Wednesday, December 21, 2005

merry christmas, white house style

while we all get ready to visit family or friends this season, let's remember the displaced - who, apparently, are just too poor to have their homes rebuilt.

the rich, however, are totally deserving.

this administration sucks, you know?


john patrick said...

Quick! Somebody make the claim that this has nothing to do with race!

Seriously, who is surprised at this point?

ding said...

"but, of course, it has nothing to do with race. it has to do with credit. if you have bad credit why should you be able to get a loan? you should have had better credit. not everything is about race, you know."

jesus chick said...

odd that you should mention the katrina thing. i was just reading about a bill (which may or not pass with an attached grant):
"The grants give the states considerable flexibility on how to use them. Mississippi officials have said they plan to use the grants to bail out homeowners who didn’t purchase flood insurance because the government didn’t force them to buy it. That would mean homeowners could receive up to $150,000 for repairing or replacing their flood-ruined homes despite not having flood insurance." (MSNBC)

and i am pretty sure that this isn't the first administration that totally sucks. they're all crooks and they pretty much all suck. yeah. pretty much. sad isn't it?

ding said...

wellll, yes and no. yes, there has always been a certain level of politicking that goes on with each administration. but i don't think there's been any administration that's been so blatantly pro-rich and pro-privatization of almost everything. has there?

i mean, i'm trying to think of a single instance when the public good has been considered outside of the context of the WonT (which is an outlier event) and i can't think of a single one.

jesus chick said...

okay - tell me again all the evils of privatization.

ding said...

privatization isn't evil, but it's not the panacea that everyone thinks it is.

the main thrust behind privatization is the assumption that the private sector can deliver goods and services in a much more efficient and cost-effective way (thus sidestepping the clunky inefficiencies of state-run programs) while also making a profit. it's supposed to be an ideal example of market competition forcing a previously stagnant or dysfunctional organization to thrive in a new arena.

but is that really what happens? we assume that market forces compel best practices because of competition. but best practices for whom? for the client or for the profit margin? it seems to me that standard business practice now is to deliver the least that you can at the lowest cost.

(think wal mart. rather than lifting thier industry and making it better, for the client, they've repressed actual competition and have actually dragged down industry standards.)

in a private sector model who has accountability? how are services measured now that the service has been privatized? think about what's happened when transportation, military services, education, welfare, hospitals, or the forest service has gone private. or what's forecasted for social security!

when you build a public service on a business model cost effectiveness becomes the bottom line rather than service delivery. (this isn't to say that social services and entrepreneurial spirit can't thrive. Fast Company, a management magazine, holds an annual competition to identify the best social capital programs in the country - they deliver necessary high end services to the public and do it with a perfectly sound and sustainable business plan. but these are rare programs that get everything right. if everyone adopted their kind of strict standards, we'd all be better off.)

the difference between these social capitalists and what normally happens in privatization is focus. social capital programs' main focus is on the public good, the client, the front end; privatization as it's practiced in this country seems to be focused on the back end of operations, and i don't necessarily think that's to the advantage of the client/public. that's just the way it looks to me.

(wow. this was long. sorry!)

Wasp Jerky said...

"and i am pretty sure that this isn't the first administration that totally sucks. they're all crooks and they pretty much all suck. yeah. pretty much. sad isn't it?"

Yes, but that doesn't excuse this administration for what it is doing/has done. Just because most politicians are corrupt doesn't mean we shouldn't be holding people accountable, or that we should brush it off with a "they all do it." These guys work for us. If they can't do the job correctly, we need to fire them, put them in prison, and find someone better.

jesus chick said...

yes, of course,wj, you are correct. i guess i was wondering if anyone on this blog ever said "this administration sucks, you know?" about the administration before this one.

ding said...

i didn't have a blog back then but i'm pretty sure i said it sucked when clinton signed that wack-ass welfare reform bill.

and when he caved and scratched lani guinier from his SCOTUS list.

on the other hand, my quality of life was much better then so i didn't have a lot to complain about.

jesus chick said...

i suppose you know who to attribute this quote to:
"the nine most terrifying words in the english language are: i'm from the government and i'm here to help"
just a little humor. . . .

ding said...

true, but i'm just as distrustful of some corporation or private enterprise knocking on my door saying, 'hey, we really want to help the poor and unfortunate.'

yeah, cuz capitalism is all about the poor and unfortunate...

i'll take my chances with the government. at least, i would if they didn't make me think they were in bed with the corporations... it's a conundrum.

greg said...

Private industry is about profit. So when considering privatization you have to ask yourself "Is it a problem if the primary motive of the organization providing these goods or services is profit." Take for example cars. On obvious problem is that if an automaker can increase sales by scrimping on non-obvious features, like crash survivability, then there might be a race to the bottom in auto safety. Most nations (including our own - but I think that China is an exception right now - a real "workers paradise") remedy this problem by passing government regulations establishing minimum crash safety requirements. So in this case, a problem with privatization can be remedied with a certain amount of government regulation, and everything is good.

Now take the case of police protection. Is it a problem if the police are motivated primarily by profit? And what would a "free market" and "competition" look like for police services? What happens when people motivated primarily by profit are empowered to arrest and imprison people? To kill people?

Health care is another excellent example. A successful free market requires consumers to behave "rationally". Unfortunately, when it comes to matters of life and death (especially their own) people are generally not rational. How many people, when told that an operation will cost $XXX, respond with "well, my life's not worth that much, so I'll pass"? As a result, the US health care system provides a somewhat lower level of health care than is available in most other industrailized countries, and it does this at approximately twice the price that is paid in most other industrialized countries. Oh, and about 20% of the people in this country get no health care at all, compared to 100% coverage in most other countries. Basically, we have a system which takes advantage of the irrationality of consumers to generate spectacular profits. Even looking at a more restricted picture, Congress has at least once in recent years moved to transfer some Medicaid functions to private insurance (HMO)companies. In the one case that I know about, the result was a lower level of care at a higher price. In response to this, Republicans in Congress are trying to expand the program.

Take the case of old-age insurance. A typical corporation offering annuities will have expenses of 1-2% of the funds that they control. Social Security, by contrast, has administrative expenses of just 0.6% of the funds dispersed (in 2004. Furthermore, the ability of Social Security to pay benefits does not depend directly on markets; it depends only on the ability of the government to collect taxes. This makes it far more secure than any private annuity. (And forget the whole "investment" thing. If you want to invest, invest - that's not what Social Security is for. It is insurance, plain and simple).

So, there is nothing wrong with private enterprise - it is the best method known for providing a wide range of goods and services. But is is not the best method known for providing all goods and services. Many conservatives take as an article of faith that private corporations are always more efficient than government agencies, but the actual facts (from SSA, Medicaid, etc.) show exactly the opposite. Ignoring these facts because of faith results in irrational behaviour, at least from an economic perspective. Too bad for those of us who have to live and pay taxes under the current administration.

ding said...

thanks, greg, for being a LOT more clear about privatization than i was.

this is what i don't get; every day, a good number of us go to work in these private companies. i used to work for a big 5 firm and at my last job, we consulted for several Fortune 500 companies. every day we see decisions being made that straddle the line between stupid and horrific. every day we participate in the latest corporate bullshit and most of us hate it. the only people who don't hate it are the people who profit from it. what does that tell us about private enterprise?

and THIS is what we want to build our social model on? we SEE it! we WORK in it! and we HATE it! what's wrong with us that we can just accept this?