On Monday morning, Zwerdling explores the burgeoning phenomenon of contracting out government services and functions. Amazingly, he puts the privatization of government in a historical context. He notes that some contracting out of government services has always occurred in the US, but "you could say the modern era of contracting began on Jan. 20, 1981, when President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office...Reagan said one of the best ways to solve this problem was to turn over government jobs to private industry. Then, a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, embraced the same strategy....and, actually....did even more to contract out work than Reagan....[and] made it easier for companies to get government contracts without competing. And then came President Bush, who said 'big government is not the answer' and shattered all the previous records for contracting out."
Zwerdling considers the assumptions that underlie privatizing government ("Businesses often know better than government how to do things right — and cheaper.") and then goes to the GAO (nonpartisan agency) for the facts about how so many contracts are completely unsupervised and accountable to no one.
Today, was just as pointed. Zwerdling lays out the vast array of critical government services that are now contracted out, and then he does something amazing - points out the threat that such privatization poses for a democratic society: "federal workers, at least, have to swear an oath to defend the Constitution, just like soldiers do. Not contractors." As a Congressionally appointed oversight commissioner tells Zwerdling, "These contractors, they're not under the normal democratic accountability at all....Contractors are motivated by the dollar."
Zwerdling manages again to go back in time to evoke the warnings of Eisenhower regarding the military industrial complex, and connects it growth to the extensive growth of private contracting.
Imagine if all news reports on NPR had the basic features of this series - I could stop writing this Godforsaken blog! But I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Listening to Zwerdling's reports was refreshing, but ultimately sad for how it stands out as the exception to the usual practice of NPR's news.
(BTW, the graphic is me...of course)