It’s frustrating to listen to the Disciples of the Sacred Profit Margin discuss privatizing public services. They see dollar signs. I see crumbling infrastructure. Shortly after that bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, a Libertarian friend actually had the nerve to say that the bridge collapsed because government can’t provide public services. I said bridge building and maintenance cost money and must be funded at a consistent, appropriate level. He said, “Business has to be allowed to conduct business.” Well then. You can step through the looking glass, but I’m not going to join you.
This is very, very simple: pretend you’re in charge of an agency’s budget. Your government agency provides a service, let’s say it’s lining up lawn gnomes in a perfect grid on a city’s public square. Your agency employs four people to keep the all-important gnomes clean, perfectly painted, facing in the correct direction and level. You decide you’re feeling trendy and want to privatize your gnome service. The first thing, after you’ve chosen your private gnome service, will be those four employees, who probably live in your city, will lose their jobs. The gnome service will hire three exploitable people, pay them less and your gnomes will lose their gleaming colors, grid-like pattern and correct orientation when the smaller workforce cannot maintain the same standards as a larger, dedicated staff. At first, your trendy move makes you look like a genius. A few years down the road, when your agency’s funding dries up because those gnomes have become a dangerous embarrassment, you look like an idiot. And you are an idiot.
Now of course, a gnome service is silliness itself, but many if not most government services are provided by the government because our society as a whole struggles with societal problems and our lives depend on that struggle. We must have roads and bridges that do not collapse. We must have hospitals, communications, national defense, emergency services, commerce and support for those among us who need help. This is not optional and mostly not negotiable. You cannot argue that your agency charged with feeding poor children the only regular meals they receive could maybe get by feeding fewer children less nutritious food – because, and I shouldn’t have to say this, that is BARBARIC. Deferring maintenance on bridges and roads doesn’t make you a genius. It makes you shun-worthy. You should be shunned, you agency head, you. So let’s look at our graph above. I’ve never made a graph before and I was surprised I didn’t give up and go for the Crayolas. It’s very simple: privatizing government services is stupid and the road to societal ruin.
You have a budget. You can organize your department, compensate your people appropriately, provide considerate services and set a high standard for those services. Provide those services and you are a hero. When you privatize, part of your budget peels right off the top for someone else’s profit, your workers lose their standard of living and your service deteriorates.
It’s simple. Get it? This person is starting to:
We’ve all been so brainwashed by 30 years of “government is the problem” bullshit that we’ve forgotten that the sole and entire purpose of privatizing government responsibilities is to enrich corporations at the expense of middle-class taxpayers.
It is always cheaper and more effective to pay public employees to do it, and do it right.
No, we didn’t all get brainwashed. We didn’t all forget who was making money and who was losing out. I’m sure you’re surprised at how much damage thirty years of cult behavior has caused, but thank you for joining us in a more real world now.