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Market Forces Electrocute Soldiers

I remember, since the time of Ronald Reagan, how Republicans have been busy putting down the way that government does business. That’s an insult to the American people, because, in our democratic system, the government is a representative of the people. What the Republicans have been saying, essentially, is that the American people don’t know how to organize to get things done effectively.

What’s the alternative they’ve suggested? Business. Republicans have preached for years and years now that private business can get things done more efficiently and effectively than government can. This idea has become a Republican article of faith.

Like most articles of faith, the idea of business superiority over government doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny. Look at the evidence of what happens when business takes over the responsibilities of government, and a clear pattern emerges. Business fails. Business requires more money to do the same job. Business corrupts the system.

Private military contractors brought in by Republicans to do the work that the military used to do itself have illustrated this point with a sad consistency. Huge amounts of money have been spent to pay private companies to do shoddy work, or work that hasn’t been finished, or work that hasn’t even been started at all, and in some cases, not to do any work at all.

A new example of the incompetence of private military contractors is the risk to American soldiers of death-by-electrocution. When they joined the military, these soldiers thought they would be putting their lives on the line by fighting a human enemy. They thought that they might get shot in the head, or blown up by an enemy bomb. They never imagined that they would die in the shower.

Yet, that’s the kind of thing that happened to Sergeant Ryan Maseth. He was killed when he entered a shower that wasn’t properly built. He was electrocuted to death. The company responsible was KBR, a spinoff of Dick Cheney’s military contracting corporation. Such incompetent electrical work has been responsible for the deaths of many soldiers working in Iraq.

If I were aiming for a pun, I’d say that this was shocking. It isn’t really, though. It’s not at all surprising anymore to find out about wasteful, inept work by private corporations paid to do what the government used to do.

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