Thursday, August 26, 2010

You don't always get what you pay for by Elliott D. Sclar

TequilaKid’s comment:

This is one hell of a good book. It is a serious study of privatisation that analyses specific cases. The outcome is the diametrical opposite of the pie-in-the-sky horse-pucky that is regularly disseminated by pro-system pimps like John Stossel, who has a regular column on Town Hall by means of which he entertains, confuses and stultifies the populace. As a matter of fact in one of his scribbles he promises $1,000 to anyone who can point to a case in which the government does a better job than private biz. I immediately took him up on it, citing a well documented case in which US bridges (practically all government-owned) were deemed better maintained than the electrical power grid (all privately owned). I never got a reply, which shows you what a hypocritical dirt-bag John Stossel is.

The following review is by the book's publisher (I think):

Today, nearly all public services--schools, hospitals, prisons, fire departments, sanitation--are considered fair game for privatization. Proponents of privatization argue that private firms will respond to competitive market pressures and provide better service at lower cost. While this assertion has caused much controversy, the debate between both sides has consisted mainly of impassioned defenses of entrenched positions.
In You Don't Always Get What You Pay For, Elliott D. Sclar offers a balanced look at the pitfalls and promises of public sector privatization in the United States. By describing the underlying economic dynamics of how public agencies and private organizations actually work together, he provides a rigorous analysis of the assumptions behind the case for privatization.
The competitive-market model may seem appealing, but Sclar warns that it does not address the complex reality of contracting for government services. Using specific examples, such as mail service and urban transportation, he shows that ironically privatization does not shrink government--the broader goal of many of its own champions. He also demonstrates that there is more to consider in providing public services than trying to achieve efficiency; there are issues of equity and access that cannot be ignored.
Sclar believes that public officials and voters will soon realize the limitations of "contracting out" just as private corporations have come to understand the drawbacks of outsourcing. After examining the effectiveness of alternatives to privatization, he offers suggestions for improving public sector performance--advice he hopes will be heeded before it is too late.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Total zombie

PALADIN OF FREEDOM - Life of Ronald Reagan - Chapter 43: DABBLING IN GENOCIDE

In 1982 President Reagan received a worrisome report from the CIA describing Guatemalan army operations in rural Guatemala: "When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed." When the army encountered an empty village, it was "assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the bush with no homes to return to. …the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP [so] the army can be expected to give no quarter..."

In March 1982, the situation grew even more dramatic when General Efrain Rios Montt seized power in a coup d'état. He soon began a new scorched-earth campaign and secretly gave orders to expand death squad operations. The U.S. embassy promptly heard new reports about the army massacring Indians.

In view of the alarming situation in Guatemala, on Jan. 7, 1983, Reagan lifted the ban on military aid to Guatemala and authorized the sale of $6 million in military hardware. Approval covered spare parts for UH-1H helicopters and A-37 aircraft used in counterinsurgency operations.

State Department spokesman John Hughes said political violence in the cities had "declined dramatically" and that rural conditions had improved too. The following month a secret CIA cable reported a rise in "suspect right-wing violence" with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies.

    Ronald Reagan with the genocidal Evangelical   
   Protestant tyrant of Guatemala Efraín  Ríos Montt 

Source: History of Guatemala's Death Squads, by Robert Parry,, 1/11/05


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good ole US of A!

In order to avoid being blacklisted by Irving Horowitz as an America-hater, I have decided once a year to publish a list of economic things that the US does better than Europe. And there are several of them. Offhand I can think of two.

NUMBAH ONE. Despite American bankers´ notoriously criminal instincts, I must confess that the US beats Europe hands down when it comes to issuing credit cards and the like. In the US it´s easy to get a credit card. Banks in all the European countries I have enquired about issue credit cards only to people who either own real estate, have a large bank balance or are relatives of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. That is an inestimable advantage for denizens of this fair republic.

By the same token, in France at least, you can only buy or rent a dwelling if you have a full-time steady job. This pig-headedness of European bankers and real estate agents is the source of much woe to Europe´s youth. Neoliberal labor policies (for the sake of labor market “flexibility”, of course) have reduced the ranks of steady job-holders while increasing the numbers of temps and people working on short-term contracts. However the banks and real estate agents apparently didn't get the memo because they continue to demand compliance with draconian evidence of stability. Consequently many young French earn their own living but are barred from renting an apartment because their jobs are too precarious to warrant signing a lease with them, and they are forced to live with their parents into early middle age.

NUMBAH TWO. The US of A is the only country in the entire universe where you can get a 30-year mortgage. Apparently that's big deal, although I don't know exactly WHY it is such a marvelous arrangement. In any case it is universally regarded as cause for exultation.

And we owe it all to that peculiarly ingenious American institution known as the New Deal. Yes, boys and girls, President Franklin Roosevelt made it possible -- for the first time since the Precambrian epoch – to get a 30-year mortgage, thanks to the federal government's meddling with the economy.