Epitaph to an Era of Big Government Contracting
Thomas Frank has a terrific op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, praising President Obama’s recent presidential memorandum declaring the end of an era of unrestrained government outsourcing.
The president “meant to put the kibosh on the GOP’s favorite method for spreading the wealth around,” Frank writes, noting the astronomical growth of federal spending under former President George W. Bush, paired with a decrease in the number of federal government employees who could make sure those contracts were actually doing what they were supposed to. The failure of Parsons Corp. to finish building more than 20 of the 150 medical clinics it was hired to construct in Iraq is one just one prime example Frank highlights.
But as I wrote in my story posted today, Obama will have his work cut out for him, as he confronts a Congress that’s still ready to cave to government contractors when they lobby hard enough. That’s evidently why the Senate dropped the requirement that the House version of the stimulus bill included, and which House members touted as signifying a new era in government transparency: the online publication of all those new government contracts.
So what happened to that? Well, government contractors didn’t like it. And they pushed Congress hard enough until they got it removed.
President Obama is absolutely right that “far too often, [government] spending is plagued by massive cost overruns, outright fraud, and the absence of oversight and accountability.”
Making the actual contracts (and sub-contracts) available for everyone to see — as Congress originally promised — would go a long way to put a stop to that.