This is about the private sector creating opportunities to run government programs for profit. The classic example is private prisons. As far as I know, it is very logical and legal that the private sector would want to manage prisons. But it certainly is not being done as a public service. The private sector wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think they could make money. But what really throws fuel on the fire is their lobbying skills and unlimited money to get longer sentences for nonviolent crimes. The result is more population in the prison system and, logically, the need for more prisons all-the-while padding the pockets of the already rich. That is not good government at work for the people. Fortunately, privately run prisons are getting some real scrutiny.
But the prison example is only the beginning. A frightening one that could gain traction is taking programs like Medicaid totally private. I don’t think it will happen, but the effort will certainly be made in some way at sometime. Our backstop for now is the same few Senators who have stood up to crazy replacements of the Affordable Care Act. Having Senator John McCain speaking truth to power is a solid plus for sanity, but he needs a couple of others to stand up to the pressure as well. To those who say it is easier when one is seriously ill to take a tough stand, I say this is not the first time Senator McCain has spoken up. At a well-covered campaign event in the 2008 election, he defended President Obama as a decent man and an American citizen.
I know from experience there are appropriate areas of government that can work well with the private sector. The Clinton Administration pushed finding areas that would be win-win. At the National Archives, we put the security force needed out for bids. The key to a win-win is private sector services that are non core functions of the Federal government. For example, we would never have supported putting out for bids the handling and processing of federal records in any way. For that work, we had dedicated, properly trained and motivated professionals handling these valuable assets for the interests of government and the American people.
But the final problem we have with many possible private sector run government functions is that all-too-often the private sector doesn’t even support the core functions of the agency or program being taken over. It isn’t in many cases that they think they can run it better, but that privatization creates an opportunity to shrink government without any real review or assessment of the impacts on citizens. As I’ve said many times, elections do have consequences.