Feeding at the Trough

     From the enormous sheep farm of the U.S. media I have failed to see any serious reporting about a central aspect of the Edward Snowden affair.
     Why did the U.S. government give a private company access to this secret information?
     Oh, the news stories mention that Snowden was a “private contractor” for the National Security Agency.
     But why did the NSA – the most high-tech, lavishly funded spy agency in the world – hand over its most sensitive intelligence to a private company?
     Why couldn’t the NSA, with its billions of taxpayer dollars, have done the job itself?
     Privatization of government services has been a sewer of corruption ever since the Reagan administration kicked open the door, and turned on the spigot.
     The federal government today hands private companies more than $500 billion a year to do government work that used to be done by government employees.
     The Pentagon and allied agencies, like the NSA, hand out 75 percent of this pork, to truffle-snuffling companies such as the one Snowden worked for.
     More than 80 percent of the federal government’s information technology work is done by private contractors, according to Money magazine.
     Are the Pentagon, and every other federal agency, unable to train their people to do this? And do they pay so poorly they can’t keep them?
     This has nothing to do with whether Snowden is a hero, a schnook or a traitor – arguments could be made for all of those.
     The question is, why is the federal government handing this information to private companies? Who bid for the rights to it, in search of their own profit.
     Privatization of government services has been a Republican baby ever since the Reagan administration claimed it would save money – and that the federal government, but not a private contractor that sucks money from us – is evil.
     The mantra is that federal workers are “overpaid” – though that’s nonsense. They get better benefits than most private-sector workers, sure, but at the expense of lower pay. That’s been common knowledge forever.
     A 2011 study by the Project on Government Oversight showed that private contractors charge taxpayers 1.8 times more than the government did for work that federal workers used to do.
     The most obscene example of this is the private prison industry, which is a pubic cancer.
     The federal government will pay $5 billion this year just to hold immigration violators in private prisons. The chief beneficiary of this is the Corrections Corporation of America, a big-time campaign contributor to Republicans.
     Eighteen private prison companies imprison more than 10,000 people a year in the United States.
     Private prison officials are allowed to add time to prisoners’ sentences for “bad behavior.” And the government contractor profits from every extra day its prisoners spend in jail.
     This would be unconstitutional if a government employee did it for his own gain.
     Why is it legal for a profit-seeking corporation to do it?
     Private prison companies and their subcontractors charge prisoners $5 a minute to make phone calls from private prisons.
     Hundreds of thousands of prisoners a year work inside U.S. prisons for private, profit-making companies, for 25 cents an hour.
     These are ugly, petty abuses, through which politically connected corporations suck billions of dollars a year from us.
     Snowden caused the United States inestimable damage, damages that can’t be measure in money. He never could have done it had the NSA done its own work, and not handed out state secrets like Halloween candy.
     Private contracting of government services is a corrupt, multibillion-dollar disgrace, carried on in the light of day. And the people who profit by it, above all, are the campaign contributors of the congressmen and senators who let it happen – pushing open the revolving door our elected representatives step through.

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