THE PRIVATIZER PRESIDENT

Tuesday, September 12, 2006   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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George W can't seem to find a hat that fits. He tried on that "compassionate conservative" hat for a short while, but it just wasn't him. Then he strutted around in his great big "war president" hat, but it got knocked off and stomped on in the bloody chaos of Iraq. More recently, he picked up a snappy "I'm the decider" hat, but it just looked silly on him.

One that does fit, however, is the very hat that George doesn't want you to notice. It's his "privatizer" hat. He got hooted down when he wore it in public last year to push the privatization of Social Security, so now he mostly wears it behind closed doors – where he and his corporate cronies have been vigorously and stealthily working to privatize even the most basic of public functions, including the military, our schools, the park service, postal workers, disaster relief, and (get this!) tax collection.

If you owe back taxes, the IRS is likely to come knocking at your door. But, under a quiet Bush initiative, the agency was compelled to step aside and let three private, for-profit collection companies do the door knocking. Unbeknownst to more than 12,000 taxpayers who owe relatively small amounts to the government, their names, Social Security numbers, tax returns, and other personal data have been handed over to companies interested not in taxpayer rights, but in profit maximization.

Well, the private sector can always do it cheaper, right? Wrong. By simply hiring more revenue agents, IRS could collect these debts at a cost of only three cents for every dollar brought in. Under Bush's scheme, however, the private companies will take about 24 cents for every dollar they recover.

This is Jim Hightower saying... Privatization is not about efficiency or improved service (try dealing with the phone company, for example). It's about corporate profiteering, pushed by ideologues who simply hate the idea of a public role in anything.

Sources:
"On Technical Grounds, Judge Sets Aside Verdict of Billing Fraud in Iraq Rebuilding," The New York Times, August 19, 2006.
"I.R.S. Enlists Outside Help in Collecting Delinquent Taxes, Despite the Higher Costs," The New York Times, August 20, 2006.
"Bush has taken governing back to 16th century," Austin American-Statesman, August 27, 2006.

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