The vulture need not bid, nor — apparently — pay minimum wage:
Already (in the wake of Katrina), no-bid contracts have been awarded to major Republican contributors including Kellogg, Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton. President Bush has unilaterally lifted a protection law that makes it possible for contractors to pay sub-minimum wage rates to reconstruction workers.
Yes, I’ve heard the argument: Dick Cheney does not receive compensation from Halliburton, etc. First of all, given the complex deferment arrangements Dick has with his old pals, nobody can say this with any certainty: if Halliburton does well, at this time, does that really have no effect upon Dick’s income in the future? Let’s take the VP’s word that it does not (although why we would want to take his word for anything, given the Enron disgrace, is beyond me) — then this is still rank cronyism of the most repulsive variety. Bush, remember, didn’t make money from Michael Brown’s appointment to the head of FEMA, but it was astonishingly sleazy nevertheless, and the consequences were very very ugly. If Dick makes nothing — not a penny — from Halliburton’s predations in Iraq and Louisiana, then that hardly makes the practice anything but despicable: folks, he is procuring no-bid contracts for his friends.
And yes, I’ve heard the second argument: Halliburton is the only company with the resources to handle this sort of vast project. Now, by all accounts, this is a crock (and it assumes, to begin with, that Halliburton is both competent and honest — difficult premises to endorse in the wake of their egregious behavior in Iraq), but let’s take the argument seriously for a moment. Perhaps they are sui generis in their ability do work on this scale. Here’s how you find out: you allow bids from other companies, then assess those companies — in an objective, bipartisan fashion — to determine whether they are up to the task. Pretty easy. And kind of, well, conservative — given their free-market posturing, you’d think Republicans would be in favor of that most basic mechanism: competition.
This Halliburnt-Earth Campaign is nothing short of Stalinist central planning in free-market drag: it assumes that the government, and its favorite corporation, are best able to make decisions regarding the efficient allocation of resources. Any principled economist (and there are at least three, I’m told) should be screaming.
(If this made your blood boil, please visit Dysblog, where it only gets worse.)