A headline story in today's (August 13)New York Times, "Dell Accused of Concealing Evidence in PC Suit", (click here=eta1), was a dot that I connected to an entirely different, but nonetheless highly related, other dot: In the face of such abundant evidence that private-for-profit enterprise has the capacity, if not the pervasive penchant, for grievous incompetence and gross mal- and misfeasance, how is it that, Republican voters primarily, remain so intractably wed to such unwarranted conclusions concerning the private enterprise and government models?
What's the word I'm looking for, to describe what's going on with these voters?
The story is that Dell computers sold and shipped thousands of PCs the company knew were defective, then, when sued over the issue, concealed evidence -- a felony, by the way -- it had been court ordered to turn over to those bringing the suit that tended to demonstrate it was aware of the defects at the time of shipping.
Okay, that's just Dell, and its just one example . . . hmm? How about, not so fast all you conservative devotees to the philosophy that private enterprise is somehow a sacrosanct god to be worshiped and government is the villain to be always and forever vilified. Shrunk to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub? Where does that visceral loathing of government come from?
First, the evidence that government is not always the enemy is manifest, regardless it is conveniently ignored by those on the right. From coast to coast, every day,governments at every level are functioning well, efficiently and rendering valuable service, often life-saving service. Police and fire departments respond to calls for assistance. Overburdened social workers pull defenseless children from horribly abusive environments. Building inspectors insist on the inclusion of standards that prevent devastating calamitous collapses decades in the future. Health inspectors demand of restaurants the cleanup of a circumstance that would, if not corrected, lead to e-coli breakouts, and the severe illness and possible deaths of patrons.
Are there errors? Do some government employees fail to make the mark? Is everyone where you work, and the department and company you work in and for a stunning example of perfection achieved? Perfection is an admirable target to aim at, but it will never be achieved. The laws of physics, principles involving friction that make absolute efficiency unobtainable, will not be repealed.
A precautionary note: Before you knee-jerk ponder lecturing me, understand that my entire adult life following my three years in military service and university studies was spent as a business-for-self, E. Tubbs & Assoc., entrepreneur . . . do not go there! The points I raise are not to mindless advocacy of government nor mindless advocacy of private enterprise. What I'm attempting is to fathom the blind-spot mindlessness of conservativism's absolutist anti-government orthodoxy, and to locate the most efficacious term to use to describe it.
Whether we look back 100 years of just a few, the evidence is splendidly plentiful how there is nothing whatsoever especially preferential, from either an honest or efficient or effective use of scarce resources perspective, about private industry over government operations; the built-in perils to public health of GM's Corvair and Ford's Pinto and Toyota's lurching gas-pedals, all of which were initially denied by the manufacturers; the all-too-numerous to catalogue here examples of the private coal mining and gas refining companies that led to the wholly avoidable deaths of employees; the numerous deaths and illnesses that have befallen passengers aboard cruise ships that were the consequences of e-coli outbreaks, all of which were initially denied by the cruise ship operators; and it goes on and on and on.
Another example: Rachel Maddow's August 12 segment outlining, with attributable evidence, the apparent -- at best described as a conflict of interest -- between Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, and the private, for-profit Arizona prisons, and the passage and her signing of the now notorious SB-1070 anti-illegal immigrant bill.
It just so happens that Arizona, more than any other state, has made great strides on behalf of privatizing its prison system, and that the largest beneficiary has been the nation's largest private-for-profit prison corporation, CCA, or Corrections Corp of America. The link between CCA and the governor's office include Chuck Coughlin, a lobbyist for CCA , and a political advisor to the governor, and Paul Senseman, an ex-lobbyist for CCA, whose wife remains a lobbyist and works as a high official in the governor's office.
CCA presently holds the federal contract for handling detainees. Any detainees picked up by Arizona officials, and that are suspected of being illegal entrants,are turned over to ICE (Immigration andCustoms Enforcement), and ICE then turns those individuals over to CCA. It is not a taut stretch to see where any increase in federal detainees would prove a corporate boon to CCA, and the wheel goes "round and "round and "round.
Not by necessity an indictment of the private enterprise effort, but at the proposition that the private industry model is perforce superior to the government model. To discern the weakness of and how obviously specious is the conservative argument, one need only consider the July 3 case of the escape of the three convicted murderers from the CCA prison in Kingman, and a four-year history of misfeasance and incompetence at private industry prisons in Arizona and elsewhere. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/
And sure, who among us cannot dredge up horror tales, dealing with perhaps some letter the postal service lost, or waging some fight with DMV or perhaps building inspectors . . . after waiting in an interminable line? In the same breath, however, how many have not suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous mistreatment, trying to pioneer on through an insurance company maze, or a credit card telephone menu, or being stranded in a cell-phone carrier's desert of forsaken calls?
Or . . . much, much worse than mere aggravating inconvenience? In the face of prescribed insistence by her oncologists, an insurance company denied to my 23-year-old niece treatments the physicians claimed might save her life. She died in 1993. Perhaps the expensive pharmacology would have saved her life. Perhaps not. Who knows? What is certain is that a private-for-profit insurance company, and not her trained cancer physicians made the call, and an insurance company was saved the payment of a $50,000 tab. You tell me: your devotion to the conservative credo, if it was your child. I've other, additional, personal, horrific anecdotes, dealing with inept, private industry bureaucracies. But none that reach the one just reported.
Once again, this is not an indictment of the profit-driven, private industry model. I was an intimate part of it for more than three decades. Rather, it is a solicitation for some descriptive word to apply to those who can look at the rubble that that system has repeatedly strewn about the American landscape, and yet, not only demand less government scrutiny of practices that produce it, insist that that is the model that ought to prevail over nearly every aspect of American life.
British Petroleum is only the most recent example of the damages the public suffers and the costs the American taxpayer bears for private industry mishaps. The taxpayer pays, and pays, and pays, every time a worker is thrown out of work as a consequence of private industry design or ineptitude. So . . . why the presumption the model is somehow by necessity, in every instance, that which ought to prevail? And what should we call those who are blind to the all too obvious evidence there is no validity to the presumption?