The Private Sector

For decades the Michigan Department of Corrections, one of the largest prison industries in the world, successfully fed inmates. State employees were well trained not only on how to cook and serve food safely, but how to work safely around some dangerous people.

Then Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, stupid from drinking their own ideological Kool-Aid, decided that the “private sector” could do the job better and more economically. They decided to fire thousands of well trained state workers and took bids from private companies. Aramark, the giant food service company based in Philadelphia, got the job by promising to feed prisoners for around $2.00 a meal, only slightly less than what the state was already paying. Never mind that Aramark was riddled with scandals from their contracts with other states (for example, they were kicked out of Florida), Michigan Republicans were on a mission.

Now it seems obvious that the private sector solution is a costly failure. Ararmark employees have been caught smuggling drugs, providing sex and generally serving unsanitary and inedible meals. The situation is so bad that corrections officers have been warning about the real possibility of riots. It turns out that maybe the government does provide some services more efficiently, except now those trained workers have moved on to other jobs or other states. It would cost a fortune to retrain a workforce, but less costly than to try to revive the Aramark private sector experiment.

On the other hand, maybe the private sector does have a lesson for us in this latest fiasco. When a supervisor makes such a monumental mistake costing their company as much money as this has, the supervisor is fired for their incompetence. Maybe Michigan Republicans should be held to their own standards.

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