Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is scary

The comments of the CEO of a company taking over public libraries on the West Coast are genuinely scary:

“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”


“Pensions crushed General Motors, and it is crushing the governments in California,” he said. While the company says it rehires many of the municipal librarians, they must be content with a 401(k) retirement fund and no pension.

These are arguments that haven't changed since the days of union busting--though people still seem to fall for them!--but their application to the running of libraries, as if they were anything like GM, really does just sound ridiculous. The CEO even has something to say about that though:

“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization."

Nothing sacred. It sounds like the politicians in charge of the local government have decided against providing public services in general for their community, no doubt because they probably had similar things to say: the government wastes money, it's ineffective compared to the private sector (which I, the candidate, have worked in), and the first thing that has to go is government workers and their unions, who are the laziest of all the lazy American employees (for a good rejoinder to this attitude, look at Paul Krugman's excellent recent bashing of the idea of structural unemployment). We can't have the government run by the government.

But the real perversity is just simply that it is an argument for job cuts, masked as an argument for efficiency and fiscal responsibility, when it is precisely the function of the government to provide and stimulate job growth by itself offering jobs like this--especially right now. That's what's weird: they're after the heart of things, attacking the idea that government has nothing to do with anything business-related, eliminating the idea of partnerships and going all-out for privatizing the whole damn thing, as if that really would be more efficient. If they're going to compare the library to GM, why not compare this company to Goldman Sachs?

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