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Public-Sector Privatization

November 23, 2002

In his Nov. 19 commentary, "A Silver Spoon Is Gouging Unions," Robert Scheer describes how Bush administration policies are undermining America's middle class -- in spite of the fact that middle-class consumer power has kept our sputtering economy from drifting into a major depression. We have to look elsewhere in The Times, however, to see what our nation will look like if the Bush administration's assault on the middle class continues.

In "Scavengers Are Gauge of Rising Poverty" (Nov. 19) we learn that Argentina's "ex-waiters, ex-factory workers, ex-maids, ex-something[s]" have joined traditional "trash scavengers" to eke out a meager living on the streets of Buenos Aires. These former middle-class workers, now reduced to the status of "cardboard people," spend every day digging through the trash heaps that Argentina's wealthy ruling class dumps on the streets. Without middle-class consumers there is no economic recovery in sight for Argentina. There are only more people gathering every day around the trash heaps. Wake up, America!

Dennis M. Clausen

Escondido

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It is obvious that Scheer never worked for the federal government or observed the operations of its unions with an unjaundiced eye. I worked for the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration in the late 1980s. The union at HCFA viewed its role as protecting all employees from disciplinary action, even the least productive and laziest employees. Not surprisingly, these were the employees who were the union's most staunch supporters. Those of us who worked hard at our jobs didn't even belong to the union because we understood that the union's success in protecting the 10% of employees who were nonperformers resulted in more work for the 90% who put in an honest day's work.

There is a culture in a lot of federal workplaces that takes new, enthusiastic employees aside and advises them to "slow down" so as not to make the senior workers look bad. Maybe if federal unions focused on protecting employees from the occasional unjust action and worked with supervisors to rid the workforce of the unproductive we would not have cause to privatize federal jobs.

Jeff McCombs

La Palma

*

Scheer's column highlights the folly of the administration's push to privatize work currently done by federal workers. It will actually cut money out of the economy, weaken consumer spending and increase burdens on government. Little noted is the likelihood that privatization will cut few, if any, government expenses. Contractors expect to profit by the difference between what working people used to make and the lower wages they will now be paid. This will be shared with their political confederates in the form of campaign contributions.

Jim Woolsey

Sierra Vista, Ariz.

*

Scheer tells you that government workers paid from your labor are the keys to growth of a "stable middle class" and a "stable democracy." What he wants you to embrace as "stable" is actually a proven model for a slow, ponderous, poor-producing economy that keeps people from improving their lot in life. "Here, take this job and be happy. You're part of the middle class. Forever. Have a nice day."

The alternative is encouraging individuals to achieve and produce through hard work, innovation and competition. Some want to scare you into thinking the word "privatization" means great risk. On the contrary, a marketplace full of ideas yields the best there is to offer. A marketplace with one idea and no competition yields the minimum.

Randy Franz

Brea

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"Privatize" is a euphemistic term for what big-time racketeers used to call "skimming." By forcing jobholders who perform services in the public sector to get their jobs through third-party entrepreneurs, we allow private contractors to skim the cream off these employees' salary and benefit packages.

Operating outside the Civil Service protections that disallow quid pro quo agreements and non-meritorious candidate selection for job slots, these privateer agencies are free to pick these people's pockets at will. This transfer of funds from the public to the private sector is coming right out of your and my taxes.

Those in the Bush administration have squandered the federal budget surplus that existed when they came into office and put us back in debt. However much they talk about wanting to "save" money for the taxpayer, Bush and his associates cannot honestly be called fiscal conservatives, can they?

Gloria J. Richards

Simi Valley

*

The reasons given for privatizing the federal work force are the same ones that were given for deregulating the energy market. And look what that got us!

David Watts

Los Angeles

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