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Bush = evil

Paul Krugman could just write that every week. Then he wouldn't have to bother phoning it in like this, and it would be slightly less embarrassing.

Rule No. 1: Always have a cover story. The ostensible purpose of the Bush administration's plan to open up 850,000 federal jobs to private competition is to promote efficiency. Competitive vigor, we're told, will end bureaucratic sloth; costs will go down, and everyone except for a handful of overpaid union members will be better off.

And who knows? Here and there the reform may actually save a few dollars. But I doubt that there's a single politician or journalist in Washington who believes that privatizing much of the federal government a step that the administration says it can take without any new legislation is really motivated by a desire to reduce costs.

Rule No. 1: Always focus on motives. That way, it doesn't matter whether it's a good decision. After all, if you make the right decisions for the wrong reasons, you're still a bad person, worthy of condemnation. We saw this with the spectacularly successful welfare reform law of the mid-1990s; Republicans who supported it were denounced as "mean-spirited," thus relieving critics of any obligation of actually analyzing the law or its effects. Kind of like how Krugman dismissed the possibility of the idea working with a throwaway line -- it "may actually save a few dollars" -- and went right into attack mode.

Note also the Krugman tactic of the "virtual poll." Don't bother to find out what people think; just announce that everyone agrees with you, or at least probably so.

Rule No. 2: Always assume the worst case scenario for the proposal:

After all, there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that.
So if sometimes there are significant cost reductions, how can officials "know" that their projections of significant cost reductions are silly?

Rule No. 3: Get past the innuendo and explain the real truth behind the proposal:

First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.

Privatizing federal jobs is a perfect answer to this dilemma. It's not a real answer the pay of those threatened employees is only about 2 percent of the federal budget, so efficiency gains from privatization, even if they happen, will make almost no dent in overall spending. For a few years, however, talk of privatization will give the impression that the administration is doing something about the deficit.

But distracting the public from the reality of deficits is, we can be sure, just an incidental payoff. So, too, is the fact that privatization is a way to break one of the last remaining strongholds of union power. Karl Rove is after much bigger game.

Ah. Karl Rove. The antichrist. So this is all an evil Republican plot. (Isn't that redundant, in Krugman's world?) But doesn't Krugman even read his own newspaper? Because just last week, the Times explained that this wasn't a sinister Karl Rove idea:
Paul C. Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy at New York University and the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research group, called the administration's policy "an aggressive and a dramatic extension" of the effort by both parties at all levels of government to save money and improve the quality of public services.

Mr. Light said the Clinton administration had shifted many federal government jobs to private contractors in an effort to show it was reducing the size of government.

Oops.

Not bothered by these facts, though, Krugman goes on to assert that this is all a plot to get campaign contributions for the Republican Party. (The possibility that the status quo is an attempt to buy votes for the Democratic Party doesn't even enter his one-track Bush-hating mind.)

To paraphrase a famous American, "Paul Krugman, have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

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