Saturday, September 10, 2005

Let's Hear It for Privatization

Among Congressional Republicans flaming in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as today's Washington Post reports, is Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who last spring introduced legislation that would forbid the National Weather Service from posting forecasts on the web, if they competed with private services like the Weather Channel or AccuWeather. The private services rely on government forecasts, of course, so Santorum's brilliant plan would have forced the public to pay twice.

Ever ready to push his agenda, Santorum, in the wake of Katrina, released a statement, claiming that the National Weather Service, by which I suppose he means specifically the National Hurricane Center, blew the forecasts for Katrina. In fact, they were close to right on the money. Even the turn southwest across Florida had been projected by one of the models and included as a possibility in the center's forecasts and warnings.

Like Bushy, Santorum is an irrationalist, convinced that what he believes is right and true, even if all the evidence says otherwise. These people never learn because they can't learn. Under ordinary circumstances, they just make people around them miserabe. Given political power, they become dangerous to the public and destructive to the very concept of civil society. In the wreckage of New Orleans and the Gulf coast, they are reaping the fruit of their war on "government," more specifically public services.

Perhaps, in the aftermath of this horror people will reflect that there are some things government alone can do well and start to demand better services. That means recognizing, too, that they must pay taxes to suppor those services. Now that's a radical proposition.

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