Published on Saturday, November 16, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
In U.S., Government Privatization Is Going Forward
by Seth Sandronsky
Government has many functions. One is to legitimize the class system, the heart of which is the job market. Against this backdrop, the Bush administration recently announced that it is planning to privatize up to 850,000 federal jobs.
Supporters of the plan claim that government privatization is a good deal for the U.S. public. "This is inherent to getting the taxpayers the best deal for their dollars and the best service from the government," said Trent Duffy, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget in a Nov. 14 AP article.
Some union leaders of federal workers bitterly denounced the plan as the administration paying back its corporate paymasters. Such criticism potentially questions the legitimacy of the system. Such legitimacy is an integral part of the political stability (a docile population of loyal consumers, not dissenters) that corporate America wants.
And the timing of the federal jobs public announcement is rich in irony. No doubt some federal employees now facing privatization voted for Republicans in the recent mid-term election. These workers were mobilized to vote against their class interests.
And now? The jobs of some of these same voters are under attack by their political party of choice. The genius of the system lies in its ability to get ordinary people to participate in their own downward mobility.
More details about the federal civilian work force slated for privatization can be found in the Federal Register. "After a 30-day public review period, (President) Bush can impose the new rules without congressional approval," the AP article noted. Thatís four weeks to consider the fates of nearly a million federal workers.
The administrationís plan to make some federal work private comes during a weak job market. In Oct., the U.S. jobless rate was 5.7 percent versus 5.6 percent in Sept. and 5.7 percent in Aug. Joblessness encourages low wages, as the demand for work exceeds the supply, a buyerís market.
The outsourcing of federal jobs to the private sector would encourage employers to take advantage of this trend. Expect lower wages for the outsourced federal jobs. And less job protection than currently exists for federal employees, a great deal for employers.
And the health of the U.S. economy? Well, low wages weaken peopleís buying power. U.S. consumersí purchasing power accounts for two-thirds of the nationís economy.
It is now lurching its way away from a recession that economic experts by and large failed to anticipate. No doubt some of these same experts claim that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector. But where is the proof of this as corporate theft emerges as a driving force of the U.S. economic expansion of last decade?
Meanwhile in the U.S., government privatization of public jobs follows in the footsteps of International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies that have been rammed down the throats of ordinary people in less powerful nations. The Bush administrationís privatization plan is kind of an internal IMF/WB structural adjustment program for the U.S. Everywhere IMF/WB policies have been introduced with government privatization leading the way, great wealth has concentrated in fewer hands as a result of rising poverty.
Prosperity for a few has led to peopleís incomes falling on the African continent, throughout Latin America and in the former Soviet Union. In these parts of the world, the IMF/WB has been bad news for the vast majority. There is scant reason to expect a different social outcome in the U.S. from this wine of privatization being poured into new bottles.
Significantly, the domestic class bias of the Bush administration against workers is becoming clearer. The proposed privatization of nearly a million federal jobs held by civilians is a case in point. Conceivably, this move could potentially weaken the legitimacy of the White House and both houses of Congress, run by Republicans.
No doubt they think that theyíre now large and in charge after the Nov. 5 elections. And absent activism from below, they are. Meanwhile, the class conflict that Republicans are waging against U.S. workers is rolling forward.
Seth Sandronsky is an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org