YESTERDAY Indiana Governor, 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, and ill-tempered card cheat Mitch Daniels was forced to announce that he'll terminate the state's ten-year experiment in seeing whether anybody would give a shit if the destitute and the disabled were handed over to the familiar tender, still-dryer-warm-blankie ministrations of the average ad hoc business consortium given a $1.3 billion government contract. Terminate early, that is. Like seven years early. Though in fairness, the other three years were merely disastrous.
Our story so far: in 2005, flush with the success of his high-speed ramming maneuver on the Indiana Toll Road (not to mention his Solomonic solution to Indiana's centuries-old Time Zone Conundrum, both of which required the legislative mastery of a stateload of hayseeds with nothing like his Enormous Brainial Facilities), Daniels and his henchmen went scouting around for anything else they could fence. $ Millions were pocketed by privatizing prison food--Indiana is saving money on prison food, a concept which, I guarantee you, had you ever been invited to dine at one of our state prison facilities would have rendered you speechless with wonder--which also had a little-remarked-upon beneficial effect on the state's massive timber industry, which needed to find something to do with the exponential increase in state trees it had been given, also by Daniels. Still more savings came from contracting out the operation of one of our under-utilized slammers. The contractor then thoughtfully filled the place with experienced out-of-state rioters who torched a third of the joint. Whether this was designed to make Hoosiers appreciate just how good we have it, intended as a metaphor for privatization, or just God's Idea of a Joke we will never know. Life, it turns out, is complicated, as was recently explained to me on the internets.
At some point it occurred to one of Mitch's bright boys that, like convicted felons and people presently in Ohio who needed to get to Illinois (or vice-versa) by auto while spending the absolute minimum amount of time in Indiana, people on welfare, food stamps, disability, or unemployment did not exactly vote Republican in large numbers. So after a suitable twenty-minutes of study, the consolidated Family and Social Services Administration went to a cosa nostra of concerns under the IBM umbrella (Motto: We're IBM. What th' Hell Could Go Wrong?), along with $1.3 billion.
And here's a thing I really enjoy, in the "Republicans gut government, then point to government's inefficiency" sense: it's been widely bruited about--then and now--that the real impetus for this was that FSSA was "dysfunctional". Sheesh, of course it was dysfunctional. It served the poor and needy. Even politicians who'd allow, in public, that this is something society might want to consider doing a little won't plant the flag somewhere and defend it. Saying FSSA was dysfunctional is like saying the clerk at the convenience store wasn't very helpful with your wine selection. Funny, Indiana's Strategic Overseas Junketing Program was workin' jes fine. Don't hear many complaints about months-long backlogs or disconnected phone calls at the Tax Abatements for Business Expansion reception desk. The only thing that delays the decision to build a new basketball palace or football barn is the amount of time required to distinguish between Foregone Conclusion and Slam Dunk. It's paying to keep the floors mopped that causes the trouble.
Now, unless you've skipped ahead, it may come as a shock to you that a) the goal of a consortium given $1.3 billion to perform a task turns out not to be how well it can perform that task, but how much under $1.3 billion it can spend while doing so; and b) the thing immediately went into Hell's Toilet.
It was all of two months old when the Bush administration demanded tighter oversight. The first publicly-acknowledged rollback came eight-months later; the first Class-Action lawsuit seven months after that. Four months later came word that a portion of the program would not be implemented due the the fact that it would fuck up the very process it was supposed to streamline. Which takes us to just over a year ago, not that the final months of a campaign marked by your using the millions in your war chest to inflate your economic record is a good time to be putting the kibosh an ongoing billion-dollar festival of pooch buggery.
By all accounts, through the entire process Indiana never missed nor altered a contract payment, nor demanded any adjustments for a program which ran for one-third of the contract life without coming anywhere near its standards. And Indiana's Big Entrepreneurial Brain does Nothing Whatsoever until the Feds are threatening to take their dollars away unless the system is fixed. Remember that when his campaign RV pulls into your state.
IBM, for its part, insists it was not in violation of the contract and has been wrongly terminated; it blames the unexpected rush of unemployed Hoosiers for its troubles, meaning that the 2008 recession is responsible for a product that was crappy in 2007. Is that a V-2 I hear? Daniels, meanwhile, says the program "just didn't work", something which probably sounds pretty pathetic unless you consider it's the only known instance of the man exhibiting anything approaching functional hindsight.