bureaucracybusters

PRIVATE PROFITS AND PUBLIC NEED

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 30, 2012 at 12:24 am

At a GOP primary debate in June 2011, the subject of FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–came up.

Specifically, Mitt Romney was asked about FEMA’s budget woes–and how he would deal with them.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states,” said Romney, “that’s the right direction.  And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Mitt Romney

“Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

During that debate, the moderator, CNN’s John King, had gone on to ask if that included “disaster relief.” Romney suggested it did.

“We cannot–we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” Romney replied.

“It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

With Hurricane Sandy now wreacking havoc on the East Coast of the United States, it’s well to examine this “the private sector knows best” philosophy of government.

Hurricane Sandy, Ocean City, New Jersey

Let’s start with the first part of Romney’s argument: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.”

Imagine dismantling FEMA–as Romney has proposed–and replacing it with 50 smaller versions–one for each state.

Some states–such as California and New York in their more prosperous pasts–would be able to erect sophisticated disaster relief agencies.

But poorer states–such as Arkansas and Mississippi–could not afford effective self-protection.  And such agencies as did exist would doubtless be so poor in resources they would be unable to redress widespread suffering.

Thus, such states would be forced to “borrow” resources from other states, or beg the Federal Government–which they despise when they’re not begging favors from it–to save their bacon.

As for the second part of Romney’s statement: “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

The private sector is great at turning a profit–especially when there is high demand for scarce resources.  As will undoubtedly soon be the case for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

But high profits for entrepreneurs do not necessarily translate into affordable–and available–products or services for those most in need of them.

It’s well-known that whenever a major disaster strikes, there are always those who rush to take advantage of it–and its victims.  The price of such necessities as food and water goes as high as desperate residents are able to pay.

Or as high as outraged officials at the Federal Government will allow.

There are simply a great many things that people need–especially in times of disaster–that the private sector isn’t willing to provide.  At least, not at an affordable price.

Such as life-saving medications.

It’s the shame of the nation that the pharmaceutical industry is refusing to manufacture off-patent drugs sufficient to meet the needs of patients.

The reason?  Because they can make more money selling the more expensive drugs still under patent protection.

For example, the new breast cancer drug herceptin has a patent-protected sticker price of $55,000 per patient per year.  But an off-patent drug like doxorubicin may net only a few thousand dollars if made by a generic drug company.

So the drug companies figure:  Why bother?  If people die, so what?

And tens of thousands of Americans may die because of the pharmaceutical industry’s “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

If this happens, the Federal Government–acting on Mitt Romney’s “hands-off business” strategy–will be largely responsible.

It’s understandable that profit-motivated businessmen want to fatten their pockets at all costs.  And it’s equally understandable that right-wing politicians like Mitt Romney should cater to them.

After all, wealthy businessmen eagerly stuff the pockets of such politicians with millions of dollars to gain public office.

But there’s no reason for ordinary Americans to buy into this “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

And it’s during times of disaster–such as the one now breaking over the Eastern United States–that ordinary Americans are forced to learn that a strong and responsive Federal Government is necessary.

The November 6 election gives Americans a clear choice for their future.

They can choose a candidate who represents the richest 1%– and who has written off 47% of his fellow citizens as hopelessly  “irresponsible.”

Or they can choose a candidate who believes that government exists to serve the needs of those most in need.

In making that choice, Americans may be making the most fateful Presidential decision since 1864.  That was when their ancestors voted to return Abraham Lincoln to the White House to see through the Civil War.

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