Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Indiana Sells Off Its Responsibilities


January 13, 2007 09:19 pm

Flashpoint: A misguided plan to privatize the people’s business

Special to the Tribune-Star
Gov. Daniels and the legislature have turned Indiana’s social services over to IBM and a clan of private business concerns. Good things are supposedly going to occur. Great savings, far better service and a bonus in new jobs for Hoosiers are just over the horizon.

Watching this unfold, we might re-learn a thing or two about dealing with the private sector when it does the public’s business: You get what you pay for. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

We can all cross our fingers or pray that the holes in what is imaginatively called society’s safety net, that meager lattice of rock bottom basics serving the poor, the ill, the aged and the just plain unlucky, not grow any larger. Somehow I doubt there are enough fingers or prayers to keep this from happening.

It’s an affront and a shame when Daniels characterizes the dedicated and poorly paid social workers of the state as being a “monstrous bureaucracy.” Yet our sensitive governor “winces” when he hears the private sector, his IBM board-room buddies, “bad-mouthed,” and “words like ‘profit’ and ‘private’ used like cuss words.”

I’ll admit that trying to make sense out of bills I receive from doctors, hospitals and insurance companies does tend to jumpstart me into “bad-mouthing” the mystical machinery of profit-centered big business. And when my calls for service to Daniels’ highly touted private sector require punching a Sodoku-like maze of choices on my phone keyboard, only to reach “Bob” at a call center in Bangalore, India, who keeps telling me “No problem,” but can’t really help me, my vocabulary does tend to turn crude.

Why should we be soothed by the governor’s uncritical lullaby to big business interests? We shouldn’t. But now all we can do is sit on the sidelines. With powdered smiles and sweaty handshakes all around, Daniels forfeited our right and responsibility to serve the most needy citizens in our state. Now the high bidders and the very high salaried will be doing the people’s business in their own private ways.

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