Some criticisms sound meaningful but are really fairly trivial (the incompetence dodge, Dick Cheney’s shriveled, black soul) while others cut a bit deeper. This falls in the second group.
Government auditors said yesterday that the Pentagon relies too much on contractors who often work alongside their government counterparts, cost more and sometimes take on responsibilities they are not supposed to.
The Government Accountability Office said that as the government’s workforce has shrunk, its demand for services has mushroomed and procurement deals have become more complex and hard to manage. That has forced agencies to hire more contractors. Last year, the Defense Department spent $158.3 billion on services — a 76 percent increase over the past decade, and more than what it spends on supplies, equipment and major weapons systems, according to the report.
The Bush years haven’t been kind to olde-timey conservative principles like small, limited government that respects individual freedom or skepticism about casually using force abroad, but the modern GOP hasn’t forgotten all of its roots. The notion of privatizing government functions and eliminating tax revenue have more than persisted, they have become the apotheosis of Republican government, the absolute rigid ideological framework from which no deviation can be tolerated. It is hard to imagine a recent instance when Republican leaders have not taken the most maximalist possible approach to handing over important functions to allies in the private sector.
And yet in almost every case that doctrine has proven a failure. Pick your topic – charter schools, FEMA, The State Department. How about those White House email records? Privatizing Social Security was an absolutely capital idea – imagine the universal happiness if part of the SS portfolio was invested in Wall Street today! Nominating lobbyists to manage departments that regulate their own industry counts as a kind of privatization, and that has proved a disaster.
Sad as that is, the Republican dogma is doing great at home compared with the beating that it’s taking in Iraq. Iraqis hate American troops or they don’t, but they detest the private firms that cowboy around pointing their guns without any meaningful oversight. At least troops who massacre civilians face some nominal consequences through military justice; mercs who shoot up a neighborhood walk without any reckoning at all. That drives Iraqis insane, it adds popular support to people who kill Americans and it makes troops’ lives harder.
[O]f 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million.
[…] The United States often promotes the number of rebuilding projects, like power plants and hospitals, that have been completed in Iraq, citing them as signs of progress in a nation otherwise fraught with violence and political stalemate. But closer examination by the inspector general’s office, headed by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., has found that a number of individual projects are crumbling, abandoned or otherwise inoperative only months after the United States declared that they had been successfully completed.
When it comes to new construction our contracted help can’t serve their own country any better than they do for the Iraqis. he massive, self-contained embassy complex meant to overlook Baghdad like a shadow government (almost eerily like one) has degenerated into an overdue money pit, unsafe to inhabit and built at least in part with slave labor. Having shown little respect for Iraqis or the Americans it won’t shock to find out that the firms routinely screw their employees out of retirement and health care, or else just rape them.
The doctrine of reflexively privatizing every imaginable service and then skimping on oversight is not some incidental point, it’s the only aspect of Bush Republicanism that is still recognizably conservative. There are few ideas closer to the core of their being, and it’s a fraud.