“Don’t worry, it’s cost plus,” was a saying made famous in Baghdad’s Green Zone, but the deluxe war spending was pioneered in the Clinton era.
(Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 292)
While there is still some attention to Hillary Clinton’s role in the 1990s US foreign policy in the Balkans, I think we ought to be discussing untruths much more significant than her fib about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire.
Clinton deserves the negative attention she is getting for her fabrication, but other lies, like the ones about her track record on economic policy, are what need ongoing scrutiny.
Sen. Clinton’s other honesty problem this week came with revelations that, while she claims to have been an internal NAFTA critic in the administration, she actually gave several presentations in favor of NAFTA at the time it was passed. But, to be fair, this may not be a deception. People are often called upon to advocate for decisions in public that they opposed in private. The NAFTA controversy suggests other concerns, such as: If she were such a vehement critic, and the administration backed it anyway, how important was she? And, how can she claim credit for the good deeds of her husband’s administration and yet take no responsibility for its problems?
Still, Clinton’s handling of the NAFTA question certainly raises concerns. Especially troubling is her campaign’s work to spread rumors of Obama sending back-channel messages to the Canadians suggesting their anti-NAFTA rhetoric was all talk — when, according to a high-level Canadian source, her campaign had done that.
So let’s go back to some other statements of Hillary Clinton and to some other features of the US military presence in the Balkans.
Last year, earlier on in her campaign, Clinton said
she would limit the Bush administration practice of hiring private companies to perform government functions and would work to boost the performance of key agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she said performed well during her husband’s White House years. “People are rightly disturbed by what they see as the incompetence and corruption in this administration. And that’s undermined confidence in government, which makes it very difficult for us to meet the challenges we face today,” Clinton said.
As she reflects back on the US military presence in the Balkans under her husband’s administration, and on her role in forming and carrying out his policies, Hillary Clinton needs to speak about the Bill Clinton administration’s “practice of hiring private companies to perform government functions.”
In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein observes that Halliburton, with Dick Cheney at the helm, made its first major expansions in the area of privatizing government functions in the Balkans—under Bill Clinton.
In the Balkans, where Clinton deployed nineteen thousand soldiers, US bases sprang up as mini Halliburton cities: neat, gated suburbs, built and run entirely by the company. And Halliburton was committed to providing the troops with all the comforts of home, including fast-food outlets, supermarkets, movie theaters and high-tech gyms…. As far as Halliburton was concerned, keeping the customer satisfied was good business—it guaranteed more contracts, and because profits were calculated as a percentage of costs, the higher the costs, the higher the profits…. In just five years at Halliburton, Cheney almost doubled the amount of money the company extracted from the US Treasury, from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billiion, while the amount it received in federal loan guarantees increased fifteenfold. (292)
Under the Clinton administration, we also saw the privatization of information technology divisions of the US government.
In the mid-nineties, Lockheed [Martin] began taking over information technology divisions of the US government, running its computer systems and a great deal of its data management. Largely under the public radar, the company went so far in this direction that, in 2004, the New York Times reported,
Lockheed Martin doesn’t run the United States. But it does help run a breathtakingly big part of it…. It sorts your mail and totals your taxes. It cuts Social Security checks and counts the United States census. It runs space flights and monitors air traffic. To make all of this happen, Lockheed writes more computer code than Microsoft. (293)
And whom do we find on the board of Lockheed Martin during this period?
The push to expand the service economy into the heart of government was, for Cheney, a family affair. In the late nineties, while he was turning military bases into Halliburton suburbs, his wife, Lynne, was earning stock options in addition to her salary as a board member at Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. (293)
So, yeah, I’m concerned about the “practice of hiring private companies to perform government functions”—concerned that new private corporate inroads into government functions were pioneered under Bill Clinton and expanded wildly under George Bush. I am concerned that the corporate takeover will not be reversed unless there is a formal plan to accomplish this reversal. As far as I can see, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has such a plan.
In his Blueprint for Change, Obama champions the return of appropriate government regulatory functions, from the Labor Relations Board to the Department of Justice, but he sidesteps the new roles of private corporations in government function. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has claimed to be a standard bearer for the fight against these destructive economic policies, and it is nothing but a cynical lie.
If Hillary Clinton is going to continue to stake claims on her husband’s presidential legacy, then we should be concerned that she may be as friendly to Dick Cheney’s economic vision as George Bush is.
(Cross-posted on Hungry Blues.)