Saturday, December 6, 2008

An extraordinary rendition

Saving Oregon via Outsourcing

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has released his budget for the coming biennium and it appears the state faces a $1 billion shortfall because of the lousy national economy. The economic malaise is going to precipitate hundreds of cuts to state agency budgets, plus, perhaps, a few small tax increases.

Now if our government was run like a business—specifically like a modern corporation—instead of minor decimation to most departments, the main tactic would be to spin off the unprofitable divisions. And if that’s not possible, then outsource everything that can be outsourced.

Of all the general fund and lottery money spent by the state of Oregon, 93 percent goes to one of three categories: education, health and human resources, and public safety. These are sometimes called “education, medication and incarceration.”

How could we save money in Oregon through outsourcing? Under the Oregon Health Plan, the state pays for certain approved medical procedures and some prescription drugs. Those drugs could be purchased more cheaply from India. In fact, it may also be less costly to send patients to hospitals in several Asian nations that specialize in medical tourism than to treat them here. A lot of the state's health services, however, are for things like immunizing children, pre-natal care and drug treatment—things that might not be feasible overseas.

More than half the budget goes for education, ranging from kindergarten to the university level. Higher education remains grossly underfunded here, even while tuition at state universities continues to rise beyond the means of the middle class. The offspring of wealthy moguls and plutocrats of other nations have flooded Oregon's campuses. Perhaps, then, Oregon should send its students to lower-priced colleges in Europe and elsewhere. After all, it's often said that travel broadens one's perspective.

Oregon college professors complain they are not paid as much as their peers in other states, yet for a fraction of their salaries, the state could hire professors in India to teach via teleconferencing or satellite video hookups. If a daily newspaper in California can do it, why not the University of Oregon, which today is renowned primarily for its football team, anyway.

The best solution, however, comes out of the public safety budget, which comprises 17% of the total. Because of Measure 57, Oregon will have to spend well over $1 billion in the next budget cycle on prisons. Hmmn...$1 billion. Exactly the same as the current budget shortfall.

What if we outsourced all incarceration to some other country? Shortly, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of former Bush Administration officials seeking work and many of them will be experts on the practice of “extraordinary rendition.” They could be brought in as consultants to match Oregon's convicted criminals with the best and most economical black sites. Surely, it would be cheaper to house our prison population in Eastern Europe or Egypt than in Oregon.

Wonder if Kevin Mannix had this in mind all along?

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