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  1. #1
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Is "less government" really always better (US context)?

    I recently saw an article in the NYT about some of the ways that FEMA dropped the ball in Puerto Rico. In summary, they outsourced the contract to private companies that didn't have the capacity to deliver on the scale that was required.

    In general, FEMA operates by seeking contracts with private industry for everything from shelter materials to food to logistics, with the idea that the contracts will be activate-able on short notice once a federally declared disaster hits. In theory, then FEMA just has to make a few phone calls and the myriad private contractors will do most of what needs to be done. In theory, this prevents FEMA from needing to maintain large stockpiles of perishable goods or a transportation corps or things like that. It's all in keeping with the rhetoric about small government, keeping the number of federal employees as small as possible, and the idea of supporting private industry.

    In practice, things rarely go so smoothly. See the article cited below for just one example.

    In my personal opinion, the private-industry focused way that FEMA operates doesn't make sense. Essentially, for the sake of having the focus be on private industry, you can end up with contracts and obligations put on private industries that typically don't operate on the scale that is needed for a major natural disaster. The fact is, in spite of the cultural idea that "private industry will always magically be better than government in every way", a private company can no better ramp up multi million dollar operations at the drop of a hat than anyone else can. So by outsourcing all kinds of different critical functions and relying on a web of contractors, things actually become much more complicated and difficult to administer than they need to be. A single contractor can become the weak link in the chain that causes a critical failure.

    My bigger point is that by bending over backwards and jumping through hoops to make something done by private industry instead of directly by "the government", US government interventions become much more complicated than they need to be and this actually causes the over-complexity and high level of cost that many people criticize the government for.

    An alternative that I might propose would be "more government". Instead of FEMA perennially looking for private contractors and basically making them promise to deliver things in the unlikely event of a major natural disaster, why not just basically downsize FEMA and transfer most of its responsibilities and funding to the National Guard?

    The military is good at logistics. Given the funding, they have more ability than most other organizations to get emergency supplies anywhere in the US or in the world. They already stock things like medicine, food, and basic shelter and have ways to replenish or order more. So why wouldn't you simply have them do it? In a sense, going private sector is duplication.

    One reason for trying to go private sector is to appease conservatives. But in the first place, they seem impossible to appease; even with all the private contracts and accompanying rhetoric about public private partnerships, they'll still cut the budget and erode long term readiness. I think they're under pressure from their political base just to cut something or anything and they end up not being very thoughtful about what they do cut. Second, they will actually be more reluctant to cut military budgets, so if disaster response becomes a military responsibility, the funding is better protected from the pressures of the conservative base.

    Another reason for private contracts is to protect local business in the event of a disaster. Hypothetically, if the military showed up and started dumping food, medicine, and construction materials into, say, Puerto Rico, one of the problems is that this could devastate local business. There would be a glut of these items in the area and the small businesses that normally sold them, already under stress from the disaster itself, would be unable to make money and this could put them out of business. However, I would argue that the companies that don't get the contracts will still be harmed under the current system. Note how all the businesses mentioned in the article below are in them mainland US; the Puerto Rico businesses would still be harmed in the same way had all the supplies actually gotten there as intended via private companies.

    So what if one of the solutions or fixes to US federal government efficiency is actually "more government"? Discuss please.

    Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/u...erto-rico.html

    The mission for the Federal Emergency Management Agency was clear: Hurricane Maria had torn through Puerto Rico, and hungry people needed food. Thirty million meals needed to be delivered as soon as possible.

    For this huge task, FEMA tapped Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past. FEMA awarded her $156 million for the job, and Ms. Brown, who is the sole owner and employee of her company, Tribute Contracting LLC, set out to find some help.

    Ms. Brown, who is adept at navigating the federal contracting system, hired a wedding caterer in Atlanta with a staff of 11 to freeze-dry wild mushrooms and rice, chicken and rice, and vegetable soup. She found a nonprofit in Texas that had shipped food aid overseas and domestically, including to a Houston food bank after Hurricane Harvey.

    By the time 18.5 million meals were due, Tribute had delivered only 50,000. And FEMA inspectors discovered a problem: The food had been packaged separately from the pouches used to heat them. FEMA’s solicitation required “self-heating meals.”

    “Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated,” Carolyn Ward, the FEMA contracting officer who handled Tribute’s agreement, wrote to Ms. Brown in an email dated Oct. 19 that Ms. Brown provided to The New York Times. “This is a logistical nightmare.”
    Last edited by Wounded Ronin; 2/08/2018 11:24am at .
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  2. #2
    DCS's Avatar
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    It's Puerto Rico, who fucking cares.

  3. #3
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    As costly as the PR response has been for FEMA, they do sort of have to balance what they do there with what they might have to do elsewhere. Overextending FEMA is a bad idea in general.

    That said, the way the Trump Administration does things (from the hip), it's not surprising the communication is so bad with local officials. It was like that from Day 1, and beyond when Trump spent time trolling PR over Twitter, rather than lead what could have been his finest hour.

