Writing in Defense One, former West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller IV said a congressionally mandated committee, the Commission on Care, will this month deliver its final report on the health programs and hospitals of the Veterans Administration (VA). He predicted the language of the report will be typically bureaucratic and vague. The report will call for bold reforms, but Rockefeller noted that the real intent of the committee is simple: to privatize the hospitals and health care program of the VA.
Simply put: this would turn a highly efficient public healthcare system into an opportunity for private hospitals to reap considerable profits- oh, and at the cost of public expense.
Rockefeller isn’t alone in his concern. Washington Monthly reporter Alicia Mundy wrote in April about the deliberate attempt to create a narrative to invalidate the VA. As Mundy reports, “Candidates…have been competing with each other to badmouth the VA and its allegedly shabby treatment of veterans.” This is a well funded effort with very sophisticated public relations strategies.
Who is behind this attempt?
Both Mundy and Rockefeller cite private health systems operating in concert with Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers have given $12.7 million to a group formed a few years ago, Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), which under the guise of its patriotic name is regularly attacking the VA. The Koch brothers, with the help of key politicians, use the group as a megaphone to amplify “scandals,” inciting anger and distrust in the VA. While CVA uses veterans as pawns in a political game, long standing organizations have called the government controlled VA extremely efficient, beneficial, and necessary.
Assaulting the VA and attempting to privatize the organization is a perfect example of full fledged campaign happening to privatize major functions of the federal government. The campaign has nothing to do with how well run these organizations are, and instead everything to do with the agenda of those who want smaller government.
The privatization effort features a variety of individuals and organizations
A full cast of characters are behind the assault on government control of programs:
There are businessmen like the Koch brothers who see big time profits in taking over government programs;
You have anti-tax advocates such as Grover Norquist who famously said he wanted “to see government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub”;
Then there are the right wing ideologues who simply cannot believe that any government is competent and that anything government does can and will be done better by private enterprise.
Interestingly, many of these people come together under the National Rifle Association (NRA). Are you a bit surprised? I was- but it makes sense. All of the players in the privatization movement benefit when the public distrusts the government. What better messenger on distrust of the government than the NRA? It’s then that the stealth attempt to take over government programs, lower taxes, lower or eliminate regulations on financial, energy, and health companies can move aggressively and take decisive action.
Ostensibly devoted to guns and gun safety, any close look at the NRA shows that it promotes the major theme that the government is the enemy and any attempt to promote gun safety is really aimed at taking the guns away from law abiding citizens. It’s no secret that the NRA has been linked to increasing anti-government fervor.
This philosophy of the government as the enemy is exactly suited to the themes of Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers. Not coincidentally, Norquist sits on the NRA Board and the Koch brothers gave almost $5 million to the NRA last year alone.
Bottom line is they all want the same thing: a weak government that cannot protect the common good from corporate plunder.
We should not forget in this litany of those pushing privatization the people who can make all this happen. These are of course our elected officials. Many elected officials simply do not trust the government they work for and do want to see it downsized. Happily for them, this philosophy corresponds well with the fact they will receive more political money from the private industries that take over the various government programs.
Go back in time a decade or so:
President Bush in 2005 proposed that part of social security be invested in Wall Street;
Representative Paul Ryan in several budgets wanted to in effect privatize Medicare;
The U.S. Postal Service has come under frequent attack with suggestions that it be taken over by private carriers such as Federal Express or UPS.
Private industry already gives mightily to politicians — some 2.6 billion in 2014. How much more would politicians expect if they were able to divert public programs into private projects operated with profit as the major goal.
The loser in this deal? The average American. But it seems that factor is becoming less and less significant in contemporary America.