Romney Wants Fewer Police, Firefighters, and Teachers?

In a recent Huffington Post columnist and media producer Bob Cesca talked about one of Romney’s latest statements regarding President Obama.  Here’s the quote Cesca investigates:

“[Obama] wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Before even delving into the deeper implications of Romney’s statement, it’s clearly contradictory.  Apparently Romeny believes it would be helpful to the American people to have fewer police officers, fewer firefighters, and fewer teachers in the classrooms.   The problems with the statement are clear but Cesca argues that the most interesting problem with Romney’s gaffe is that he’s being honest.

“While they insist they’re the party of “first responders,” “law and order” and so forth, Republican leadership really doesn’t like the idea of police and firefighters working for state and local government — in other words, they don’t like law enforcement and the like working directly for We The People. As we’ve seen in privatized neocon utopias like Iraq, they’d prefer that these services be run by corporate profiteers. Republicans prefer that every government service be handed over to private industry. Let the marketplace handle the services, allowing unaccountable corporations to charge a fee to either the government or to the people on, say, a pay-per-arrest or pay-per-fire basis. What could possibly go wrong? Can’t afford to have your burning house extinguished? Sorry. Get a job, freeloader.”

Cesaca’s language is certainly colorful and maybe even slightly hyperbolic, but he makes an excellent point.  The Republican party, and the anarcho-libertarian-leaning in particular, favor capitalism as the most reliable source of equalization and efficiency.  Capitalism and the profit motive definitely has some interesting effects and a seemingly spontaneous sort of efficiency, but the profit motive does not in any way guarantee legitimate equality, especially when it comes to the provision of basic services like healthcare and education.  Cesca gets to that point:

“For-profit education, security and rescue are growing larger in the window. The danger, of course, in this agenda is that private corporations are solely in business for the sake of profit. If it makes financial sense to, for example, ban disabled or slower children from school because they pull down test scores and drive away higher income students, then so be it. If it makes sense to only rescue homes owned by people who can afford the fee, then so be it. Profit is the only result worth measuring in the corporate world. Fact. We’ve already witnessed what happened when network programming and the profit-motive transformed broadcast news, much to the chagrin of Americans across the political spectrum.”

Most citizens of the United States (maybe even the world, if we want to go there) believes certain elementary services and opportunities should be made available for all people regardless of their purchasing power.  Education is an excellent example.  In a world where education is an exclusively for-profit entity, we would likely see many cases where a young child would be unable to attend school because his/her parents are unable to afford it.  Would it be fair or even beneficial to allow children to go without even the most basic education because, through no fault of their own, their parents lack the appropriate funds?

The same issue arises with healthcare and we already see it’s nasty consequences.  Patients with preexisting conditions or who are frequently ill are often funneled into healthcare plans that minimize return but maximize the cost of their policies to maintain the provider’s profit margin.

It’s easy to understand why the ideals of unfettered laissez-faire capitalism within a libertarian framework are appealing; they provide a simple way to view a complex reality.  But reality, in all its beautiful complexity, resists simplicity.  There are more variables than the advocates of minimal government take into account.  There are groups of individuals who would be trampled by the free market by no fault of their own, and this is the unpleasant reality that must be faced by advocates of minimal government.

And while many republicans deliver plenty of rhetoric on the importance of small government while slamming what they call “socialism.”  I’ve discussed the common ways in which socialism as a concept is vastly misunderstood in the United States.  You can read about that HERE.  The problem that is often seen is the privatization of profit and the socialization of cost.  Think of the national bail-out of the banks.  Cesca talks about that:

“Republicans send their kids to public schools, too. They send their kids to public colleges. They crowbar their kids into public school sports programs — proudly and with thunderous applause, especially in notoriously conservative states like Texas (see also Friday Night Lights). They expect well-maintained and accessible public roads, national parks, clean water, tunnels that don’t flood, bridges that don’t collapse and, most importantly, military watchmen standing guard on the wall. Some of them, like George W. Bush, didn’t mind giving piles of government money to the financial sector, socializing every failure. They heartily offer government subsidies and incentives (corporate welfare) to businesses all across the country. Oddly, however, they draw the line when it comes to making sure we can be treated for an illness or injury without going broke. They’re selective socialists — even the hardest of the hardcore American conservatives. Case in point: Ron Paul, the most conservative member of Congress in nearly a century, is on a government-employee healthcare plan.”

The simple fact is that the United States government is not a business and should not be run like a business.  The goal of the government is to protect its citizens and their rights, create public infrastructure, and provide basic services without profiting.  When closely examined, it’s clear that this business oriented, profit-seeking mentality within the government results largely in increased spending and a decreased quality and amount of service.  The profit has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?

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