    Nope, PR proved if nothing else Donnie is a really, really shitty C-in-C. All photo op, no heart or spine.

  4. #4
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    i think some of the problems involved in the less/more government debate are:

    1) it's not as simple as big or small government being better, each goal needs to be looked at separately and each is going to require a different sized staff. also a crucial factor is that we should regularly re-assess how these government agencies are performing and make adjustments as needed.

    2) political zealots preaching a philosophy of big or small government won't admit that sometimes the other side can be right. big government types need to realize that there are in fact regulations that are excessive and which do hurt business while not solving the issue they were put into place to solve. Small government types need to accept that without *any* regulation working people *will* get screwed over by big companies, and the public *will* be exposed to health hazards, so some degree of regulation is needed.

    IMO both adding new regulations and removing or altering existing regulations need to be done regularly, based on new facts coming to light, but that's not how things are working now.
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  5. #5
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    Always is an absolute, but its almost always better to go with less government.

    Our Founders sure felt so.
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  6. #6
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    This may be a bit off the mark of the question in OP, but I see it like this:

    1) People elect government
    2) Government passes a law
    3) People need to ensure government follows the law
    4) Government adds infrastructure to satisfy #3
    5) People mostly ignore #3 and #4, because they elected people to deal with that ****
    6) Waste, fraud, and abuse occurs
    7) Somebody gets a hair up their ass about #6
    8) People elect new government to fix #6
    9) Repeat from #2

  7. #7

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    In most cases the reason things are privatized has to do with efficiency. In the case of fema I agree to an extent thst logistics are something thst should be undertaken by the military. But if it wasn't for big government (Aka fema)... and the entire program was privatized I bet you would see much better results. But in this case... How would you effectively run fema without sub contracting?

    to adequately staff and retain something like the amount of electricians it would take to get pr up and running again is not possible. That would amount to essentially paying thousands of electric contractors to sit around at union wages for a majority of the time waiting for disasters. Now duplicate this for engineers, plumbers, construction crews, etc. Not feasible.

    Also I take issue with your point on "privatization is to appease conservatives" when in most cases it is much more cost effective than bureaucracy.

    For example let's look at social security! Big government retirement planning! It fits every definition of a ponzi scheme by essentially requiring new investors to pay off the old. The first jncestors even profit substantially (ask my grandfather who has collected 5x more than he ever contributed).

    You could easily take the same amount you contribute in to social security and contribute it to a low yield PRIVATE investment or use it to purchase something like real estate or for the risk averse ... a long term annuity a bond or annuity.. and have vastly superior performance if allowed to completely privatize your contributions.

    You would also receive a lump sum at any age you want... (as opposed to living till 65) and could continue to invest as opposed to your monthly check you will receive if the program is still solvent... which is a big if... especially for anyone 35 or under. It's a fucking scam.


    Secondly... health care! What happens when the government intervenes in health care? We end up with better care for our retired seniors and people who do not work or contribute than we do for our working population. Medicare is a fucking Cadillac compared to most private insurance. Obama care is an absolute travesty for everyone except the people who do not pay for it, are unemployed, or are too sick
    To contribute to the workforce. Note that me pointing this out doesn't mean I think people with cancer should he denied care, or poor people should either, it is simply to point out yet another net effect of big government retarded bureaucracy run amok. From a common sense stand point it doesn't make 1 iota of fucking sense to offer retired people and non contributors better health care than the people contributing to the economy.... without the contributors there is no economy.

    Bonus point: nasa vs spacex..vs Lockheed Martin vs boring. Hmmm who is doing a better job?


    In other words I'm not a conservative... nor am a fagtard liberal... but... I do have a genuine belief in common sense. And despite all my misgivings about certain aspects of the conservatives they sure as **** win in the common sense department. See: 900000 genders

    Bonus: I'll beat anyone to the "global warming" comment since its certainly a rebuttal for common sense. I feel people widely misinterpret what deniers (such as myself) believe. I don't deny the weather is going apeshit right now nor do I deny us burning **** in record amounts is accelerating the process. What i do disagree with is the "solution" to the problem essentially results in contributing money to leftist organizations across the world. The Paris treaty is absolute horseshit... and really.... if you want to cut through the "bullshido"... look in to the Chicago carbon commission... a group affiliated with the likes of al gore and Hussein obama.... which essentially attempted to corner the market on carbon exchange credits by charging trading fees via their brokerage similar to commodities markets. In other words... they literally tried to profit on the air you breath. We can add global warming to the list of problems the government shouldn't solve. As they only make things worse.

  8. #8

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    Medicare here in australia is good but its not the holy grail everyone thinks it is. Its not free, some stuff is only partially covered and wait times are long (dad had a machine accident at work few years ago where his finger was crushed. Waited 16 hours before they did the operation. Needed a rod put in his finger so the bone could heal and he was bleeding also).

    Private health insurance has just gone up as it does every year like car registration except its risen i think $200 more this year (brings it up to $1300 for me).

