Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Beauty of the Free Market

In this interesting article in the New York Times we find out, among other things:

  • fewer than half of all government contracts are open to competitive bidding
  • Lockheed Martin gets more government money than the Departments of Justice or Energy
  • contracted projects have less oversight than intra-governmental projects
  • contractors are now hired to analyze government contracts(possible Kafka/Kaufman collaboration about a worker hired to analyze his own contract)?
If you look at the graph they provide, you can see that as contracts nearly doubled in cost the number that are open to competitive bidding has gone down almost 50%. What that basically means is that under Bush lots of new money has been given to corporations but no new value has been added due to free market interaction.

The article makes particular note of contractors hired to analyze government contracts that may have involved fraud or or other misconduct. The company they hired had itself been considered for contract suspension in the past. The employees of this company earn $104/hr , a bit more than your average federal worker. This leads us to the necessary question, is this really a good deal for our country? And more importantly, where do I sign up for temp jobs like those?

This does make sense if you think about it. The corporations may have a more efficient workforce because it's easier for them to hire and fire people, but they also have an added incentive to screw the government out of money. Maybe the government is less efficient, but the government is going to be involved in these projects in some way no matter what because they are funded by tax revenues. Is a government/corporate project more efficient than a purely government project?

I've been thinking of this subject recently regarding my own interaction with government workers and bureaucracy. I can't honestly say that I feel better in private hands than with government workers. Try calling a big cell phone company or bank with a complaint or problem with your account. There's a good chance that your call will take longer than a trip to the DMV and result in less personal satisfaction. And at least the DMV isn't trying to sell you anything.

I'll end with this Truman quote from the Times article, “I have never yet found a contractor who, if not watched, would not leave the government holding the bag.”

15 comments:

Little Earl said...

I can hear Morrissey now: "Contractors of the weu-uu-ld/ Eunite and take eeuuu-vvaahh".

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Little Earl said...

Put it back! Come on, don't be shy.

ninquelote said...

Y-man, I feel where you are coming from in questioning whether private or government companies are better, but do you have to bring Bush (or any other Rep.) into everything? The dude's in the middle of a sort-of-war, however pointless; of course he's going to give the big contracts to companies who give him or his buddies contributions. He is a politician, you know. That's what he does.
Anyway, to the meat of the matter. You bring up two questions in your second paragraph, the second of which I fully agree with because I would really like a cushy, $104/hr job. The first question, however, is a little more complicated I think. Government by design is meant to inefficient because it just loves to regulate things and they don't need to make money. Corporations, no matter how evil, are by design more efficient 'cause they are in it for the money. So you have one side that doesn't care about money and another side that only cares about money. Neither of those sounds like it is good for the country to me.
I will have to agree that I haven't had the greatest experiences with huge corporations, namely insurance companies, but that doesn't make me suddenly want the government to take them over and start issuing universal health care.
Your second question goes to something that I have always suspected about the average American. Everybody hates the rich until they become one.
By the way, I'm always satisfied when I leave the DMV. It's the time I spend in there that makes me want to stab people in the face.

ninquelote said...

I'm not shy, I just hit 'Publish' instead of 'Preview', halfway through. I can't make a half comment.

yoggoth said...

Yes corporations like efficiency because it gives them bigger profits. But in this case the coorporations actually won't make any more money if they are efficient. The government is going to pay them either way. They actually have an incentive to be LESS efficient to screw the government out of money and to stay on the payroll.

This is the problem with outsourcing government jobs without opening it to competitive bidding.

About George Bush--He's own people made the mistakes that got him in the situation he's in. He billed himself as a conservative but the size of government under his presidency has grown. Other than the initial response to 9/11 in Afghanistan it seems like his entire term has been a complete failure from a liberal OR a conservative position.

ninquelote said...

Competitive bidding doesn't make things any better because, like the corporations that you are talking about here, they way under bid a project and then go way over budget because they know they can. Essentially, the government is just looking for more people to snuggle with under their blanket of never ending money. In competitive bidding, companies will risk going out of business just to get a government contract because it is so lucrative if they get it. You mention Lockheed Martin, for example. They get more government contracts because they have no competition in the US anymore. Boeing basically went under for the most part trying to design a new military fighter for the army. That contract would have guaranteed them warm meals for the next 50 years at least. LM got it instead.
As for Bush, Y-man, you really have a way of zeroing in on a statement that no one can really disagree with. But Bush's failure as a president hasn't single handedly made corporations less efficient.
Love and Kisses

Little Earl said...

1) "Everybody hates the rich until they become one."

