President Obama slipped an important policy change under the radar last week, saying government needs to make “a real choice between investments that are designed to keep the American people safe, and those that are designed to make a defense contractor rich.” Thomas Frank was listening, and he approves. Government-by-contractor—“the GOP’s favorite method of spreading the wealth around”—has been a costly debacle, he writes in the Wall Street Journal.
“For favored contractors and their lobbyists, the Bush years were a boom time like no other,” Frank argues. Bush declared that “government should be market-based,” and actually graded agencies on how much work they could outsource. Contractors were supposed to be cheaper and better; they were neither. Fraud and abuse sprung up like weeds. Now, Obama is drafting new rules for when contracting is appropriate. “‘Always’ is no longer an acceptable answer.”