Saturday, December 28, 2013

HT Improve Service and Cut Costs: Replace Contractors with Government Employees

Did you know that the phrase "good enough for government work" originated as a compliment?

After the Civilian Conservation Corps created by FDR during the Depression literally built this nation's infrastructure - most of which still stands and works today - people saw clearly the comparison with the shoddy work typical of unregulated corporations.

On the rare occasions when private-sector work proved to be durable and reliable, people acknowledged the accomplishment by saying it was "good enough for government work" - in other words, far better than the usual run of crap private companies produced.

Right-wing corporatists spent decades erasing that fact from public minds, repeating ad infinitum the lie that government work was the shoddy stuff while corporations could do nothing wrong.

Now, after forty years of increasing privatization - throwing tax dollars at private contractors for them to provide government services - we have a mountain of proof that for-profit companies are incapable of providing public services with the quality, efficiency and low cost of government employees.

A recent article in Newsweek revealed that federal government pays twice as much for private domestic contractors compared to civil servants. Some on Capitol Hill have been bringing more attention to this glaring statistic, like Democratic senator Claire McCaskill. She chaired a hearing last year exploring the difference in cost between contractors and federal employees. Here's what the senator had to say.

~~~CLAIRE MCCASKILL, U.S. SENATOR (D-MO): We have spent a lot of time in Congress talking about freezing the number of federal employees and freezing the pay of federal employees. There has not been enough talk about freezing the size of the contracting force and freezing the pay of contractors. And frankly, if people understand that we're spending more money on service-related contractors in many agencies than we're spending on federal employees--. 
From Political Animal:
Insane chart from Matt O’Brien detailing the sharp cutbacks in the number of federal employees. We’ve fired more government employees during a depression than in any previous recession. As Matt says, “The greatest trick austerians ever pulled was convincing people that it was stimulus that had failed.”
And Kevin Drum has charts showing that as bad as federal government staffing cuts have been, they are nothing compared to the personnel slaughter in state and local governments.
It was a great trick, and they did it by focusing attention like a laser on the federal government. If you do that, spending and employment don't look too bad. But if you look at the big picture, the modest federal stimulus we enacted never came close to making up for the brutal austerity at the state and local level. It's the same trick conservatives use when they moan about tax rates hitting the rich too hard: They look solely at the federal income tax, which is fairly progressive. But they studiously ignore all the other taxes that make our system look a whole lot flatter.

The plain truth is that stimulus never failed. As Bernanke says, we never really had any serious stimulus. Sure, the little bit we got helped, but if we'd had a Congress that actually cared more about the economy than it did about the next election, we'd be in a whole lot better shape today than we are.

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