reasonable alternative--every American except the people making fortunes from the current mess

I worked for the big bad government. I was in the Air Force and I worked hard, studied hard, and did my job. Are you telling me that a private institution could have done my job cheaper and more efficiently? I don’t think so. I know plenty of government workers who are highly motivated and efficient. I think we get our money's worth from the public sector. Are there inefficiencies? Sure there are but there is nothing like the graft going on in so many of the NYSE and NASDAQ publicly held companies. Not many government workers fly first class on the government dime.

For industries where we cannot allow failure such as defense, education, and social security ( I would also say health care) then we cannot allow these industries to be privatized. With privatization comes risks and failure is among those risks. You can’t have it both ways.

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