Sorry to be obnoxious, but from the Buddhist perspective, it's best not to use the hypothetical shortcomings of other people as an excuse not to behave morally yourself. If you think everyone has the right to a little money, that's one thing. But to say, "Well nobody else cares, so why should I?" almost makes you more complicit in the potential injustice. (But I am guilty of this kind of crap all the time, probably.)

2) "I will have to agree that I haven't had the greatest experiences with huge corporations, namely insurance companies, but that doesn't make me suddenly want the government to take them over and start issuing universal health care."

I don't know very much about the issue myself, but all I know is that most European countries think we're nuts. Whenever I talk to people from Germany, England, France - wherever - they ask me "Why wouldn't you want universal health care? Isn't that the one thing you'd actually want your government to do? Take care of you?"

3) Bush is smelly

ninquelote said...

LE,
Universal health care only sounds good because everybody would supposedly be provided with health care, and it would be relatively cheap. The problem is that that health care would be shitty. Countries with Universal Health Care are among worst in terms of quality of care and wait times for a specialist. That MRI that I had a couple of weeks ago, for which I only had to wait about three weeks for, in Canada would have been at least four months. And then to get the results back, it would have been a year before they could have really told me anything concrete about it.
But I think we are getting a little off topic.
By the way, not everybody thinks in your Buddhist perspective. That may be why they are so immoral all the time.

yoggoth said...

I don't hate the rich, I just don't respect them. They have the same failings as everyone else, they just have more of an opporunity to change things if they wanted to. But they don't.

My general point concerning government contracts is this: Bush and the republican party bill themselves as conservatives in the sense that they will limit government spending. From a traditional conservative standpoint, the republican government of the past 6 years has been a failure.

Unless you are a fundementalist christian who believes that everyone in the country should be forced to obey fundementalist christian rules, there is little reason to vote for a republican presidential candidate. They will spend the same ammount of money as the democrats.

Little Earl said...

Re: universal health care

Imagine if you were a poor person and think about how ridiculous your argument would sound. "Well, we can't give you guys health care, even though you probably need it more than we do, because, you see, it wouldn't be very efficient, and middle-class people would have to wait a lot longer for stuff, etc." For poor people, universal health care would mean the difference between health care and no health care, plain and simple. And frankly I care more about the poor people than the rich people who would be inconvenienced. I know it's more complicated than that, but when conservatives say, "Universal health care can't work because it would be inefficient," it just sounds to me like they're coming up with an excuse not to try. Maybe it would be inefficient and maybe it wouldn't be, but the least we can do is keep entertaining the idea, at least in principle.

Little Earl said...

(Hold on, I'm not done.) That's why the argument "Everybody hates the rich until they become one" is obnoxious. It's just a quick way of saying, "Everybody's a selfish jerk, so I'm gonna be a selfish jerk too." Here's what I think: 90% of people are probably selfish jerks. 10% are probably not. The Buddhist perspective, though, is not to focus on what "everybody else" is doing, but to focus on what you yourself are doing. Stop playing the blame game, and just "be the change that you wish to see in the world." And since Buddhism sort of says that compassion toward others and personal enlightenment go hand in hand, then working to help others is also the way to work toward your own personal happiness. Bottom line: Who cares if 90% of people are jerks? Be that other 10% and reap your own rewards.

ninquelote said...

I never said anything about health care being less efficient. There are other factors involved here. As with any socialist system, there is very little incentive to work harder than absolutely necessary. Health care as a medical practice would suffer. People with the sniffles would flood emergency rooms. Wait times would be so long because it would take that long to even get in to see a specialist, and the facilities to even run important test would be few and far between, so the waiting list for those would be a mile long. You can't just have the argument that "I care about the poor." Wah, Wah. I'm fucking poor, and I think that Universal Health Care is a big waste of time, even to think about it just on principal.

Little Earl said...

Well, until I hear someone who's ACTUALLY poor say they think universal health care is a big waste of time, then maybe I'll be convinced. And again I'm no expert, but somehow Canada and all those European countries seem like they still manage to have working hospitals without huge overcrowded lines and third-rate medicine and people dying and whatnot. If anything, it sounds like Americans are the ones with the worst health problems (particuarly obesity, for some reason). If you're convinced that universal health car is a bad idea because it's not the most morally effective and compassionate option, then that's a perfectly fine stance to take. But usually it just seems like people who reject the idea are just being soulless pricks. But, you know, soulless pricks that I can dig.

Yoggoth, any thoughts?

ninquelote said...

I can't believe you just called me rich. I live with my grandmother.