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Letter: People in so-called socialist countries are happy

The recent responses to my letter, “Privatization has been a costly failure” from John Clauer and Chuck Fuller seemed to display expected right wing paranoia over the dangers of government intrusion into “private lives” and the “private sector.” Mr. Clauer’s assertion there was no shred of evidence supporting failure of privatization in my letter indicates he either never read the letter or missed the meaning entirely. Both launched into a tirade about “socialism” and “communism” and linking my beliefs with those of Hitler, Lenin, and other despots whose experiments with maintaining social order were cruel, inhuman, and self-serving. I also found the term, “useful idiot,” in Mr. Fuller’s response insulting and juvenile.

However, the responses were welcome since any dialog is better than nothing. After considerable thought and rereading our letters, it became apparent the term “privatization” was confused with “private enterprise,” a common misconception about the relationship between the public and private sectors best summarized by Lincoln’s words – “government must provide what individuals cannot do for themselves.”

Privatization means taking essential government services into the private sector for the arguable purposes that industry can provide the services faster, better and cheaper. It’s really done because it provides a ready-made, needy consumer base for “private enterprise” to prey upon.

Our economy thrives best when public/private segments act as partners. Indeed, private enterprise depends on the socio/economic infrastructure only the government at all levels, federal, state, county, city/town can provide for all its people. This is hardly pure “socialism” or “communism” but more accurately termed a “socio/capitalistic” form of social order.

Examples illustrating “costly failures” are not hard to find. In health care, government run Medicare and VA Health Services operate at an overhead rate 15-20 percent below private insurance while providing a full range of services and very satisfied participants. Many attempts were made over the past 100 years to provide single source health care for all but were rebuffed by insurers and other hangers on to this common human need.

Private logistics support for the military is harder to quantify but Rumfeld’s $50 billion estimate for the Iraq war somehow turned into $2-3 trillion (40-60 times) while also killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of military and innocent civilians. We didn’t go to war because Iraq posed an “imminent threat” or had “weapons of mass destruction” as the criteria in the congressional resolution stated. We went because it was profitable for private defense contractors, most notably Cheney’s Halliburton, to “privatize” functions the military had always done themselves. They made a killing and now, along with their captive “war hawk” congressmen/women, like McCain and Graham, continue to beat the drums of war to preserve their “cash cow” indefinitely.

The recent hubbub over the Obamacare website typifies and exaggerates the problems of developing complex computer-based systems. The website system requirements changed drastically when Republican governors decided not to develop their own websites as originally planned. These acts were intended to kill the program since it increased the program’s size and complexity exponentially with a short timeframe to respond. That, along with government’s procurement requirements to spread the work across the private sector, reportedly ended up with 55 private contractors involved, some from Canada, and perhaps 40 percent Republican who didn’t want the system to work anyway. Surprised it works as good as it does. Coordination across that many participants is like herding cats.

By the way, why are people in so-called socialist countries just as happy or happier than we are? The overwhelming answer is they all have health care.

Lee Purrier

Park Rapids