Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Privatization Issue & The Governor's Race

Last night while watching Indiana Week in Review, the issue of privatization was raised. The panelists seem convinced that this is a winning issue for the Governor. Only Ann Delaney thought Jill Long Thompson's position challenging privatization was a good idea.

Well, first of all on Indiana Week in Review, you have to discount the Democrat and Republican representative when it comes to political analysis. My trouble with them is that they are too intent on spouting the party line, even when they know better. Nonetheless, the more objective journalists took a swing at the issue and missed. Normally John Ketzenberger has good political analysis, but he characterized the issue of privatization as big government v. small government, a winner for Republicans in conservative Indiana.

Apparently the journalists haven't noticed a backlash against privatization that's been going on in the past few years. I highly doubt that the poll numbers would show Governor Daniels proposal to privatize the lottery being supported by anything close to a majority. Then you add in on the conservatives who otherwise would support the idea, but are worried about the expansion of gambling. Privatization is certainly not a good campaign isssue for the Governor, especially the lottery idea which could upset his core conservative supporters.

I was a big proponent of privatization in 1990s and still am today. But I think we Republicans completely bungled the implementation of the idea. We argued for privatization of services that should never have been privatized. The idea of privatization is injecting competition in the provision of government service. When there are only one or two companies that can provide a particular service and you hand them 10 year contracts, are you really creating a situation where there is a competitive environment for the provision of those services? Of course not.

Then you have a wholesale failure of elected officials to monitor the contracts private companies have to provide those services. As a result, those companies cut corners and the quality of the service provided suffer. While it's necessarily not an area that registers with the public, the quality of services provided by corrections privatization has been abysmal, especially when it comes to privatized correctional medical care.

It's unfortunate because many people now view privatization as bad when in fact the problem has been how it has been implemented.

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