When privatization becomes fascism
Leave it to Team Bush to take a sensible idea — that the private sector can do things government does for less cost and with greater efficiency — and pervert it into a boondoggle favoring the well-connected.
The New York Times reports that spending on federal contracts has nearly doubled since 2000:
Without a public debate or formal policy decision, contractors have become a virtual fourth branch of government. On the rise for decades, spending on federal contracts has soared during the Bush administration, to about $400 billion last year from $207 billion in 2000, fueled by the war in Iraq, domestic security and Hurricane Katrina, but also by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does.
Indeed, contractors have become an integral part of the government apparatus:
Contractors still build ships and satellites, but they also collect income taxes and work up agency budgets, fly pilotless spy aircraft and take the minutes at policy meetings on the war. They sit next to federal employees at nearly every agency; far more people work under contracts than are directly employed by the government. Even the government’s online database for tracking contracts, the Federal Procurement Data System, has been outsourced (and is famously difficult to use).
There was a word used in the previous century to describe this sort of interweaving relationship between a big government and favored big businesses. It’s one of the definitions of fascism — and the explosion of contracts is another manifestation of the American fascist phenomenon described here last year by Dr. Richebächer.
Update: Charles Featherstone has more at LRC. He emphasizes, as the Times article points out, that much of this started with the Clintonistas, and he concludes: “The only way to reduce the costs of government is to reduce government. And the only way to do that is to end the state’s monopoly. On everything.”