Not Enough Bureaucrats

There’s a new article in the Washington Monthly making the point that we need federal bureaucrats to manage spending, including spending on private contractors, and that understaffing the government — which we’re doing already, and will do more of if the right gets its way — actually increases the deficit. I agree. And with perfect timing, we have a new report finding that tens of billions have been wasted on undersupervised contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What’s happened in American political discourse is that constant repetition has drilled in the message that government officials are always engaged in pointless activity, and that private is always better — even if you’re hiring private contractors to do government work, which means that there’s no market competition. None of this is true. Federal offices, in my experience, are quite thinly staffed and overstretched, despite having very real jobs to do. And the experience with outsourcing to contractors has been mixed to bad across the board.
The thing is, any private corporation would have no trouble understanding the argument that you need more auditing, more supervision, to keep costs under control. But when it comes to government, the myth of the useless bureaucrat persists. Of course, that’s the way the contractors like it.

No comments: