Government has a notorious record of wasting money when it engages in regular business activity. One reason is that governments tend to pick up businesses that fail, and deliver goods at prices that often have nothing to do with costs. So of course government businesses lose money. They’re set up that way.
But it’s worse than that.
Three years ago I told the sad story of Washington State’s ferry system for Puget Sound. For over a score of years, ferry system managers have been unable to provide a comprehensible audit, unable even to account for cash flow.
Now, a series of stories for Channel 5 in Seattle, by Susannah Frame, has exposed the operation for wasting “millions and millions of taxpayer dollars,” according to Ken Schram, a popular Seattle-area pundit who works for another news service on another channel.
Schram claims not to know “why every news organization in the Puget Sound isn’t outraged.” He sees this as a non-partisan issue, and is befuddled by lack of interest from news consumers. And he’s especially annoyed by Washington State’s governor, who blew off the news story, saying she couldn’t keep track of everything. Schram calls her arrogant, and goes further: “I find her lack of regard and respect for taxpayers offensive.”
I’m on Schram’s side, except I wonder: Is this really all so inexplicable? Maybe everybody just knows, deep down, that government businesses never will run as well as real businesses.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.