Beware of Privatization of Government Services
In response to today’s editorial, “Privatization caution,” I submitted the following letter to the Lawrence Journal World:
A move is under way to privatize government services and jobs in Kansas. The so-called Reason Foundation (heavily funded by the Koch Billionaires of Wichita) is pushing this irrational idea. In pushing their wacky form of right-wing libertarianism, the Koch oil magnates and other far-right billionaires will claim that their purpose is economy and efficiency in government. Don’t fall for this.
Privatization has historically cost taxpayers more than services provided by government employees and has essentially lined the pockets of executives and investors. If you don’t believe this, just consider the costs of outsourced defense/war functions. Logistics and food services provided by KBR are far more expensive than when these services are provided by the military. One small example: The Army Times reported on their website on Nov. 1, 2009, that Pentagon auditors are attempting to deal with KBR’s “disjointed processes” and “weak accounting practices.”
While troop levels are dropping off in Iraq, KBR’s level of employment has remained at the January 2008 level (17,000 employees). During my service in the Marine Corps in the 1960s, I paid the same dues as every other Marine had paid up to that time. I served on mess duty. Cooking and other food services were provided by sergeants, corporals, and privates. You can bet that this was done far cheaper than it would have been done by KBR.
Consider Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans). According to the Center for Medicare Services, the federal government pays private insurance companies on average 14 percent more for providing coverage to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries than it pays for the same services to beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare program (20 percent more in some parts of the country).
Examples of these types of rip-offs of taxpayers abound. The right-wing, anti-government libertarianism promoted by the Kochs has, as its primary objective, the destruction of government programs. Furthermore, the main result of privatization is transfer of wealth from the bulk of U.S. taxpayers to the top 5 percent of wealth and income classes.
Legislators are being irresponsible when they hand your government, and in effect your taxes, over to the likes of Halliburton, Cigna Insurance, and the Correction Corporation of America. One Republican legislator was quoted in the Journal World on Nov. 30 as telling the Reason Foundation representative, “You had me at hello.” This is a mindless bending to the will of a powerful private interest with selfish motives that are contrary to the best interests of the people of Kansas.