A monumental shift has quietly and quickly been taking place in the way the public's business is done - and We the People have not even been informed about it, much less been asked to discuss and okay it. Corporations are taking over our government. No longer is it just a matter of big business's lobbyists and campaign donations perverting public policy. Now, politically connected corporations are also seizing day-to-day governmental operations for their own profit.
Since the Carter years, Washington has drifted toward more and more outsourcing of public functions to private contractors, but Bush Incorporated has turned that gradual increase into a fullblown, jet-powered rush to privatization. The shadowy and highly lucrative world of government contracting has boomed under George W, rising 86% since he's been in office and now totaling nearly $400 billion a year. Get this: There are now more people doing federal jobs under corporate contracts than there are people employed directly by the government. In other words, in today's government, corporate servants outnumber civil servants.
Bush likes to claim that he has cut the federal bureaucracy. In fact, he's increased it, but most of the people working in his government wear corporate logos. The New York Times recently reported that contract employees are in practically every agency, not merely doing perfunctory chores, but sitting in on policy sessions and drawing up agency budgets. "Even government's online database for tracking contracts, the Federal Procurement Data System, has been outsourced," says the Times.
This phenomenal change is the product not of managerial rationality, but of nonsensical anti-government ideology. Like the Iraq invasion, which was on the international agenda of the rabid neocons from Day One of Bush's tenure, privatization has long been on the domestic agenda of the laissezfaire ideologues. A January 10, 2001, report from the right-wing Heritage Foundation provided the roadmap. Titled "Taking Charge of Federal Personnel," it showed the Bushites how to storm into office and seize control of every agency. It stressed that they "must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second," that "the whole governmental apparatus must be managed from this perspective," and that they should use "contracting out as a management strategy."
I first encountered populist Jim Hightower's work when I was a law clerk in Texas in 1977-78. I've never understood (short of corporate conspiracy theories) why he didn't win a wider media following--he is sharp and funny, and no less accurate than lots of others (almost all far to his right) who get greater media play. Imagine if he had the nonstop exposure of a Lou Dobbs...although I suppose the fact that he doesn't is part of his point (d'uh).