A line in a recent New York Times article on the sequester caught my attention. The gist of it was that the short term economic pain of the sequester could be made up for by long term benefits for business. This got me to thinking. Is the Republican zeal for the sequester and cutting government, a cover up for privatizing government services? WIll many services performed by government workers go to businesses?
Federal regulations regarding food and environmental safety will still be in existence so inspections will have to be done to comply with them. If there are significantly less government inspectors, then businesses will have to hire their own. The privatization of a government service. This presents a number of problems. First is an inherent conflict of interest, why would inspector bit the hand that feeds him. Second, this increased cost of doing business would eventually be passed onto consumers. Finally, private business will see these services through a cost/benefit perspective and how they will effect the corporate bottom line. Not having to worry about the profit motive, government workers are more concerned about doing the most thorough work possible to comply with regulations.
Now, not all government duties can be directly transferred to private business, but many can and not necessarily to the benefit of the public. One need not look far back to remember the demand for federalization of airport security after private firms failed at the job. It is also important to note that studies have shown that private workers doing the same job cost nearly twice as much as government workers.
However there are many business interests already lined up to reap the benefits of reduced government. Could helping them reap long term benefits be a motivation for reducing government? This may include the Defense Department, less civilian workers could mean more business opportunities. However, some of the cuts are to contracts and there has been talk of increasing oversight to root out waste, fraud and abuse. Without the government workers on the job, much of this talk may be hyperbole, further helping business and hurting the American people.
Government performs many vital services that are part of everyday life in this country. Take government workers away and someone will have to pick up the slack. For those that believe government is too big and limiting on business, making this substitution might make perfect sense. There is already a lot of contracting in government and the part Republicans least like to cut, Defense, is the prime area for it. Many contracts are perfectly legitimate and needed, however a number are not and are subject to fraud and abuse. Any privatization of a government service needs to be subject to a cost/benefit analysis of how they will help the American people, not the corporate bottom line. We cannot allow government privatization to be end game for those that want make the massive cuts in government spending.