Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Good Morning, America..."

"Good morning, America, how are yeh?" No, I didn't wake up this morning to the dulcet tones of Arlo. I wish.

Instead, I woke up to a collage of voices reciting various oaths of office, with one of those big, deep voices that corporate America always chooses as a spokesman talking over the rest and explaining to the thousands upon thousands of contractors in DC that Big Contractor, Inc. could handle all their IT and procurement... and all for the good of Mom, apple pie, and little league baseball.

Heck, my husband and I each work for contractors, as do many of our friends here, and that commercial upset me so much, I didn't manage my usual trick of letting the alarm go off 3 times before even thinking that maybe I should get up. (Not a morning person is a serious understatement with me. Left to my own devices, I have been known to start my workday at noon and eat my dinner at 10:00.)

In fact, once upon a time, long long ago, but not so long ago for people with memories, nor so very far away for people with strong boots, many of the jobs done today by a legion of contractors were done by civil servants. But a number of politicians didn't like this situation. The civil servants tended, as a group, to be far more loyal to their union (which had, after all, gotten them a serious sweetheart deal for benefits) than they were to any particular political party or politician. And, of course, there was that pesky Civil Service Exam, which meant that packing the ranks of the civil service was harder than it looked. And as for firing one who hadn't been caught in actual commission of a felony, well... it wasn't as easy as the politicians thought it should be.

And so in the name of all kinds of things, but mostly claiming it would save the American People money, we contracted out huge swaths of the jobs hitherto done by the civil service. Each agency was encouraged to contract out all kinds of jobs - anything that wasn't "core" to whatever it was that agency was supposed to be going out and doing. So, obviously, we couldn't contract out the jobs done by political appointees, or the really obvious bits - for instance, making the astronauts contractors to NASA would probably not fly; but a lot of the computer guys, maintenance guys, engineers, etc. could be safely spun off and handed to Big Business.

I'm not sure how much money the American People are saving, but I can say that the American People can safely be assumed to have paid, probably indirectly - though sometimes you can't tell, for the ad blitz that has been a feature of life in DC for years now. Certainly, we've helped with funding the huge buildings that line the Beltway, often with rather generic looking corporate logos and jumbles of letter soup on the side. And it has certainly not hurt the bottom line for politicians - they line up sweetheart contracts for their funders, while pretty much the same people keep doing the same jobs.

You don't seriously imagine that when the contract goes from XQY Corp. to YVZ, Inc., that the guy actually hired to, say, sort the mail changes, do you? No, the poor slob goes on working in some federal backroom, but of course, his healthcare benefits change, leave changes, etc. And any time he's built up at XQY is gone, because now he's officially a new hire at YVZ, never mind that he's been doing the same job for 15 years, back from when he was still civil service. Only now, the money that would have gone to his healthcare, retirement, and leave goes to YVZ.

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Blogger Kate said...

That's an aspect of big business I hadn't thought of; thanks for pointing it out.

6/12/2007 4:05 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

I think this post just goes to show what happens when you read Molly Ivins just before bed, and then are awakened by exactly the kind of thing that made her sharpen her pen.

Although I stand by every word. "outsourcing government" has been a serious scam, and it's time and more for the practice to be looked at carefully.

6/12/2007 7:29 PM  

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