Outsourcing Texas style

By Molly Ivins Published:

By Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas -- Last week, Bush visited Yuma, Ariz., to tour a portion of the U.S.-Mexico Border by Border Patrol buggy. Maybe Jorge was doing a little measuring for the $3.2-million-a-mile fence the Senate recently approved, which I guarantee will be really helpful.

Are they insane? As Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano observes, Show me a 50-foot wall, and Ill show you a 51-foot ladder.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate have constructively declared English the national language. Thatll fix everything. Every foreigner at our borders will stop and say: Gosh, ma foi! English is the national language here. Good thing to know. Ill begin speaking it immediately.

Yes sir, you want a solution, call a Republican.

Of course, I am enchanted to discover that the entire project will be turned over to Raytheon, General Dynamics and other military contractors -- think Halliburton with noncompetitive bids, anyone? Because this outsourcing stuff is just working like a charm. Another Republican solution.

Naturally, in Texas, National Laboratory for Bad Government, we do it all first and worst. We started with this dandy plan to outsource applications and enrollment for social service programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. In theory, we were to save millions -- though I never could understand it myself. You see, Texas has one of the cheapest state governments on the continent, but when we hire outside contractors, they expect to make a profit. Add profit, add cost. Oh well.

So the state hired this firm based in Bermuda on an $899 million five-year contract. So far, the health and human services commissioner has been forced to ask 1,000 state employees who were scheduled to be laid off by the end of the year not to leave after all -- and to offer each of them a $1,800 bonus to stay. Oops.

Among other errors, the private consortium mistakenly dropped 6,000 children from the childrens health insurance program. The state comptroller (who is running for governor against the incumbent, Goodhair Perry) says the program is a perfect storm of wasted dollars, reduced access to services and profiteering at the expense of Texas taxpayers.

With a record like that, of course, Republicans want more outsourcing. Ted Koppel suggests in The New York Times that we outsource war: Blackwater and other leading security companies are seriously proposing to officials at very high levels of the government that their private forces could relieve a number of the burdens now being shouldered (or not) by American troops. ... The Pentagon ... is nonetheless struggling to come to terms with what it now calls the long war. There is every expectation that the fight against global terrorism and the most extreme forms of Islamic fundamentalism will last for many years. This is a war that will not necessarily require aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, fighter jets or heavily armored tanks. It will certainly not enable the United States to exploit its advantages in nuclear weapons. It is a war, indeed, that favors the highly mobile and adaptive fighting skills of the former Special Forces soldiers and other ex-commandos ...

Will? Hell! Did and does. This is a war that is being fought with the wrong tools -- and, in Iraq, at the wrong time, in the wrong place and against the wrong enemy.

It never did call for tanks, jets or carriers -- just a combination of good detectives and good intelligence. In other words, smart, clever people with language skills. All of which we have fully available to us because of ... immigration. Lebanese, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Pakistanis and Indonesians have all become Americans, and in so many cases we got the bravest of the brave -- those who fought Saddam, the Ayatollah and Assad, Lebanese who saw their country torn apart by religious factions. These are Americans who know the culture and language of the Middle East and other Islamic countries, and who care deeply about how it all comes out.

By all means, reform immigration with this deep obeisance to the Republican right-wing nut faction and their open contempt for foreigners. But do not pretend for one minute that it is not a craven political bow to racism (yes, racism -- I am actually calling them racists, although they pretend it hurts their feelings. Try reading their websites and see for yourself), and to nativism, to xenophobia and to Know-Nothingism. Just dont forget what you are throwing away in the process.

2006 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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