Three Big Myths Right-Wing Propagandists Are Spreading to Frame the 2012 Election
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Where to start? How about with Mitt Romney's rebuke of the president's "you didn't build that" statement? "To say that," snorted the vulture capitalist from Bain, "is to say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple Computer." No, Mr. Mitt, it's to say that Jobs couldn't have built it without the helping hand of the so-called do-nothing government. The internet, for one monumental example, was invented in a government laboratory and developed with federal funding, and the computer itself was the product of public financing, not of corporate investment. As Colin Greer notes in an excellent article on government's role in fostering economic growth, even the core technologies of Apple's hugely profitable iPhone (from the microchips to the voice control technology) came from years of government funding and research.
Where would Jobs have been without the government's constant, Brobdingnagian investment in and construction of America's infrastructure? Alexander Hamilton's Erie Canal, the New Deal's nationwide extension of electric power, FDR's federally-financed-and-directed mobilization of US industry in WWII, the GI Bill that extended college education to ordinary families, Ike's interstate highway network, the technological leaps produced by NASA under JFK and LBJ, and so forth? This truly is government in action--innovator, builder, job creator--quite the opposite of the kudzu being spread by the corporatists.
As for bloated, self-serving, out-of-control bureaucracies, how about dealing with insurance giants, credit-card gougers, cable TV monopolists, or Wall Street banksters? The corporate entity is an arrogant, autocratic, unaccountable fiefdom that insists it has no responsibility to anyone but its top executives and big investors. Cutting every corner it can--on workers, customers, suppliers, shareholders, products, services, communities, the environment, public health, our nation, ethics, and the law--is considered a legitimate part of the corporate business plan. Why bring this malicious ethos into the public sector?
Then there's the counterintuitive assertion that privatization saves money for taxpayers by replacing "overpaid" government workers. Well, corporations certainly are energetic pay-slashers when it comes to workers, but--hello--the corporation tacks a hefty profit onto each job it snatches, plus adding on such overhead costs as the CEO's lavish pay, the palatial corporate headquarters, and marketing expenses.
Still, the myth persists, kept alive by such tireless promoters as the Heritage Foundation, yet another Koch-financed front group. In 2010, a team of Heritage fabricators issued a report showing that federal wages were 22 percent higher than what privatized workers would get for doing the job. Heritage's hide-the-pea calculation, however, counted only the salary of the contract employee, not the total that the corporation charges the government to provide that worker.
Last fall, the watchdog Project On Government Oversight analyzed the full price (called the "billable rate") for farming out a public job. On average, corporations charge more than double the amount that a public employee costs. An in-house computer engineer, for example, costs taxpayers $136,000 a year (including benefits and administrative expenses), while the outsourced rate for the same work was $268,000.
Where are the "deficit hawks" when we need them? Hiding this billable-rate reality, that's where! They have their heads stuck deep up their own ideology as they willingly force taxpayers to pay billions of dollars extra each year for privatized workers. According to the last count, contractors had grabbed 7.6 million of our federal jobs--nearly four times the 2 million public employees in the federal workforce.
3. THE "GOVERNMENT PUNISHES SUCCESS" MYTH.
This one is personal. It's the cry of the country club--the long, high-pitched whine of the smug super-rich and corporate chieftains who feel put upon by a public that "envies" their wealth and by "moochers" who want to seize the rewards that the achievers have earned. Thus, goes the myth, Big Government redistributionists feel free to sock the successful with burdensome taxes.