Thumbing thru my dictionary of political bull#@$% terms, I came across two very important words; downsizing & outsourcing. The first one you don’t hear that much anymore. The later has become a buzzword of sorts that has meanings both positive and negative in today’s fluctuating stagnant rebounding and dam near dead economy. Putting them together however, gives rise to a whole new conversation we all should be having right now regarding our government.
Going hand in hand with the cry of no new taxes, the practice of outsourcing governmental business has become the acceptable way to decrease the physical size of government, while at the same time expanding it. A bureaucratic game of” Three Card Monty” so to speak, right before our very eyes. And most Americans are completely oblivious to how it works.
In her book, “One Nation under Contract” Allison Stanger enlightens us to the fact that there are the same amounts of civilian employees in government today as there were in 1963. How is that possible? Given the fact that the 1963 federal budget was $111.3 billion and now is over 3 trillion dollars! How indeed? Recent budget arguments and threats to shut down the government, and the newest clamoring to raise the debt ceiling are all tied directly to how our government out sources its duties and responsibilities. The government is running on fewer employees, but not fewer people! To get a hold on how this all came about; we need to do a quick review of business 101 of twenty years ago.
“Do more with less” was the corporate cry of the nineties. Get rid of unions and costly other involvements with unions that effect the quarterly statement and remove those long term pension funds from the picture and you immediately improve the bottom line. As many of you may well remember, no one got in a real huff when company after company laid off hundreds of workers and union after union lost its pension funding. As corporateAmericadownsized, those very laid off employees went out and started their own companies that did the work of the very companies they were laid off from. It was the age of the entrepreneur! What was the saying of the day, a “win -win for everyone?” As CEO bonus checks went skyrocketing a model was formed and those inWashingtonwere taking notes.
Downsizing the federal government thru attrition and staff reductions was the first step, but the programs themselves, were seldom cut back. As the federal government got smaller it seemed the demand for government programs continued to grow. Wars came along, and the need for support services mushroomed. Thus to keep government smaller in the words of campaign rhetoric and the eyes of the public, the practice of outsourcing began in earnest. While one might like to blame either the Republicans or the Democrats for the massive contracts being paid out, in reality both parties were just as guilty. Call it a real half truth to tell the American people government is getting smaller, while at the same time, contracting out everything to outside companies that the government used to do on its own. A slight of hand with budgets makes it all look pretty economical, until you actually try to balance a budget!
Every President from Reagan on has been an active participant in hiring outside firms to do the work formerly done by paid government employees. That in itself might not be a bad problem, had there been a strong enough federal government to monitor those hired to do the work. Apparently that has never been the case. The idea that companies who know what they are doing can mange themselves is a myth. We have paid deeply as a result and yet no one inWashingtonhas fully gotten a grip on that.
(more to come)