klein on aid mercs

3 Nov

There is an article by Naomi Klein in today’s Guardian about the private industry start-ups that deal with disaster aid in the United States. In theory, there is no justifiable reason why people shouldn’t have access to “country-club” style if things go pear-shaped, but when you see the thousands who were abandoned by the federal government during the Katrina disaster in New Orleans a few years ago, you wonder if the elite’s grip on the United States isn’t complete.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that, in the whole, the market is the best system with regard to encouraging efficiency and driving down cost. But there are certain areas where this premise simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Health would be one area where privatised industry – aided by powerful lobby groups – has crucified the market and costs have skyrocketed.

The cost of healthcare with America’s privatised system is vastly in excess of publicly funded systems in Europe. The high price of US medicine is mainly due to enormous administration expenses and high prices – thanks to a cash-rich and aggressive pharmaceutical lobby.

Similarly, the Bush administration has deliberately starved FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency that deals with large public disasters, of resources, ensuring the confidence of the public in Federal support is non-existent. The rich understand that if they want emergency support during a disaster, they have to make provisions independent of the rest of society – i.e. they pay insurance to private contractors who will come to their rescue in times of need.

And what of the poor? Well, they’ve always got FEMA. Ahem.


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