    Here in victoria at one point the state government put in a ‘carbon tax’. The idea was to tax bussinesses on stuff like electricity, water and gas. Price increased on everything and small businesses suffered as a result. Its gone now and didnt alter carbon footprint at all, just made the government money.

  9. #9
    Cassius's Avatar
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    In general, I think that the Federal Government is "less bad" when it is smaller and does less. Bureaucracies tend to suffer from severe mission creep for one thing. But the primary concern I have is actually accountability. Faceless regulatory bodies run by unelected officials who have a lot of lattitude to govern by fiat (BATFE being my personal favorite example . . . Content owners probably aren't real happy with with FCC right now, so that that's another good one) are hard to hold accountable for corruption or incompetence. And the answer to why they do a bad job at something always seems to be that they need a bigger budget and broader authorities. Our elected representatives in the Federal Government aren't particularly useful or accountable to their constituents either.

    Personally I think there are a lot of cases where the federal government would be best off pushing roles and responsibilities down to the lowest level possible while retaining significant auditing authority, though that can certainly run the risk of creating fiefdoms at the local level. That said, state and local officials tend to be a lot easier to get rid of than federal officials. Both houses of the U.S. Congress appear to be self licking ice cream cones at this point. And then there is the office of President. As an example of power creep, the President only has direct influence over immigration because Congress decided to pass the buck last century.

    As to FEMA doing a crap job in Puerto Rico: contracting is hard to do right. And FEMA can't afford to overextend itself. I am not sure what the right answer is, to be honest. Maybe they are doing the least bad job possible as is. They certainly didn't impress anyone with their response to Hurricane Katrina, and there were far less complicated logistical and political issues with that response.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lordfedicus View Post
    In most cases the reason things are privatized has to do with efficiency. In the case of fema I agree to an extent thst logistics are something thst should be undertaken by the military. But if it wasn't for big government (Aka fema)... and the entire program was privatized I bet you would see much better results. But in this case... How would you effectively run fema without sub contracting?

    to adequately staff and retain something like the amount of electricians it would take to get pr up and running again is not possible. That would amount to essentially paying thousands of electric contractors to sit around at union wages for a majority of the time waiting for disasters. Now duplicate this for engineers, plumbers, construction crews, etc. Not feasible.

    Also I take issue with your point on "privatization is to appease conservatives" when in most cases it is much more cost effective than bureaucracy.

    For example let's look at social security! Big government retirement planning! It fits every definition of a ponzi scheme by essentially requiring new investors to pay off the old. The first jncestors even profit substantially (ask my grandfather who has collected 5x more than he ever contributed).

    You could easily take the same amount you contribute in to social security and contribute it to a low yield PRIVATE investment or use it to purchase something like real estate or for the risk averse ... a long term annuity a bond or annuity.. and have vastly superior performance if allowed to completely privatize your contributions.

    You would also receive a lump sum at any age you want... (as opposed to living till 65) and could continue to invest as opposed to your monthly check you will receive if the program is still solvent... which is a big if... especially for anyone 35 or under. It's a fucking scam.


    Secondly... health care! What happens when the government intervenes in health care? We end up with better care for our retired seniors and people who do not work or contribute than we do for our working population. Medicare is a fucking Cadillac compared to most private insurance. Obama care is an absolute travesty for everyone except the people who do not pay for it, are unemployed, or are too sick
    To contribute to the workforce. Note that me pointing this out doesn't mean I think people with cancer should he denied care, or poor people should either, it is simply to point out yet another net effect of big government retarded bureaucracy run amok. From a common sense stand point it doesn't make 1 iota of fucking sense to offer retired people and non contributors better health care than the people contributing to the economy.... without the contributors there is no economy.

    Bonus point: nasa vs spacex..vs Lockheed Martin vs boring. Hmmm who is doing a better job?


    In other words I'm not a conservative... nor am a fagtard liberal... but... I do have a genuine belief in common sense. And despite all my misgivings about certain aspects of the conservatives they sure as **** win in the common sense department. See: 900000 genders

    Bonus: I'll beat anyone to the "global warming" comment since its certainly a rebuttal for common sense. I feel people widely misinterpret what deniers (such as myself) believe. I don't deny the weather is going apeshit right now nor do I deny us burning **** in record amounts is accelerating the process. What i do disagree with is the "solution" to the problem essentially results in contributing money to leftist organizations across the world. The Paris treaty is absolute horseshit... and really.... if you want to cut through the "bullshido"... look in to the Chicago carbon commission... a group affiliated with the likes of al gore and Hussein obama.... which essentially attempted to corner the market on carbon exchange credits by charging trading fees via their brokerage similar to commodities markets. In other words... they literally tried to profit on the air you breath. We can add global warming to the list of problems the government shouldn't solve. As they only make things worse.
    I wonder, do people such as this actually exist in the real world or is it merely an internet thing? You would assume the challenge of walking AND breathing simultaneously would thing the herd considerably.

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