Privatize: the siren’s song?

Tom Weakley
OOIDA Foundation Director of Operations

Recent news about conditions at Walter Reed Hospital has sickened and appalled me. Americans who literally put it all on the line and came home wounded and sick are being treated in facilities that could only make a slum lord proud.

Then we learned that the hospital’s maintenance had been privatized. The siren song of privatization tells us businesses can do the job with more efficiency and less cost. In the case of Walter Reed Hospital, that meant that 350 federal employees were replaced by 100 private contract employees.

And then we learned that the company with the Walter Reed contract was the same company that got a contract to deliver ice to Hurricane Katrina victims. Anyone in trucking can attest to the hopeless mismanagement of that phase of the hurricane recovery effort.

So-called public-private partnerships are based on the same false beliefs that the Army undoubtedly had about the Walter Reed deal – the belief that the private sector can do a better job for less, even though the mantra of private business is one word: profit.

Private businesses must get investors’ money, and to do so they must convince investors that they can get better returns than they could with other investments. There is nothing wrong with that, it is what has made our economy strong.

However, to assume that the private business will do a better job is erroneous. An example: Normally the biggest expense for business is employees, and usually the first move in public-private partnerships is for the private partner to cut the number of employees, just as was done at Walter Reed.

The same thing is happening with the Indiana Toll Road, now under control of the Australian-Spanish consortium of Macquarie-Cintra. You will see fewer toll workers, fewer maintenance trucks and fewer repairs done, with an increase in tolls. This will increase congestion and road hazards.



Melissa Theriault
Government Affairs Associate

Advocacy traditionally involves letter writing, phone calling and sending letters to the editor on a subject that you are passionate about, such as your livelihood or your special interests.

It can be formal, like a campaign, or informal. The important thing is to be involved in the system, keep lawmakers accountable, and exercise your First Amendment rights – [the right] to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, the traditional methods are still very important, but now there is a new dimension to explore.

The Internet is far more influential than ever imagined and is credited with election outcomes, changing public opinion and setting political agendas.

In the past couple of years, advocacy has taken on a whole new shape to include the Web, specifically Web logs, commonly referred to as blogs.

A blog is a user-generated Web site where entries are made in journal style.

Campaigns in the November 2006 election used the Internet heavily. Political blogs like Wonkette, HuffingtonPost, RedState and Townhall became the “new” political experts and YouTube – in fact – worked better to get voters’ attention than some paid political spots on television.


Where is the real news?

James Fetzer
Sound Engineer, “Land Line Now”

During my college years I worked at a National Public Radio studio. Sure, the pay stunk, and I had to be up at 5 a.m. almost every morning, but it gave me a desire for news and information.

It also provided me a better idea of what is and isn’t news, or as I like to call it, a “BS filter.” It’s amazing what people consider news. I would think that heavy-hitting issues such as the poor conditions of Walter Reed Hospital, rising fuel prices and England pulling out of Iraq would be covered a little more intently than the latest no-talent, attention-needing brat in rehab.

The real news is being shadowed by topics that will generate ratings and revenue. It is way out of control. Do we as a people really need up-to-the-minute coverage of who fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s baby, which seems to be way more important then the idea of our nation selling our highways to the highest bidder.

My point is, important news is being pushed to the wayside to present long, drawn-out reports on something as unimportant as who got booted off of “American Idol.”

Why is that?

I want to know what is going on in our country and our world. I want to know what is up with “hot fuel.” I want to know what’s being done about the AIDS epidemic in Africa. I do not care about who is dating who in Hollywood, and I certainly don’t care about the diaper lady from NASA getting fired – like they really would let her back on a shuttle anyway.

It’s very simple. If I want entertainment, I’ll watch “CSI.” If I want to hear about no-talent idiots and the stupid things they do, I will watch MTV or read the titles in the checkout line at the supermarket. But when I want news, I expect news. Is that too much to ask?