U.S. Post Office beta-tests grocery delivery; ObamaCare required state-by-state health information exchanges are spun-out into non-profit organizations; Indiana Governor Mike Pence founds a state-run news agency
In many areas of society government is crowding out, invading and undermining the private sector. And as the boundaries are erased, unaccountable elite power is centralized. In a nation whose founders trusted the genius of regular people vs. the power of consolidated government, citizens are increasingly finding the democratic process less impactful.
In an extreme example unfolding now, the U.S. Post Office is trying to stem the billions of red ink losses by competing against private enterprise in the grocery delivery business.
Approved last fall by the Postal Regulatory Commission, USPS started a San Francisco beta-test grocery delivery service by partnering with local grocery stores. This move is even stranger because the federal government itself hasn’t been exclusively using the post office on its core business of mail delivery: $17 billion of federal money was spent with FedEx FDX 1.31% and UPS since 2000 (source: OpenTheBooks.com). So if the federal government can’t trust USPS to delivery mail why should we ask them to deliver milk and eggs?
USPS will be competing directly against entrepreneurs who are already filling that space. But if the postal service delivery service is too slow (who wants stale produce?) the market won’t force them out. They’ll keep providing bad service anyway. It’s this lack of accountability – and transparency – that’s bad for society on all levels from consumers to taxpayers to entrepreneurs.
This hasn’t happened by accident. For the last decade, "our benevolent betters" (a term popularized by former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels) devised schemes to codify their agenda within publically funded but conveniently unaccountable structures. "Our betters" expressly advocate an agenda to, "lock-it-in." Peter Orszag, former Obama Administration director of Office of Management and Budget, argued in 2011 that "there’s too much democracy." Really? This belief justifies efforts to create systems that can’t be exposed and challenged.
Let’s not forget about ObamaCare. State run ObamaCare health information exchanges are eventually spun out into non-profit organizations. After hundreds of billions in federal dollars birthed these new entities, taxpayers will have no control over the board of directors, pay to employees – their pensions, benefits and perks – or, most importantly, the board’s health information decisions. The exchanges will end up as private non-governmental 501(c)3’s and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings requirements, and are not bound by competitive bidding and public procurement laws.
Not only is crowding out and the blurring of all institutional lines happening at the federal level, but also in hometowns and state capitols across America. For example, in Illinois, the University of Illinois at Champaign founded a catering business that serves on-and-off campus
functions while underpricing private catering businesses. While the privately run catering companies go out of business, the university catering operation is not subject to market forces. Its funding stream is locked in so the bad service idea continues.
At the College of DuPage, the eleventh largest community college in the county, all institutional lines were blurred to pass a $168 million bond referendum in 2010. $380,000 from the college was spent marketing to voters along with tens of thousands of dollars from the affiliated foundation. Senior administrators even founded a political action committee and solicited college vendors for campaign cash. Once the referendum passed, these vendors – many were also foundation board members – received nearly a quarter billion dollars in college checkbook payments.
Next door in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence started a state-run news agency to compete with independent media. With obvious dangerous historical precedent, it looks like the lessons of the former Soviet run Pravda have even been lost on the conservative Pence.
In America, the lines between government, non-profit and private sector are being blurred and in many cases erased. An emboldened government is empowering non-profit organizations with public money to push a government agenda while also competing in the legitimate space of private sector businesses.
"Our betters" are honest about their aims. James Piereson’s recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal quoted Michael Bloomberg as saying, "Some still see philanthropy as an alternative to government. I see it as a way to embolden government."
What Bloomberg and others don’t understand – or refuse to acknowledge – is government’s innate inability to perform these market functions effectively. In health care, ObamaCare health information exchanges were created with billions of dollars but are now universally described as a boondoggle. With USPS, the government’s inability to adapt to an innovation called email has forced them to pursue outlandish ideas.
Whether it’s through a philanthropic non-profit vehicle or the audacious jump into private enterprise, "our betters" are constricting our individual freedom and liberty.
It’s time to expose these schemes and stop the invasion.
Adam Andrzejewski is Chairman of American Transparency and founder of the transparency website www.openthebooks.com