Monday, March 26, 2007

Congress to Surrender in Iraq

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday by a margin of 218-212 for funding of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but which also includes the provision for the withdrawal of all combat troops by September 1, 2008 at the latest. It now appears the Senate will pass a similar bill with the goal of removing troops by March 31, 2008, but without making it a requirement. A compromise bill between the House and Senate could result in a set "surrender" date for the President to veto, as he has promised to do. Unfortunately, the Pentagon has estimated it will run out of funding for the wars by next month without the $100 billion in emergency funds.

The House bill may have been a political victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority, but certainly it will amount to nothing in the long term because a two-thirds majority vote to override a Presidential veto is highly unlikely in the closely divided Congress. A new funding bill will ultimately be passed minus any set dates for troop withdrawal, and the war in Iraq will continue to its inevitable Vietnam-like conclusion.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Privatized Bureaucracy

Controversy surrounding neglect at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. sheds new light on outsourcing government work to private contractors. The sheer amount of paper work required to use the facilities would irritate a completely health person, let alone a severely wounded or impaired soldier. A common complaint about "Big Government" is that their is too much red tape or paper work, creating the system that makes up the federal bureaucracy. What most people fail to realize is that large corporations have their own internal bureaucracy that is often just as cumbersome and irritating to deal with as a government bureaucracy.

So why is it conservatives in particular prefer the "efficiency" of the free market system to solve problems rather than relying on government institutions? It seems they forget private contractors which win the bids for outsourced government work can be just as inefficient and ineffective in dealing with the task at hand. We have seen evidence of this again and again over the last 6 years, including Iraq reconstruction, building a 9/11 memorial, cleaning up New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the Abu Ghraib prison, and now the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In each of these cases, at least some of the work involved was outsourced to private contractors by the government to the lowest bidder often with little to no competition, and usually to the largest corporation in a particular field. The results speak for themselves. How many more of these scandals involving private contractors doing outsourced government work are there going to be before people realize that corporate bureaucracy is no better than government red tape? At least there is oversight over the government bureaucracy which lies at the feet of Congress. Unfortunately, there is no real parallel in terms of oversight in the corporate world.