SHOCK: NJ Coalition of Crazies Do Not Support Privatization

Ok, maybe not such a shock after all. According to NJ.com, a group of “labor unions, liberal activisits, environmental and ethnic advocacy groups, including the New Jersey Sierra Club, the toll collectors’ union, the New Black Panther Party and the Latino Action Network” have all decided to join together to fight a (pleasant) reality of the future: privatization. When I first started reading this article, my initial thought was, “is this actually news?” A bunch of groups that range from adorably misinformed to absolutely insane are all on the side of an issue that would continue to cost taxpayers more and more each year? A bunch of liberal wing-nuts are for further bankrupting our municipalities and state with rising pension and healthcare costs? Shills for the democrat party are for propping up dated governmental traditions that ignore conditions that we here in the rational world know as “reality”? This should be a shock to no one, but unfortunately the crazies came to Trenton to put on a show that if nothing else was mildly entertaining.

The 18 member coalition was formed in response to a report released by a committee chaired by former US Rep. Dick Zimmer. The report states that the state government could save $210 million dollars by privatizing healthcare for prisoners, toll workers (I am not even going to get into the fact that this job could be performed by machines that are unpaid, do not get pensions, and do not have collective bargaining), state parks, highway rest stops, and career centers for the unemployed. This does not take into account the amount that could be saved by municipal governments by privatizing their local services.

Reading their laughable arguments for why privatization is the new great Satan made me nothing short of sad. The talking points ranged from anecdotal and unsubstantiated to purely rhetorical and, well, unsubstantiated. Lets run through a few of them shall we?

1. Privatization is bad for the environment because some company in Michigan polluted in Lake Michigan.

What? This is the biggest bunch of garbage I have ever read. I am sure that Jeff Tittel of the NJ Sierra Club told a great little story about said company and how they put profits before the environmental safety of the people, but can someone please tell me how this is relevant? If a company is breaking the law in the course of its contract, then the contract should be canceled and the company should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Next.

2. “Public assets and resources should be managed for the public good rather than private gain”

This little gem is from Jim Walsh of NJ Food & Water Watch. Its a nice talking point, but it does not really mean anything. Why? Because somehow Mr. Walsh has equated “public good” with “public unions”. The fact is that private companies often do the job better and do the job cheaper. Why? Because they can collect multiple contracts in multiple municipalities or in multiple states and spread the costs of their wages and benefits to employees among those revenue sources, while the government has only one source: your wallet. They also have to do it cheaper or, surprise, they will not get the contract! I’ll accept a bit (or hell even a ton) of private gain if it means greater or even substantially similar service for a lower price. The public good should be measured as what is cheapest and best for all of us, not just those collecting the check.

3. “Don’t you think it might be a little tempting to some of these companies to slip a little something under the table to a friendly government official who might possibly help them get a contract?”

I’d like to thank Matt Shapiro of NJ Tenants Association for this quote. In case Mr. Shapiro has not heard, this is called pay to play. It is against the law. Moving on.

4. The people have recourse when the government performs badly, but may not with private corporations.

This is by far the worst of them all. I had to save it for last. When that big snow storm hit and everyone was screaming about how the Governor Christie was not out there shoveling their sidewalk, did you have any recourse against your poorly performing public works department? I would wager that a majority of the public works people in the town where you live have been there for years performing your services. Most of the time they probably do a great job, even if it is likely more expensive than a private company. But every once in a while something goes wrong and we all scream “incompetence!” Where is your recourse when that happens? Have you ever heard of a town replacing its entire public works staff amid public outcry over poor service? Of course not!

When a private company is used for a project, the RFP (request for proposal) is usually put out for bid on a yearly basis. If you do not like how your leaves or trash were picked up, or how your snow was removed from your street, then guess what? You could make a huge stink about it to your local officials and they can have that company replaced before the snow comes next year. Hell, its possible they could even replace them at a lower cost! When companies are constantly competing for your tax dollars, costs will tend to fall. If one company performs badly, another will be right there to take their place. It creates a market for efficient services. Competition is the ultimate recourse.

The bottom line is that taxpayers are crying out for privatization. Revenues are falling. This year’s budget is going to encounter deep cuts, perhaps deeper than the last. We need to be able to get the most milage out of every single dollar. If we can actually save $210 million at the state level, then it should absolutely be done. A group of 18 crazy organizations should not stand in the way.