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Buying Patriotism

Tom Friedman’s Wednesday NYT column on government contractors was once again right on the money. The US government no longer performs the functions that it is charged with and used to do itself, such as fighting wars and negotiating with other countries. It now contracts those and other essential functions out to private business. Of course the main impetus is to avoid re instituting the draft to maintain armed force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, but secondarily is the Republican (and Democratic) impetus to give money to their campaign contributors.

To me, this represents a failure to support the American government. The government should perform essential functions such as war fighting and diplomacy. The Republicans claim that they love America but hate the government. They go back to Reagan’s old claim that government is not the solution, it’s the problem. I think that’s wrong. In many cases government is not only the solution, it’s the only solution. Private sector contractors are not subject to the same constraints that government employees are. Republicans like this because it means that they can resort to nepotism and other forms of favoritism. Democrats, too; look at John Murtha. But I think that if you dislike or hate the US government, you dislike or hate the United States. The government is the country, particularly when you’re talking about the military or diplomacy.
As a former soldier and diplomat, I take strong exception to the Republican rejection of government. Granted, government may need a lot of reform, but it should be improved, not destroyed.
Kudos to Tom Friedman for pointing out the failures of government outsourcing and contracting. One of the ironic things is that the government is actually outsourcing a lot of functions to foreigners. It’s doing what it criticizes American business for doing: taking American domestic jobs and outsourcing them to foreigners, such as the foreign mercenaries who do a lot of guard duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, in many cases working for American paymasters like Blackwater (or whatever their new name is), who just take the Congressional appropriation and pass it on to the foreigners who work for them, scraping a good chunk off the top for the Blackwater executives. Even when they employ Americans, they tend to take the cream of the crop of Army and Marine veterans by paying them much more than the government can afford to pay them as servicemen. It’s a mess, created by people who are destroying America for their personal profit.

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