Despite the assertion that federal employment levels have remained unchanged for more than 30 years, the government is actually larger than at any time since World War II, and is still growing. ... You will not hear anything about this from either President Obama or Mitt Romney.
The Republicans are absolutely correct that government is “out of control,” but for their evidence they point to all the wrong reasons.
They agonize over the size of the civil service, which has not changed for a generation, and criticize poverty programs, unemployment benefits and food stamps for Americans who have lost their jobs and their homes.
They are also correct that government must be reined in, but they want to cut in many of the wrong places. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to enrich the wealthy even more than the Bush administration did, while simultaneously decimating the social safety net, such as it is. Ryan was even called out by his own church for his soak-the-poor-while-profiting-the-rich budget-cutting proposals. On top of that folly, he wants to increase defense spending!
The real and highly questionable growth of government has occurred almost totally in the context of the National Security State (NSS) created since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The NSS is now so huge that no one — not the secretaries of Defense or Homeland Security, not the CIA or National Security Agency directors, and certainly no one else — knows how big it has become, how much it costs or can name its thousands of components. One of these honchos, when shown a list of the more than 100 new agencies created since 9/11 compiled by a journalist, asked for a copy because he himself had no idea what it looked like.
Worse, the government has been hiding how bloated it has become by not revealing that hundreds of thousands of contractor employees are, de facto, government workers. Despite the assertion that federal employment levels have remained unchanged for more than 30 years, the government is actually larger than at any time since World War II, and is still growing.
Another component of the NSS is the fact that contractor employees earn, on average, 25 percent to 30 percent more than their civil service counterparts…for doing the same jobs. Of greater concern should be that these quasi-federal workers are motivated by profits rather than patriotism.
You will not hear anything about this from either President Obama or Mitt Romney in the next six months of incessant, numbing campaigning and distorting attack ads and oversimplifications to which we will be subjected (surprise, surprise). This is dirty linen that no one wants to expose to public scrutiny because, then, they might be called upon to justify the tens of billions of dollars that have been transferred from taxpayer pockets to private companies that have been gorging themselves at the public trough now for more than a decade, often with very little in the way of enhanced security to show for it.
If you think this is just opinion, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Pulitzer Prize journalist Dana Priest and her co-author William Arkin’s new book, “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” Priest was the journalist who blew the whistle on the Army’s shoddy treatment of disabled Iraq and Afghan veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital. If her new book does not make you want to light your torches, hoist your pitchforks and march on Washington, nothing will.
Page 2 of 2 - Just how effective is the NSS? Despite all of its electronic, eavesdropping, artificial intelligence and other dazzling (and disturbing) toys and gizmos, the NSS completely missed the Arab Spring, which started and spread due to massive electronic connections that ordinary people were effecting via Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc., the very media that the National Security Agency and many other government entities and private contractors are listening to all the time. Did the NSS not think that the turmoil roiling the Arab world had grave national security implications for the United States? If so, there is no better example of how flawed the current homeland and national security and intelligence systems are and how intensely they cry out for a rational assessment.
“Rants” is an occasional series of observations written by part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann.