November 8, 2003

Cronyism...

In an excellent article, Steven Kelman, in the WaPo, utterly demolishes the insinuations of Democrats about "Crony Capitalism:"


....One would be hard-pressed to discover anyone with a working knowledge of how federal contracts are awarded -- whether a career civil servant working on procurement or an independent academic expert -- who doesn't regard these allegations as being somewhere between highly improbable and utterly absurd. The premise of the accusations is completely contrary to the way government contracting works, both in theory and in practice.....

....Having served as a senior procurement policymaker in the Clinton administration, I found these charges (for which no direct evidence has been provided) implausible....

...The whiff of scandal manufactured around contracting for Iraq obviously has been part of the political battle against the administration's policies there (by the way, I count myself as rather unsympathetic to these policies). But this political campaign has created extensive collateral damage. It undermines public trust in public institutions, for reasons that have no basis in fact. It insults the career civil servants who run our procurement system.

Perhaps most tragically, it could cause mismanagement of the procurement system. Over the past decade we have tried to make procurement more oriented toward delivering mission results for agencies and taxpayers, rather than focusing on compliance with detailed bureaucratic process requirements. The charges of Iraq cronyism encourage the system to revert to wasting time, energy and people on redundant, unnecessary rules to document the nonexistence of a nonproblem. [my emphasis]

Charlene and I subscribe to Forbes, and we often pick up the Wall Street Journal. I've surely read millions of words about American business. Words written for people on the inside, and usually quite cold-blooded and clear-eyed about how money is made. And I don't remember ever reading of companies expecting to get government contracts through cronies, or campaign contributions. (Other benefits, yes. But not contracts.) And I don't remember ever hearing any suggestion that government contracts were "easy money."

What the Democrats are doing is very wrong. It undermines the trust that holds society together. Millions of people are going to absorb a vague conviction of corruption and crime where none exists. Cynicism and mistrust will be increased. It will become a subset of the widespread fuzzy belief that "the corporations" (or 'the politicians" or "the bureaucrats") are nefarious secret societies, rather than ordinary people mostly trying to do their best.

I just have to quote again the quote I used here, because it's such a nice example of how things really work:

...The Clinton administration made the same calculation in its own dealings with Halliburton. The company had won the LOGCAP in 1992, then lost it in 1997. The Clinton administration nonetheless awarded a no-bid contract to Halliburton to continue its work in the Balkans supporting the U.S. peacekeeping mission there because it made little sense to change midstream. According to Byron York, Al Gore's reinventing-government panel even singled out Halliburton for praise for its military logistics work...

Posted by John Weidner at November 8, 2003 6:23 PM
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