FIND A CRISIS, DEMAND PRIVATIZATION

ABSTRACT: Republicans are up to their old tricks: create a crisis at a public agency and then claim that privatization is the answer. The latest example is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Congress hasn’t provided sufficient funding to serve the 1.5 million new veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. When US Senate legislation proposed 27 new VA health facilities (a 2% increase) and authorized hiring additional doctors and nurses back in February, the Republicans filibustered it, obstructing progress. Now that the lack of capacity has come to public attention, the Republicans are claiming that privatization is the answer.

Most veterans give high ratings to the care they get from the VA and are opposed to privatization. The VA system is actually a model from which our private health care system could learn a lot.

This political tactic of using a “crisis” to push for privatization is one that Republicans have used with Social Security, the US Postal Service, the public school system, road and bridge building and maintenance, the prison system, and so forth. Conservatives in Canada have used the tactic as well to attack their postal service and their universal public health care system.

Using a real, created, or perceived crisis as an excuse to allow inefficient corporate takeovers of societal functions best suited to provision by a public entity puts corporate profits ahead of the public good. Such privatization through “crisis” is a disingenuous tactic used by ideologues who want to shrink government and expand corporate profits regardless of whether or not it’s in the best interests of citizens and taxpayers.

FULL POST: Republicans are up to their old tricks: create a crisis at a public agency and then claim that privatization is the answer. Sometimes the crisis is real, sometimes it is manufactured, and sometimes it’s a perception created by a public relations campaign. However, the answer is always the same: privatize the agency because the “crisis” proves that the public sector can’t do the job.

The latest example is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The cover-up of the waiting list for needed care in the VA’s Phoenix office is unforgiveable. But why was the agency unable to deliver timely care? Is it because doctors, nurses, and others were sitting around with their feet up doing nothing? Or is it because of a lack of capacity to provide the needed care? I’m willing to bet it’s the latter.

Congress hasn’t provided sufficient funding to serve the 1.5 million new veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many of these veterans have injuries, including traumatic body and brain injuries, that would have killed them on the battlefield in the past. However, our improved medical capabilities on the battlefield have saved their lives, but returned them home with significant health care needs. Mental health needs have grown as well.

However, when US Senate legislation proposed 27 new VA health facilities (a 2% increase) and authorized hiring additional doctors and nurses back in February, the Republicans filibustered it, obstructing progress on expanding needed health services for our veterans.

Now that the lack of capacity has come to public attention, the Republicans are claiming that privatization is the answer. Should we turn health care of our veterans over to the health care system that increases its profits by finding ways to deny coverage and care? Interestingly, most veterans give high ratings to the care they get from the VA and are opposed to privatization. The VA has unmatched expertise in traumatic brain injury, amputee care, and other combat-related health issues and it serves rural areas where private sector care is scarce. [1] It computerized medical records and undertook quality of care initiatives long before the private sector. The VA system is actually a model from which our private health care system could learn a lot. [2]

This political tactic of using a “crisis” to push for privatization is one that Republicans have used with Social Security, the US Postal Service, the public school system, road and bridge building and maintenance, the prison system, and so on. Conservatives in Canada have used the tactic as well to attack their postal service and their universal public health care system. [3] Using a real, created, or perceived crisis as an excuse to allow inefficient corporate takeovers of societal functions best suited to provision by a public entity puts corporate profits ahead of the public good.

Privatization of the VA is not good for our veterans or taxpayers. Such privatization through “crisis” is a disingenuous tactic used by ideologues who want to shrink government and expand corporate profits regardless of whether or not it’s in the best interests of citizens and taxpayers. [4]

[1]       Weisman, J., 5/30/14, “VA scandal forces Congress to study systemic change,” The Boston Globe from The New York Times

[2]       Gordon, S. 5/27/14, “Privatization won’t fix the VA,” The Boston Globe

[3]       Taliano, M., 5/16/14, “Privatization is the problem, not the solution,” Common Dreams, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/16-7

[4]       See my previous posts on privatization, especially the ones of 10/23/12 and 10/16/12, for more detail on the shortcomings of privatization.

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